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Winter Rally, Inspiring Speakers

Speakers at the GT Dems Winter Rally, 2017

Saturday evening the Grand Traverse Democratic Party hosted its annual Winter Rally at the Grand Traverse Resort. Along with a delicious spread of appetizers, music, and enlightened conversation in good company, we were treated to the following speakers whose advice and encouragement were taken to heart.

Eric Keller brings expertise culminating from almost a decade of political, advocacy, and programmatic efforts, including electoral and issue-based campaigns. He is currently the Regional Coordinator for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and is a leader within the Grand Traverse Democratic Party as a Precinct Delegate and Executive Board Member, as well as with its candidate recruitment efforts.

Eric made the following points:

  1. The elections as a powerful wake-up call to all of us. We must stop doing what is not working.

  2. All congressional seats in Michigan are up next year. We need to recognize who's 'carrying the flag' and get behind them.

  3. Change is inevitable. We must answer the question:

What are we going to do, together, to make tomorrow different? We must define, together, what we want tomorrow to look like. Include everyone. Build relationships. Double down on numbers. Join with people. Harness their desire to help.

  1. Find your issue and get to work on it. He, for example, is leading climate change march from here to DC. And he's giving people "resistance tools."

  2. There are two kinds of power: Money-power and People-power. We HAVE the people power to make the changes we want to be our reality.

Tiyi Schipper is a musician and citizen activist who works to bring all people together through community events. Tiyi spoke about her experience with the bus trip to the Women's March in Washington DC.

Tiyi said that although the Women's March was amazing, the March was the wedding. We all need to focus on the marriage to keep the momentum going.

Regarding organizing progressives in a conservative community, Tiyi reported that the Wexford County Progressives membership has jumped almost overnight from 40 to 200 members. She said that it doesn't matter how local the effort is, or how big the odds...together we can all make a huge difference. Her advice to us:

  1. "Don't get mad. Get organized." From her early activist education and life experiences, it is proven this WORKS.

  2. ASK someone to run for office. She would never have run on her own. She ran because someone ASKED her.

  3. If you do decide to run for office, know that NO ONE KNOWS WHA THEY'RE DOING at first. You learn what to do by doing it.

  4. Be ready to "pull your pants down" in public, telling the truth about EVERYTHING.If you're elected, people know you tell the truth, and if you're not elected, you helped by telling the truth!

  5. Finally, this is a GOOD fight, and a GOOD game! Get in it!!!

John Nelson is a 5th generation citizen of the Grand Traverse Bay. John has over 40 years of public service as an elected or appointed official, most recently as a Grand Traverse County Road Commissioner and Garfield Township Planning Commissioner. John also served as the Grand Traverse Bay Keeper for 12 years until his retirement in 2016.

John shared that he ran for office four times and was defeated. But he never felt like he lost. The experience taught him so much gaving him an excellent platform to share ideas. It also gained him access to being asked to serve as Road Commissioner and Planning Commissioner. He encourages people to run and to get behind the people who are running.

Mark LaChey has been Chair of LGBT & Allies Caucus of Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) for four years. He was recently elected to be 2nd Vice-Chair of MDP. Mark has been a Precinct Delegate for over 20 years and has been working on Democrats' campaigns and LGBT-issues for many years.

Mark had several messages, but they all blended into one unifying theme: WE CAN DO THIS! Mark began by saying EVERY VOTER COUNTS! EVERY COUNTY COUNTS! And EVERY VOTE COUNTS! And he meant that we need them all!

He said that non-voters believe that there's no difference between the two parties, which is pure BS. Our job is to convince people to join/help/vote the Democratic Party. First of all, be proud, happy and excited that you're a Democrat and TELL EVERYONE, let everyone know you're a Democrat. Explain to people WHY you're a Democrat. Educate yourself on all the issues so that you can talk knowledgeably about their issues and concerns. Then, find the issue that REALLY interests you, and give your all to it.Mark took questions from the audience:

  1. Super-delegates: He thinks we should get rid of them. Too much influence, and not enough real people power.

  2. Repeal personal state income tax: Mark thinks this is a BAD idea. We would become like Kansas, losing billions of dollars of essential revenue. We need money for infrastructure repair, education, just to name a couple. As an example of the loss, not too many years ago, 85% of higher education costs were covered by the state. Now only 20% of those costs are covered by the state. Furthermore, the sales tax would be increased, with its extra burden falling disproportionately on the poor. As Democrats, we should be totally against repealing that tax.

  3. Where should we put our efforts re: elections? Where do we have the most chance of gaining the most for Democrats? Senate? House? Marc feels that the Governor's race is the one we MUST win. And in looking for a candidate, make sure they not only agree with the goals of the Dems, but also find out if they have enough real financing to make their bid achievable. Marc said Bill Schuette, a Republican with the National Attorney General's Association, has almost unlimited spending money and is raising buckets of money. Marc also said the House is a better one to try and flip than the Senate.

  4. 2020 is redistricting time in Michigan. He wants to see Democrats represent him where he lives, also to see Democrats representing people from this Western/Northern part of the state.

  5. Does the State party take a position on issues? Marc said, no, the party is a mouthpiece for the leadership.

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