Drinking Liberally is a social group made up of Des Moines residents who love talking about everything from policy proposals to gardening tips. The play on words fully explains the character of this group. These are folks who care, who are clever, and who are really unique. They are what many candidates and the parties are missing while organizing. This is a group of in-tune individuals who focus a political club around a social activity that is inviting for newcomers.
According to the co-host Stephen Toothman, campaigns do attend Drinking Liberally’s meetings. But unlike most party meetings, members of the groups are prepared with specific policy questions, backed with knowledge and passion. Toothman focuses on economic policy. Toothman says, “Honestly, a lot of the folks in Drinking Liberally are policy wonks. We’ve had interns here and other folks here from campaigns, and we put them through their paces.”
While it was interesting to engage with the group’s watch party, the rest of the tavern sparked my interest as well. This watch party was held in a very public setting. There were plenty of folks just getting a drink or meal, not as a part of the official event. Even though they might not originally intended to join the activity, Drinking Liberally shifted positive attention (as well as the TVs), so that everyone there could watch and engage with them.
The originality and genuineness of Drinking Liberally should be taken note by party leaders and activists. If you want to build a community and create change, start with your passion and your friends. I want to see some more groups in Des Moines take this idea and run with it.