Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon visits Central Michigan University
The chair of the Michigan Democratic Party said the Democrats must reach out to voters in all 83 Michigan counties if the party wants to succeed in the future.
Brandon Dillon spoke at the second general meeting of the College Democrats at Central Michigan University on Wednesday Sept. 13 in the Down Under Food Court. He said the party has to show voters they stand for something and move forward following the 2016 election.
He said despite the loss, voters became involved and made positive steps by changing the state and national party platform. He encouraged students to do the same.
“As divisive as the last campaign was, you’ve seen some real shifts that have come from that struggle,” Dillon said. “I’m proud to say the Democratic platform in Michigan is the most progressive party platform in the country.”
The Michigan Democrats have started Project 83 to campaign across the state and deliver their message to voters — not just in Democratic areas like Wayne County, but in places traditionally thought of as Republican strongholds like Crawford County.
“A vote in Isabella County or wherever you’re from counts exactly as much as a vote in Wayne County,” Dillon said. “We make a mistake when we don’t engage people year round in little pockets in the state where there are Democrats and independents who lean Democrat.”
Political parties are large entities that consist of local, state and national interests, Dillon said. He added that the party assumed voters would support them without putting in the work of building a meaningful platform at the grassroots level.
Dillon said campaigners shouldn’t just tell voters their platform, but should listen to the electorate’s concerns. A common concern he's heard from voters the Democrats don’t stand for anything
“We know, even if we disagree, what Republicans stand for,” Dillon said. “Smaller government, less taxes and kicking people out of the country.”
He said the Democrats are the party of young people, senior citizens on social security, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, African Americans and Latinos.
“We are a much stronger representation of what this country is about,” Dillon said. “With that strength comes challenges because our constituents have different priorities. It makes it tougher to boil down what being a Democrat is.”
Dillon responded to questions from students following a short speech.
The state Democratic platform supports proposals for a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative districts. The way districts are drawn now make elections in many areas non-competitive and punishes compromise, Dillon said.
“I personally think it’s the biggest reason politics have become so bad, toxic and divisive,” he said. “The people in office aren’t worse than 30 years ago. The system as it is just rewards bad behavior.”
“Right to Work” Laws
Dillon said the first bill Democrats would sign if they held the governorship and legislature would be to repeal the “right-to-work” law passed in 2013. The law allows union members to receive the benefits of collective bargaining without paying dues.
Dillon said the law has had a devastating effect on public union workers -- especially teachers. He added that the only benefit has been a resurgence in organization among private labor unions such as the United Auto Workers and Teamsters.
“It’s a bad law,” a visibly frustrated Dillon said, “It’s a very strong effort from the DeVos family and Koch brothers to break the power of organized labor.”
Rising tuition costs
The biggest contributor to rising tuition costs is a reduction in state funding, which requires universities to raise tuition costs, Dillon said. He added the best way to increase college education funding and lower tuition is to elect a Democratic governor.
He said the state party platform supports free tuition at Michigan’s public universities and debt free college for every student.
Flint Water Crisis
Dillon said the state and federal government has been too slow responding to the Flint Water Crisis. He said even when the pipes are replaced, Flint children will be dealing with the health effects for the remainder of their lives.
“Republicans see this as an economic issue,” Dillon said. “We see it as a moral one.”
Nick Sturos, a new member of the College Democrats, said politics dictate a lot in our lives and it’s smart to have civic knowledge. He leans Democratic because he sees the Republicans as standing for tradition, while Democrats are more focused on change.
He said the biggest change the party has to make -- get elected.
“I think events like this are a great step,” Sturos said. “Going out and reaching other people who don’t necessarily want to participate is important too.”
Katie Pulaski came to the event because of a political science class, but said she was impressed with the turnout.
Pulaski said her political views are undecided but events such as Dillon’s could convince her. She isn’t familiar with the Democratic Party but said Dillon was a good speaker and gave good answers to student questions.
“I’m not that politically savvy yet,” she said. “I do think this helps educate me on the issues, especially with other students asking questions because they’re informed and know what they’re talking about.”