What I Didn’t See at the Democratic National Committee Meeting

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:

Evidence 78

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.

The Abusive Press

To what seems to be a few years ago but turns out is about 13 years, I was going through an All Things Molly Ivins phase.  This was shortly before she passed away from breast cancer, that continuing scourge of women in the United States. She had released multiple books with collections of her essays and one essay was titled “Sex, Death and Media Ethics” which discussed the behavior of the press.  The media published multiple stories about a man named Michael Dorris who ended his life rather than have what happened after his death happen.

She notes two rules: 1) “is there any good reason to print this story?” and 2) is there any good reason not to print this story?

Most of the time the answer to the first question is easy and most of the time the answer to the second is not so easy.  The media has a lot of power in this country.  What is reported can instantly cause total destruction of people’s lives.  The wrong story told at the wrong time can cause people untold misery while at the same time the right story at the right time can spur action and make lives better.

I start this essay about that because I am going to talk about the abusive press and Hillary Clinton.  In her recent book she talks a lot about how bewildered she was over the press’s treatment of her emails, her statements about literally anything that could be twisted and her unhappiness at never being able to break through the wall of hate they had for her.

Clear Cut Examples

There are hundreds to choose from but one recently got treatment in Vox which is one of the few media outlets that treated her fairly during the 2016 election.  At least after Ezra Klein sat down and went “holy shit, this woman I have been bashing my entire career actually fucking means she wants to make life better.”  They are also the only mainstream media entity that laid out the Clinton Rules. (By the way, even Vox isn’t perfect since the guy who wrote the Clinton Rules also is the jackass behind Shattered: How the Media Still Doesn’t Admit They Fucked Up 2016.)

In the example Clinton’s attempt to talk to people in West Virginia about how she doesn’t want to forget about helping them since they are going to have their livelihoods destroyed when coal entirely goes away.  But she didn’t say the right thing at the right time and the media pounced.  First it was the right wing media and eventually it was the rest of the media.  But it took her trying to say the truth and twisted it into something to hurt her about.

Another clear example was the reaction of the press to Clinton’s fainting spell on 09/11/2016.  She was powering through like all candidates do at the tail end of a campaign and got dehydrated and fell ill.  But the way the press reacted was as if she had been hiding a diagnosis of cancer crossed with TB and ebola.  All of which we would have noticed by that time yet the press was in hysterics.   They reacted like the only way to avoid being treated like she was literally being carried to the grave was to shove a camera in her face as she drank some water, rested and took some medicine.

This Isn’t Reporting, This is Harassment

It goes back to two those first two questions Molly Ivins brought up-the news did need to report on both her less than perfect delivery of her statement to the coal miners and her illness.  What the news didn’t need to do was act as if she had committed a major crime in not being whatever it was that they wanted from her.  Time and again they would do this. Even those sympathetic to her. There would be something that was a mild hiccup and the media would go insane over it with endless stories about every aspect.  Then, once that was thoroughly dissected, they immediately would jump into if she reacted the right way. “What, you mean she DID try to make amends to the coal miners?  She can’t do that.  We already decided she was forever guilty of somehow hating the coal miners!”  “wait, she didn’t apologize for getting sick?!  How dare she?!  Did she apologize for not letting us shove cameras in her face while she recovered?  No?  THAT BITCH.”

That’s how the media acted again and again.

Everything she did was wrong. If she didn’t hold a press conference it was bad.  They even created timers.  If she did hold a press conference, she didn’t answer anyone’s questions the way they wanted.  She literally could not do a thing right to them.  And they wouldn’t let up on her for an instant.  Instead of saying “wow, it sucks that she was sick” it was “wow, how dare she not tell us in triplicate that she was ill?”

Walking On Eggshells

There are a few signs someone is abusive:

  • Telling the victim that they can never do anything right
  • Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and time spent away
  • Accusing the victim of cheating
  • Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members
  • Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
  • Controlling every penny spent in the household
  • Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses
  • Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing
  • Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do
  • Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)

Many of these things have nothing to do with Clinton (I left out the sex stuff for instance) but the media told Clinton she could never do anything right, they insulted her, dictated how she could dress, demanded all access at all times to watch what she does and in one thing left off that list-always changed the rules so she could never comply while not enforcing anything like rules for others.

So Clinton tried to thread the needle thin walkway they shoved her on while also not showing the obvious frustration one feels at being treated this way.  Along the way, her speech suffered because she was naturally worried about another coal miner treatment.  She tried to not say anything remotely controversial.  She tried to not be too ecstatic that this was the first time women were going to take on the role of President (after all, that meant the media would assume women were only voting for her because she had a vagina.)  She tried to accommodate their insane demands for access.  She tried so hard to do exactly what they wanted so the abuse would stop.

But it never did.

If being president means you must take unwarranted abuse, she showed that she was capable of it with the way they treated her and continue to treat her.  The difference is as I noted on Twitter recently, she doesn’t have to care anymore what they say about her.

She’s free.