ITHACA, N.Y. — Local democrats are looking ahead to the future of their party, after a packed meeting Saturday filled with concerns, comments and ideas about how the party should move forward.

A “listening meeting” held by the Tompkins County Democratic Committee on Saturday was packed with at least 200 people in the Borg Warner Room of the Tompkins County Public Library. The meeting was a place for members of the party to connect, ask questions and offer suggestions.

“We live in a very important time,” Irene Stein, chair of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee said at the beginning of the meeting.

A number of speakers emphasized the importance of local elections. Leslie Danks Burke, who ran for senate, could not attend but provided a statement to be read, said change starts at the grassroots level with local elections.

Other speakers encouraged people to run for local elections, get involved making sure people do get out to vote. As Martha Robertson, a Tompkins County legislator said: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

While some people provided specific suggestions to the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, some said the Democratic Party had “lost its soul.” Speakers said the party must stand up to corporations, and advocate for issues that matter in the community like health care and the Affordable Care Act or a living wage.

Several people voiced that their activism in politics was brand new. At least three people said last weekend, at the women’s marches in Ithaca and Washington, was the first time they had ever joined a protest or march. The people who said they were just getting active in politics asked the Democratic Party give them direction on how they can keep involved and keep working.

One week ago, thousands of people gathered outside the library and Ithaca City Hall for the Women’s March on Ithaca. Hundreds of local residents also bussed to Washington, D.C. for the national march.

There were people of all ages at the meeting, including students from Cornell University and Ithaca College. Ivy Greene, of the Cornell Democrats said the college-aged generation is getting more active beyond social media.

“I think this generation, we’re realizing there’s a lot of diversity within our population. Some of the students here have experienced financial insecurity or have parents who are immigrants or are immigrants themselves, who have had issues with health care, with gender inequality, with their sexuality or gender expression,” Greene said. “And I think one of the most important things for our generation, for students, in becoming active is realizing that they can be allies to one another and support one another in these causes.”

Stein said the packed meetings and interest in getting involved locally in Tompkins County is symbolic of what is happening across the country, as people have concerns about the “seeming unpredictability” of President Donald Trump.

“What I gleaned from this was not only did people have an opportunity to say what was on their minds and be heard, if you noticed, the people listened really closely. But we will take responsibility for doing something with everything we’ve heard,” Stein said as the meeting began to clear out.

Stein said this election was different because the Democratic Party lost a lot of core constituents like working-class men and women. Stein said ultimately winning the election and the party doesn’t much if the nation is being led with policies that benefit everyone.

“It’s about coming to a place where when you take away all the hype of politics and all the false and nearly false statements, as well as true statements, it’s all about what happens to the people in this community and this country and right now a lot of people feel it’s under threat and we kind of feel an enormous desire to do something,” Stein said.

Moving ahead, Stein said the Tompkins County Democratic Committee has recorded all comments and ideas and will establish a committee to come up with a political action plan.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.