Political parties draw their strength from organization. Political parties that win are those able to generate numbers on the ballots, and they don't do that by osmosis.
They do it on ground level, through people working in their counties and neighborhoods, and representing their party too – putting a human face on them. These things may sound old-fashioned but they're not: Just ask the hyperlocal Obama campaign of 2012, probably the best-organized political campaign ever.
That makes a headline from last week in the Pendleton East Oregonian, about a small meeting in a rural house out in small Morrow County, of some larger interest and maybe importance.
Morrow County is, politically, what you might expect. It is a small-population and rural county well east of the Cascades, with little tie to many of the interests that help staff and underwrite Democratic organizations in places like Portland. It is solidly Republican. In recent years Republican voter registration has run around 41% and Democratic has fluctuated around 28-31%. It routinely votes strongly for Republican candidates for major office and for the legislature.
That doesn't mean morrow doesn't have Democrats, but Republicans here have tended to do better than registration might suggest. One reason may be that Democrats here simply haven't been organized. That isn't a swipe at anyone; the East Oregonian said there's not been a Morrow County Democratic organization for 22 years.
The news was that Greg Hall, a relatively new resident new Boardman, decided to do something about it. A former North Carolinian, accustomed to a Democratic party sometimes outvoted but never nonexistent, he filed on September 5 to form one. Then he called for an organization meeting at his rural house early this month.
The article held a focus on Hall as he waited for people to arrive, and began to wonder if anyone would.
They did, no great crowd but a substantial number.
From the East Oregonian: “Every person who arrived was Hispanic. Because Morrow County is 36% Hispanic, according to the 2012 census, Hall hopes to find unregistered Hispanic voters to gain ground in an established Republican stronghold.”
They start, of course, from an underdog position; they're not going to outnumber Republicans in this county any time soon. Nor is this going to change the social sea water in this county.
But activity like this is where it starts: With county officers and precinct leaders, who in turn can bring into play people who hadn't been involved in politics before. From one voice in the county, you move to two; from non-competitive you may move, over time, to competitive.
And change is made.