Republicans have out-recruited and out-financed Democrats in developing the next generation of party leaders, according to media consultant and political strategist Mark Riddle.
In an opinion piece for The Washington Post,
the executive director of the New Leaders Council, which trains young progressives, said he agreed with a column arguing "Democrats have a depth problem" when it comes to recruiting candidates for statewide campaigns.
"The root cause … is actually pretty simple," Riddle responds Monday.
"I point to one sobering fact: The conservative movement’s Leadership Institute has trained over 100,000 leaders since 1979 and has an annual budget of $13 million," he writes.
"But its counterpart — New Leaders Council — is only nine years old and runs on a budget of just $900,000."
Conservatives' leadership efforts are starkly superior on other levels as well, he concedes.
"Conservatives run their training and leadership development operations like a blue-chip business on the NYSE, reliably paying steady dividends," he writes. "Yet we run ours as if hoping for the next big IPO payday."
Progressives have to become "equally as disciplined in training and equally as strategic when investing our dollars. "
On an organizational level, the conservative movement has the advantage of age and experience, he writes.
"For more than 60 years, the conservative movement has heavily invested in building an organized and long-term pipeline to turn promising young leaders into election-winning candidates," Riddle writes. "They have done this through groups like the Leadership Institute, GOPAC and the Heritage Foundation, and they have invested countless millions of dollars in this effort."
The progressive movement, on the other hand, "essentially" started "after John Kerry's loss in 2004."
Riddle says conservatives also have a far better understanding of the political philosophy that "all politics is local."
"They know that the real action is at the municipal level: school boards, mayors, city councils and state legislative bodies," he writes. "And they have built a clear ladder for young leaders to climb — from doorknocker to trained activist, all the way to campaign surrogate and finally, candidate."
"Along the way, training and networking hubs are provided to launch their most effective pupils to even higher heights," he adds.
"From there, those individuals affect policy, including redistricting, campaign finance and patronage, using their positions and design of these policies to ensures their bench remains well-stocked with higher-office potential."
Riddle writes the New Leaders Council is taking note in Florida, where the group has grown from one chapter to seven, training more than 200 potential leaders, and is "replicating this model in major markets like Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, as well as Montana, Louisiana, Iowa and Nebraska."
He also writes Kentucky is another focus.
"Kentucky has inherent advantages when it comes to progressive politics, including a strong Democratic history, an important labor constituency, less racial politics than neighbors to the south and 120 counties driving patronage," he writes. "It also is a state Bill Clinton won twice."
"We have to do the hard work," he writes. "The 'depth problem' is very real and we are seeing the real-life consequences today…."
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