Members of the Coffee County Democratic Party are taking a new approach in recruitment of younger members, in the formation of a Coffee County Young Democrats.
The group will be holding an informational kickoff meeting later in November, organizers say.
According to CCDP Secretary Ashli Shockley and Coffee County Central High School English teacher Mike Stein, the time to start the Young Democrats chapter in the county was long before now.
“I think it’s long overdue,” he said. “I think a better question is why not now?”
Stein said the county may be red, but there are still a number of people who have grown disillusioned with the Republican Party platform. Those people are now encouraged to come to the kickoff meeting of the Coffee County Young Democrats later this month and see if this group is a better fit.
“This is an opportunity for younger people aged 13 to 35 to learn about each other, meet each other, get to know each other and learn that there is support throughout the community for people whose beliefs are certainly not the Republican viewpoints,” Stein said.
Shockley echoed Stein’s comments, saying that while Tennessee is a red state and Coffee County is a rural county, there are still people who vote blue.
“In our town, you don’t hear or see very many Democrats, and it was something that I thought our town could really use,” she said. “I think there’s more of us than people realize.”
By starting a Young Democrats chapter in Coffee County, Stein said he hopes to recruit more young, open-minded individuals into the fold.
“Young people in particular are much more open-minded than the older generations,” he said. “That’s the lifeblood and the future of our party, and we want them to know that they’re not alone, and it’s okay to be open about having different beliefs.”
Stein said he was certain there were young people in the county who supported LGBTQ rights; who wanted to ensure they had clean air to breathe and clean water to drink; and who knew from experience that living off a minimum wage was impossible.
“These are all things the Democratic Party supports,” Stein added, “and I think a lot of young people would support those same things, and they have a home here in the Coffee County Young Democrats.”
For those not wanting to ascribe the label to themselves, both Shockley and Stein encouraged a research visit at the kickoff meeting. Shockley in particular said she understood the reticence, but still invited those on the fence about their politics to stop by.
“Honestly, I have a hard time calling myself [a] Democrat because of the stigma that comes with it from everyone that’s not a Democrat,” she said. “What I have to say to that is we now are bringing a Young Democrats chapter to Coffee County. We already have a Young Republicans chapter. Now people can come and they can attend both. I think this will help people decide.”
She added labels are “overrated” and for people not to identify themselves on the label.
“Don’t go by labels,” she said. “Go by your beliefs. Go by your moral standing. That’s what I say to that.”
The first meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 at D.W. Wilson Community Center for anyone who wants to check out what the new chapter is all about.
Stein said the meeting will also serve to determine the leadership for the new group, as well as to form a chapter-specific vision for the future of the party.
“I definitely want to encourage any young people who are available to come out, enjoy each other’s company and be leaders in the community,” he said.
Shockley added that anyone who believes in their shared values who wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves is encouraged to attend.
As an added incentive, Stein said the meeting will have some door prize giveaways, including a Nintendo Switch Lite and gift cards to local businesses.
Forming this new chapter will also help ensure Democrats in Coffee County make their voices heard,” Shockley said.
“People are so concerned about their vote not counting. This is a way to make your vote count. This is a way to make your voice heard. Again, even if you’re on the fence, come check it out, because I think more people would fit in that they realize,” she said. “Every little bit counts.”
“The young people have an opportunity to really make a profound impact and leave their mark on Coffee County for generations to come,” Stein added. “This really could be something special that we start here in Coffee County, in an effort to turn the county purple and help the state governments recognize Coffee County as a truly battleground place.”
For more information on the Coffee County Young Democrats, look them up on Facebook.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.