As a Democratic activist and a host of a political podcast, I have keen interest in the current situation of the Democratic Party. Like any active Democrat, it’s been impossible to ignore reports of the constant infighting between the so-called Bernie Wing and the rarely called Clinton wing. But I’m also skeptical of these reports. In the in person meetings I’ve attended in the past, the focus has been on how to better engage with voters to ensure they have what they need to vote. So, when DNC made the decision to hold their quarterly meeting in Las Vegas, I decided to drive up from my home in Phoenix.
This morning, as I write this, the DNC is holding their general session where they, the entire committee of the Democratic National Committee, will vote as a single body on many of the things that have been brought up by the Resolutions Committee. Naturally, the media narrative has already been set. Leading the way is Buzzfeed:
To only read the Buzzfeed article or this one from the Huffington Post , is to believe that the meeting was full of histrionics and people feeling betrayed. That attendees were skulking in corners whispering behind their hands to each other, eyes darting around the room to ensure that the evil mastermind of Tom Perez wasn’t listening of their planned coup attempt. And that Keith Ellison would be sitting all by himself crying into his free drinks because this is Vegas.
Thursday, October 19th
The Native American Council had enough members to become a caucus. This is important as it gives Native Americans a bigger voice in how the Party is run and provides an opening and opportunity to increase fundraising for Native American candidates like Debra Haaland, who is seeking to become the first Native American woman in Congress. I attended the Native American Council caucus in place of a colleague who wasn’t able to attend. There was no drama, even for the election of the chair, but some nice speeches including from Deputy Chair Ellison.
Across the convention area, which looks literally like every other convention area in the US, there were small groups of three to five people huddled talking. While at the time, it didn’t seem exceptional, I later learned that there were elections abrewing and these people chatting was actually focused on hustling votes.
The elections were for positions in the various caucuses that the party has. Democrats have a lot of caucuses. They are the four regional, LGBT, Native American, Hispanic, Black, Women’s, Asian American and Pacific Islander caucuses. And they all had elections.
The second meeting I went to was the Western, which is specific to where I live and vote. I live tweeted it poorly.
There were 9 spots to be elected-the ones I caught were chair, male and female vice chairs, secretary, treasurer, at large committee spots. While I had a preference towards the former executive director of my state Luis Heredia, being elected caucus chair, honestly, both candidates Luis and Jess Durfee were awesome and would do a good job of herding cats. I mean, Democrats, amirite.
So what was the drama? There were some mix-ups with proxies. Two of the proxies that were supposed to have been counted weren’t apparently counted. One of them was Representative Maxine Waters. Woops! The upshot was that the two candidates for chair of the Caucus were too good and there was an even split between the votes so they had to do a coin toss. Luis Heredia who HAD won before the proxies were appropriately counted lost the coin toss and the other candidate, Jess Durfee, was elected. They shook hands after and wished each other well. That’s about as dramatic as it got.
Everyone else was just “I’m BORED AND WANT TO GO GET DRUNK” after the fourth vote. Which is normal. Having been to dozens of Democratic meetings in the past from the district level to the national, it is common that after a period of time most people are tired of business and want to find something more enjoyable. Especially when in a fun place like Las Vegas.
One of the highlights was being able to talk to the highly entertaining and extremely competent Chair of California Democratic Party, Eric Bauman. A transplant from the Bronx to California, he has a New Yorker’s knack for easily cutting straight through any noise to the main issue and get things moving. If it wasn’t for the fact that running California’s Democratic Party is a more than full time job (he had an actual assistant!) I would have supported Bauman for chair of this meeting.
Reason to Hope
While the media paints the DNC meeting as a super dramatic week for the Dems, it wasn’t. The attendees are the chairs and top members of their state parties. They aren’t going to be throwing fits, they aren’t going to be acting like divas. They were there to network, share ideas and figure out how to win as many seats as possible, at every level of government.
The state chairs may not be happy with all the decisions of the officers obviously since no one wants to lose but they weren’t going to storm out. If there is one thing that Democrats know, it’s compromise. There were a lot of great ideas, as well as positive news of getting farm teams of city council and state legislative candidates, efforts to do more in depth person to person canvass and a lot of energy.
Getting those farm teams is important. By having these positions filled by Democrats you have experienced candidates who have learned to do the basics of governing: talking to voters, holding meetings, voting on laws and ordinances that have the greatest impacts on people’s lives. Those that do well are able to raise their name ID and move onto larger offices. Don’t forget that our last Democratic President was a former State Senator.
That’s what I saw at the meeting.
Additional observations: Keith Ellison appears to be a night owl, way more hyper in the evening then in the mornings. But he most certainly wasn’t sitting crying, drunk in the corner.