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Bucks County Democrats Won Big in 2023. Here’s How We Ensure a Repeat in 2024

It starts with recognizing that what you do every day in the lead-up to an election is just as important as voting.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

In Bucks County, progressives and Democrats (or anyone who believes in good governance and restoring sanity to local government) secured major electoral victories this past November. Even with my experience working through multiple local election cycles, I am still shocked at the Blue Wave that washed away previous Republican gains locally (not to mention across the country). From winning majorities on Pennridge & Central Bucks school boards and Doylestown Township Board of Supervisors to re-electing the entire Democratic county slate (Commissioners & Row Officers) for the first time in roughly 150 years, these achievements could not be accomplished without the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers across the county.

While most of us are still rightfully celebrating these wins, the new year brings with it new challenges. It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this that there is a pretty big election coming in 2024. And many of you are probably wondering what you can do to make a difference now that major things like the school board elections are over for the year. My goal in writing this piece is to guide you towards taking positive action in our community by channeling that 2023 energy into vital organizing efforts this year. I am going to lay out ways you can get engaged and I am going to do so in the order of impact you can make by getting involved.

Join your local municipal organization

Okay, I might be a little biased here as the Chair of the Doylestown Democrats, but in reality the best thing you can do to help create a positive impact in our community is by being it yourself. Political parties are not set in stone and although they may feel slow to change, they are vehicles of ideas and movements. The Democratic Party is not perfect, trust me I know, but it is the only party in modern day America that champions the values that we all hold so dear – freedom, equality, and justice – not to mention democracy. And leading into a Presidential election, now is the time to get involved to help steer the ship, gain experience volunteering, and develop connections with others who value the same things you do. This is key to building a movement that is intersectional as well as powerful. It is easy to shoot off some tweets or make a Facebook post about how mad Donald Trump makes you, and by all means I am not telling you that you can’t post on social media, but real change takes action in the real world. By joining your local municipal organization or another local political organization like the Bucks County Young Democrats or Indivisible, you can learn from local elected officials, committee people, and dedicated volunteers as well as engage directly with candidates running for office. And hey … maybe you want to run for office in the near future.

Volunteer

This one may seem self-explanatory, but hear me out. Volunteerism comes in a variety of different ways and how you choose to dedicate your time and efforts can dramatically impact our community directly. The obvious way to volunteer would be to support a specific campaign. For example, this year we will have the opportunity to unseat Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. His Democratic challenger Ashley Ehasz could use volunteers that are willing to go door-to-door canvassing, make phone calls, and host events for her campaign. And if any of those seem too daunting, let me try to calm the nerves. Political canvassing can be an acquired skill – trust me as an introverted accountant I have had to practice this a lot. However, if you have never volunteered for a campaign, take things one step at a time. If you were to volunteer for the Ehasz campaign, maybe you can start by text banking. Get your feet wet by engaging in a lower stakes manner and then if you feel comfortable you can build up to making phone calls and then ultimately canvassing. Or let’s say you can’t do these things, you can coordinate with a campaign on how you could organize a meet and greet event, a fundraiser, or a postcard party. Volunteering for a campaign is how I got involved in local organizing in 2018 and shortly after I became the head of the local party. So, you never know what path you may find yourself on once you take the leap.

But let’s say you aren’t too keen on volunteering for a campaign, or you can’t make it to the municipal organization meetings just yet but still have some time to volunteer. This is where you should narrow down some issues that matter most to you. For me, I serve on the boards of the Bucks County Housing Group and NAMI Bucks County because these two non-profits work to fix issues that are dear to my heart including food insecurity, homelessness, and mental health. Even if you have just an hour here and there, you can dedicate that time to handing out food at food pantries or even organize a food drive. There are so many wonderful organizations you can get involved with beyond the two I work with including the Bucks County NAACP, Immigrant Rights Action, the United Way of Bucks County, and many more. Find your issue and get involved.

Donate

This third category of ways to get involved is important in American political advocacy. Unfortunately, due to Citizens United, heaps and heaps of cash are poured into political campaigns each and every cycle. 

It seems each Presidential election brings with it a new record high in political spending by campaigns and PACs. But I am here to say that your dollars can compete with the elites’ millions and billions. The key point I want to emphasize here is that if you can donate to campaigns or groups like Planned Parenthood then you should. But we can only beat the bankrolling from millionaires and billionaires through donating AND volunteerism. When we come together and financially support efforts while in tandem working hands-on to fix an issue, the likelihood of us succeeding increases significantly. I believe that a funded campaign that is efficiently run with the help and support of a bunch of volunteers will be capable of defeating even the most well-funded campaigns, but we cannot unilaterally disarm. That is why I must insist that if you can donate, please do, but don’t let this be the only way that you engage in the community this year – if you can.

Write, Post, and Share

The final category of engagement I will suggest to you in this piece is utilizing the tools that you have at your disposal that are free or low-cost like social media. I personally believe that social media has a relatively low impact on changing peoples’ minds due to the siloed nature of most social media platforms, but this doesn’t mean it is completely ineffective. The ability to spread information to the world by tapping your screen is still mind-boggling, but it is a tool to be used responsibly. We all know that one person in our lives that spends just a little too much time on Facebook or digging into the conspiracies on YouTube, so decide how you would like to utilize the tool without potentially letting yourself fall down that rabbit hole. The easiest way to effectively use social media to help a candidate or a cause this year is to simply like and share what they post. Authentic and organic engagement on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok creates a cycle that will help the page’s content reach more people without them having to spend money on ads or pay the $8 a month for a blue check mark. You can effectively become a source of information to your friends and followers if you share the right stuff!

It doesn’t have to stop there though. Content creation can come in a variety of ways. If you are a visual artist, you can create digital graphics, posters, or donate work to a campaign. If you are a musician, you can play shows that help raise money for causes, write songs that spread a progressive message, and use your platform to inspire others to take action. Or if you are someone who loves to write, you can submit an op-ed to the Beacon, start a blog, or even publish a book!

The possibilities are truly endless. The only thing that will keep you from being a change-maker in Bucks County is your own self-doubts, or apathy. Whatever your talents and capabilities are, you can make a difference. And I know that during a time where our democracy feels so fragile and tensions continue to be high, I would rather do all that I can to make the vision of a fair and just society a reality instead of wondering 30 years from now, “what if?”

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Picture of Connor OHanlon

Connor OHanlon

Connor OHanlon, CPA, is host of the Greater Society Podcast, Chair of the Doylestown Democrats, Director of Candidate Development for the Bucks County Democratic Committee, and EMPA Program Representative for the LPS Government at UPenn.

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