High Desert Young Democrats Reaching Out
By Dianne Anderson
Direct voter action these days depends a lot on the demographic.
To the millennials – an age group that hardly ever picks up their phone – it could mean texting for democracy.
For some, it may mean picking up signs in protest. For others, it could be pursuing a party delegate to create change from within. It could mean knocking on doors, making phone calls or working campaigns.
At the last High Desert Young Democrats meeting, Resa Barillas spent an hour with the group reviewing the most effective ways to phonebank with 5calls.org, something that almost anyone can do to get involved. They simply pick an issue, and share the easy read script.
Among the under 40 crowd, she said text banking seems the best approach. Knocking on doors is an intrusion for millennials, but works well for other age groups.
“We don’t pick up our phones unless we know who’s going to be calling. Phone banking for us isn’t terribly effective, but for 40 and up, it is. There are always different ways to engage,” said Barillas, who is the regional director of the California Young Democrats, covering San Bernardino and Riverside counties. (CYD).
While midterms usually draw out a smaller number of voters than the presidential election, she said lately she’s seeing more energy in youth political awareness than she’s ever seen before. From mid-August, she has been busy organizing “regional invasions,” which continues until two weekends before the election.
On October 14 in the high desert, her next Regional Invasion will draw young Dems statewide to join up to support local candidates. Last month, she was in Santa Clarita Valley canvassing for candidates and in Orange County. Outreach has been all over the map.
It’s about time.
Under the Trump Administration, she said there was a sudden realization of just how Dems had been complacent, and blindsided. It’s part of the reason why they started the local club. They realized that they didn’t have organizations activating in the area, or pushing the issues.
“Complaining about it on Facebook isn’t enough, insisting that he needs to be impeached isn’t enough. Flipping Congress is going to make the difference in that,” she said.
She and the co-founders had attended other Democratic clubs, but didn’t see the level of action required to push the movement forward. One debate that’s been going on in the high desert for decades is the Cadiz water projects.
She said local young Dems are very concerned about the ecosystem. It’s been a spirited grassroots fight.
“There’s no reason why they should take water from the desert and sell it to Orange County so they can keep their artificial lakes filled, and their lawns green,” she said. “It’s absurd. They are trying to profit off a low-income area.”
The club is also hoping for more African American participation. She said they are fortunate to have Stevevonna Evans, a Young Dem club member now running for Adelanto City Council.
She said the people often look to the younger generation for their boundless energy, to put in the footwork and knock on the doors.
“But when it comes to hearing our concerns, we have to wait our turn,” she said. “We’re not waiting anymore. Waiting has turned into massive student loan debt for so many of us.”
At the same time, she said youth turnout must get stronger. Millennials can push for action, but they must cast the ballot. They are the largest demographic group. For any Democratic stragglers not yet registered to vote, she said CYD has been out spreading the word, canvassing.
“It’s the guerrilla approach, and it’s effective. We’re just kind of setting up where we can until we get kicked out,” she said.
Barillas, who also manages the CYD Women’s Caucus, said they are reaching upcoming candidates statewide. They train in Sacramento to teach women how to run for office in the Assembly and Senate, and how to fundraise within complex political systems.
The caucus is open to all young democrats, who sit in on meetings. They get to hear the candidates speak on the issues, participate in discussions. She said the Young Dems also transcend age, they have many honorary older members who are young at heart.
“They see that we’re strong progressive voices, we’re doing work. We’ve done community cleanups for Apple Valley and Victorville. That’s part of our ethos. We’re putting the time and money where our mouths are,” she said.
For more information on event dates and times, see highdesertyoungdemocrats.org