by Jeff Zalles
Imagine attending a party whose guests are all progressive. Imagine being able to voice your opinions without fear of alienation. Imagine your contact list filled with liberal neighbors. Impossible in Brunswick County, you think? Well, think again.
Three years ago, my wife and I relocated to Brunswick County from San Francisco. Unlike our new home, the Bay Area was a place where you just assumed, correctly, that everyone you met was a liberal Democrat. I felt sorry for the handful of Republicans I knew.
Now, the shoe was on the other foot. Being part of a political minority can be challenging. I found it exceedingly difficult to hold my tongue when listening to my neighbors espouse their conservative views. I got involved with my precinct and the BCDP, which provided me with an outlet for my activism but didn’t go far enough to create the social environment I craved just outside my front door.
From the Board of Elections records, I knew there were registered Democrats all around me. I wanted to reach out to them, but I didn’t know how. Then an idea came to me. What if I created a social club for progressives, one where I could connect with neighbors who shared my views but not necessarily my activism?
Thus, was born the St. James Progressives. One thing I learned from experience is that just creating a group was not enough. How many Facebook groups do you belong to? Have they provided you with social connections outside social media? Probably not. To meet the challenge, I decided that the best way to get people to join was to kick-off the club with an event. I created a website — a Facebook page would work fine if a website isn’t feasible — and sent an email out to every Democrat and Independent on our precinct’s mailing list. Within 24 hours, 100 people had signed up. Today, we are more than 500 strong, and a similar progressive group has been launched in Compass Point.
As an added benefit, many of our club members have become more politically active in our precinct. Meetings once attended by five or six people are now seeing 30 or more attendees. Recently, a Get Involved section was added to the St. James Progressives website.
You and other progressives in Brunswick County can do this. St. James is a large community and you probably will not attract 500 members, but a progressive social club of even 50 members would be nice to be a member of, would it not?
The following is a template that is similar to the email I sent out to start the group. If you’re new to your community, you may want to co-author it with another longer-termed resident who shares your views
Please join us on for the Ides of March Progressive Cocktail Crawl to kick off the new ____________ Progressives Club.
[add a personal story explaining why you decided to create your club]
Since then, we have discovered there are many here who share our desire to express their opinions in ways that go beyond throwing things at their TV sets.
Here’s how to join: [insert info on your website, Facebook page, or email address. Be sure to ask participants for their name, address, and telephone number]