This is the penultimate post in a series of 5 posts.
I'm sure you've been wondering what you can do to help end systemic racism and generally make the world a better place. Maybe you're not able to protest or feel like your everyday work is making a difference. Perhaps you want to try getting politically involved, but aren't sure how. Well, I'm no expert, but I can share the things I've tried or know about. I'll focus on Washington residents and my personal experience, but if you're reading this elsewhere the same steps may help. Feel free to use the comments to add ideas!
Level 4: Become a PCO!
Are you all still with me? Are we still doing this? You voted, you contacted your elected officials, you donated and volunteered for campaigns and causes. How could there still be more ways to get involved? Well, I can think of two more ways, and they both get you deep into the murky waters of the political machine. In this post, we'll just dip our toe a bit.
Again, I'm going to assume you're interested in progressive change here. I don't know how right wing parties do their business and I don't care to know. I do know a little about the progressive side of the spectrum, so we'll talk about how to get in that business.
What is a PCO? Well, a PCO is short for Precinct Committee Officer. It's not a good name. There's no committee and I don't think officer is the right term to use anymore. But the Democratic party is a massive and slow-moving organization. A PCO is sort of like a permanent volunteer with voting rights in the local party. Technically, it is an elected position, although it is pretty rare that you will be opposed if you run.
As far as I've seen, the PCO acts as a representative for their precinct and as the person who guides their precinct to vote for Democrats. As a PCO, I spend most of my time reminding people in my neighborhood to vote, recommending the district platform, and going to monthly meetings and participating in the process there. The time commitment is approximately 20ish hours a year, depending on how hard you like to go. A PCO is also responsible for running their precinct caucus, but the pandemic has probably ended caucuses forever. I'm a little sad about that because running the caucus in 2016 was fun, but it is not particularly accessible for many folks. At any rate, in short, the PCO does the work and guides the work of the Democratic party.
Bonus points! Not only can you become a PCO, but you can also apply to be a delegate to the various levels of Democratic conventions. This year, thanks to the pandemic, I made it all the way to the state convention and got to vote on platform proposals and network with progressive Democrats. Getting more progressive voices at these conventions pushes the party towards a more progressive stance, as the platform is supposed to inform Democrats of the positions that they are supposed to represent. It is a massive document that spans a wide range of political stances and is generally pretty good.
There are some machinations of the party that remain purposefully obtuse and rooted in whiteness, of course. I don't know the difference between Sturgis and Robert's rules of order, for example. Many processes are kept inaccessible through various means for efficiency purposes of for the purpose of holding power. So, until we've moved closer to direct democracy or dismantled the whole thing, the only option is to insert yourself into those archaic systems and try to make them better for everyone.
To become a PCO is ridiculously easy. If it is May of an even year, you fill out a form and your name goes on the ballot for your precinct. If no one runs against you, congratulations! If someone does, you can go around to all your neighbors and campaign if you want, I suppose. Or, just wait and see what happens.
After the even-year August primary, you can still become a PCO pretty easily. My district, the 36th, has a website that details how. Essentially, you sign up to represent your precinct (this is an "appointed PCO") or can adopt another one if yours is represented (this is an "acting PCO"). I became an Appointed PCO this way when I found out my precinct did not have a PCO. It was easy!
"Don! The Democratic party is just the other side of the evil coin of capitalism and the two-party system is perpetuated by my participation in that system so why should I sign up to be a part of this evil?" Listen, I get it. Capitalism is a fart and Democrats let me down a bunch. They don't let me down as much as Republicans. We talked about this in level 1. If there are only two choices, you pick the better of the two, right? Just because you're a Democratic PCO, that doesn't mean you can't also join the Green party if you want, right? Just because you encourage your neighbors to vote doesn't mean you can't also smash the state. If you're sick, you take your medicine AND wrap up in a blankie and couch it up. Being a PCO is your blankie while you wait for your true medicine to take effect.
My district, one of the most progressive in the state (or nation, depending on who you ask), has a bunch of blank spots in our PCO list. The Democrats need help. And if we fill those spots with anti-capitalist, anti-racist, progressive, socialist activists, we push those in power to move towards truly standing up for the ideas that they talk about to get elected but never do anything about. If you're up for it, do level 4!
If you've been following along and participating at home, after all you've done, level 4 is just a little bit more. It feels like a pretty powerful step to take and doesn't require a ton of work. Think about it! There is one more level -- one I have only theoretically considered -- come on back later for level 5: Are you sure about this?