New York City Democratic Clubs have a rich and storied history, which has been explored at length in books such as Machine Made and Plunkitt of Tammany Hall (both of which I highly recommend.)
No matter where you live in Manhattan, chances are there is a Democratic Club in your neighborhood. So why join a local club? Well, there are a few practical reasons.
1. You care about your neighborhood
This is the most local of local politics, and since elected officials often attend club meetings and events, it will give you an opportunity to ask questions and alert them to issues.
2. You might want to run for office one day
If you have aspirations of running for office, or just getting involved in local elections, joining your local club will give you the opportunity to connect with your elected officials, and meet people who live in your neighborhood.
3. You don’t like traipsing all over the city
One great thing about local clubs is that they generally hold meetings in the neighborhood, so it’s a lot easier to make it to meetings, and perhaps grab a drink with your fellow club members afterwards.
4. You care about the judiciary
This is especially important if you are an attorney, because local clubs generally play an important role in selecting Democratic nominees for civil court judge.
Now, it is true that not all Democratic clubs are created equally, and depending on your interests, you want to find a club that best suits you. Some clubs focus on issue activism, others focus on judicial politics. Some clubs don’t do much of anything. So don’t be afraid to ask around, reach out to your local elected officials, attend some events, and see which organizations seem like the best fit.
The Manhattan Democratic Party has a good list of local clubs:
If you live on the Upper East Side, I’ll make a shameless plug for my local club, the Four Freedoms Democratic Club, of which several MYD’ers are members.
Getting involved in a local club may not seem that important, but remember that most of the elected officials serving now in New York started out in a local club. Clubs elect District Leaders, State Committee Members, and County Committee members, and these folks often go on to run for office. So even if you’re not interested in running yourself, being involved means that you get to play a role in the local process, and in helping to build the bench of new talent in the Democratic Party.