A meeting of county Democrats would have happened Saturday regardless of the outcome of the election; the group’s bylaws called for one.
Instead of celebrating the election of Hillary Clinton, the dozen Dems assembled at Marion City Library found themselves reflecting on the campaign, Donald Trump, and the next campaign.
Democrats could be considered the county’s largest minority group, and as such are in demand to work the polls on Election Day.
“There’s almost a thousand of us in the county,” chairman Eileen Sieger said. “They try to balance the election boards, so we get called a lot if we’re Democrats.”
With Kansas solidly in the Republican column for national races, and no Democrats in local contests, the group focused its campaign efforts on getting out the vote and supporting party statehouse candidates Jo Schwartz of Abilene and Levi Morris of Lyons. Both lost to Republican incumbents.
“This year should’ve been, could’ve been, we thought, a good opportunity,” Sieger said. “The state races were crucial this year, they really were, on the legislative side. There were some gains made. It’s a big mountain to climb and overcome.”
During the campaign, precinct workers called and went door-to-door to encourage fellow Democrats to vote.
“Getting out the vote is crucial, especially with Democrats, because they sort of feel like it doesn’t matter much,” Sieger said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated when you feel like it’s not going to make any difference, but you’ve just got to really tell them it does.”
An encounter with two men described by Martin Hollar of Peabody highlighted how isolated some county Democrats feel.
“One guy said, ‘Well, I didn’t think there were any other Democrats around; I’ve been feeling so lonely,’” Holler said. “I told him, ‘Yes, we have several out here.’”
The negative tones of the presidential campaign filtered down to local levels. Sieger and Holler reported sour incidents and foul language they encountered as Clinton supporters while attending church.
“I couldn’t believe where it was spoken,” Sieger said. “I just dropped my jaw. That has eaten away at me ever since last Sunday.”
However, those assembled were ready to put the negativity in the past.
Dan Peterson lives in the northeast corner of the county.
“I know I received some hateful messages, and we’re not going to hate,” he said. “We’re going to support our president, he’s our president. But there are issues that matter to people, like trade. We can work with Jerry Moran and say, ‘Trump’s trade ideas would hurt agriculture, can you help us out there?’ There are checks and balances.”
Peterson said he was encouraged that after the election, Trump backed off a pledge to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, saying he would work to preserve portions of it that work.
“Trump, I’m sure, has some good ideas, and hopefully we can figure out a way to cushion some of the bad ones,” he said.
Sue Clough said she was ready for negativity to change.
“When that’s all they’ve heard all during the campaign is bitter name-calling, I guess it wears off on people,” she said. “We just need to pray that things change and do what we can to help the country. I think he’s beginning to realize with just what little exposure he’s had that things are a lot different than what they appeared to him on the outside.”
“He might have looked up how long it took China to build a wall,” he said. “I think that was about 2,000 years.”
A wrinkle in the group’s bylaws ensures gender equality in leadership by dictating that officer positions alternate female and male.
With Sieger re-elected as chair, and Janet Bryant re-elected as secretary/treasurer, the vacant vice-chair position had to go to a man. Holler got the unanimous nod for the job.
With that, the focus turned to the next election in 2018; however, Holler had more immediate concerns.
“I don’t think we should wait until 2018,” he said. “We need to start laying the groundwork now. I think some things are going to be happening in the short term.”
Holler suggested the group become more active in cultivating and organizing young Democrats and sympathetic unaffiliated voters.
The group readily agreed to have meetings every other month, for encouragement as much as strategizing.
“I feel like we’re a support group to each other,” Sieger said.