By Holly Hazard:
VA Democracy Forward (VADF) is a local, progressive group working to turn Virginia blue by connecting people, sharing ideas, and taking action toward a better future. Here, Holly Hazard interviews Chris Le Menestrel, its Co-Lead.
Q: Other than the 2016 election results and/or the Women’s March, what was the spark that moved you to create VA Democracy Forward and what has kept you engaged?
A: The spark that created VADF was the atrocity of having Trump in office and being propelled to take action against his administration. From the initial spark, VADF has evolved and now offers a wide array of activities for its members that keeps people engaged and able to try out new things – from signature collecting, phone banking, texting and postcard parties, canvassing with friends to fundraisers, marches and voter registration – plus, a newsletter, blog, website and multiple social media channels – we try to offer something for everyone.
Q: How have you been most surprised by your success in the past year?
A: Not surprisingly, the biggest … surprise was the 2017 Virginia election results. We had worked all year and did so many events, initiatives, actions – and tried it all – but with little idea of what would really work, and more with a gut-feel that it was the right thing to do. Having it all come together on that night was an astounding moment.
Q: What has been your most joyous success with VA Democracy Forward and why do you think you were so successful?
A: Our biggest blast was our VADF 2017 election night party. We were successful because we focused on action rather than blame; we looked forward rather than backward; we went for efficiency rather than feel-good; we reached beyond our own districts to help candidates in faraway suburbs; we partnered with many people and groups, and found many strengths and many friends along the way.
Q: What could Fairfax County Democrats do better to help grassroots groups like VA Democracy Forward help Democrats?
A: Make it easier to join. Don’t call us pop-up groups. Simplify Dem leadership/structure and help us understand which Dem leaders do what. Partner with us on tech platforms, data and tools. Get more flyers and yard signs.
Q: It can’t be all work and no play. How do you inspire your team to keep going and what does your team do for fun?
A: Absolutely. In fact, a great many of us have kept engaged because of the positive impact of having found many neighbors and friends with the same views and same resolve – then connecting together, and combining fun with purposeful actions. The way we inspire our team is to have all meetings include wine and cheese.
Q: How will you be changing the world next?
A: Take back the house. In 2019, take back the Virginia House & Senate. In 2020, pass sweeping reforms in Virginia, take back the White House. Then take a break, or maybe not. There are huge, huge things to address: Climate change, guns, campaign finance reform, and so much more.
Q: It’s your turn. If you had 50 words to praise or admonish, pitch or plea, what would you say?
A: Kudos to Dems, grassroots, indivisibles, huddles, environment groups, advocacy groups, anti-gerrymandering groups, minority interest groups, civil rights groups and more. We are all fighting the same fight, and as partners we will win.
Holly Hazard is is a member of Mason District Democratic Committee and is on The Blue View Staff.
Photo at top: Members of VA Democracy Forward (VADF). / Photo by Hannah Arrighi