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This past weekend the California Democratic Party had a convention and election to replace John Burton. This is what I saw. This is my truth. Others may have seen it differently but it is up to them to write their own story- this is mine:

exciting

We arrived at our state capitol in Sacramento on Thursday morning to attend a Central Committee training session. (A central Committee is the group in your county that works on Democratic actions in your community and is sanctioned by the State Democratic Party to hold fundraising events, endorse and support candidates and promote Democratic activity in your area.) There were 8 of us from our committee of 18, 5 were newbies like myself who had never been to a convention. Among many things, we learned what the Party’s goals are for the next election 2018 and what they have changed. For example, California will be moving towards ‘Voting Centers’, locations offering a wide variety of elections services including early voting and same-day voter registration as well as a limited number of in-person voting booths.

We broke into several small discussion groups to talk about what we were doing in our home counties. There was a sampling of large counties with registered Democrats in the 100’s of thousands and counties like mine with barely 10 thousand. There was one theme that was common across all counties and also throughout the convention; people are waking up and ready to act. Folks are calling their Democratic Clubs and Central Committees and asking, “How can I help?” They are seeing people showing up to meetings like never before, even the long time active Democrats were saying they have never seen this much participation in years, if ever. That was pretty encouraging to me. To meet and talk with so many people who share your issues and goals was empowering and fun. I only saw one slight altercation and there were about 3500 hundred people there.

You may recall during the past election there were discussions and news media in some primaries about ‘credentialing’ and if you don’t know what that means (I didn’t) here is what happens. The party selects by, volunteer or nomination, representatives to attend convention to elect candidates. There are typically thousands of people in attendance and not everyone is qualified to vote, there are visitors, guests, press, workers and others so to be sure that voting is done only by those eligible to vote you must obtain a credential. To be a credentialed delegate you need to be part of your local affiliation. For this convention I was a proxy delegate which meant that a member of my Central Committee chose me to vote in his place. Before we had left home we had determined, by discussion and vote, who we were going to vote for, while we in our CC endorsed a particular candidate we did not compel all delegates to vote for her at the convention. We were free to choose but in some Central Committees they determine ahead of time who they will all vote for in unity. Each Central Committee can have slightly different bylaws. You can see how reading about voters, proxy delegates, super delegates and credentials may not be readily understood by most people who have never participated in their local Central Committee or party. This is why it is a good idea to at least attend your local party events so that you understand why delegates vote the way they do.

credentialing

Thursday after the training session I was honored to be invited to have dinner with Gavin Newsom (and about 200 or 300 hundred of his closest friends), who is running for Governor for State of California; you may remember in 2004 he directed the San Francisco city–county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of the then-current state law. As a newbie this was my first experience at a serious, high dollar political dinner. I could not help but be reminded of John Travolta in Primary Colors.  He was so very polished and a little slick but of course pleasant and approachable. He sat at our table for a little while, as he did at every table, and asked us what we were interested in. One of my friends had worked for him in the past and gave us a personal account of him which is helpful in getting to really know a candidate. Another woman said she felt like she was in a Batman movie and Bruce Wayne had just visited us. Will I vote for him when the time comes? I have no idea yet, I still need to do my research and discover the platforms of the other candidates.

gavin

The majority of the day on Friday was spent getting registered, receiving your appropriate credential and visiting booths of candidates and organizations. It was typical of any other convention you may have been to for any other organization or group, exchanging business cards, picking up literature, talking to folks and mingling. There were meet and greets with the candidates in rooms off the main hall that went long into the night.

In one location resolutions were discussed and voted. You need to be prepared beforehand, it is not a good idea to show up to convention without having read about the bills in the legislature under consideration or resolutions being recommended. It’s a job, really, and one I and the other delegate’s took seriously. It wasn’t a ‘tax payer funded party’ as one 45 supporter tried to claim. We were working on what issues we want to advance as a party, legislation for citizens, like SB562 which is a bill for single payer health care in California. When you read about the party platform during campaign season this is where some of those issues come from (another reason you may want to find your local Democratic Club- so you can part of the decision making). What amazed me was how much effort goes into a convention like this and many of the folks who coordinate do not receive money- they do it because they care. I even met a young woman, a senior in high school who cannot yet vote, yet is working as an intern.

sb562

Some say corporate money has completely destroyed our democracy and in some way corporate billionaires do affect too much but there are also a lot of people who work and receive no money. Speaking of billionaires- Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen was there. NextGen Climate acts politically to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity for every American. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers was there too, and if you think you are tired of political engagement this woman is still going strong at 87!  If it seems like I am name dropping that is not my intention, my point is to indicate that there are lots of great, active folks who are still working to make this state and this country better for all of us.

barbara

Saturday was voting day and each candidate was given 5 minutes to make their last plea for our vote. The arena was filled with people wearing the colors, hats, buttons and flags of their preferred candidate sitting, standing, and walking around, cheering, clapping, talking and yelling in support of their issues. We were a noisy, boisterous bunch as is the Democratic Party and we all wanted to be heard. Finally, it came time to cast our ballots, an open ballot, which meant our names were on the ballot and there are no private booths.

voting line

The line to vote.........................

Do I have rose colored glass on my Polly-Anna head? No, I don’t think so, I am not so enamored with our government that I don’t believe there are unethical and corrupt politicians- they exist, make no mistake. However, when you watch the mechanisms and talk with the people who coordinate and plan a convention and talk with the volunteers what you realize is that they are people just like you. They live in moderate houses, have middle class jobs with children and grandchildren. They have health issues and debt and struggles, just like you. What struck me was the magnitude of our Democratic Party and the enormity of the job of running a nation this size. We come to the table of the convention with our own personal needs as the others do and it is the job of the leaders to find a path that is wide enough for everyone without losing site of the goal. What’s the goal? Food, shelter, clothing and a decent life. HOW to build that community is the struggle, how to feed everyone at the table is an enormous task. Was I upset and disappointed to hear that my candidate, Kimberly Ellis had lost to party establishment Eric Bauman? You bet I was! Some are claiming that there were shenanigans, some are claiming interference. I don’t know but I was there and this is what I have come away with; it was damn close! Nearly 3,000 ballots with a difference of just 62 votes, according to the official results. And party officials quickly agreed to do the audit.  The vote count — 1,493 to 1,431 — showed just how split the party is. Bauman was expected to win by a landslide but he did not. He barely won and this is the message to the party, hopefully they will get it.

Progressives are not going away, not all progressives are Bernie supporters (there are many, many Hillary supporters who are very progressive) and we are going to keep pushing until we change the party establish because as Obama said, it is time for change.”

My personal message to Tom Perez, Eric Bauman and retiring John Burton, We are not going to ‘shut the fuck up.’ We are here and you better take notice because maybe it is time for you to shut up and listen to Progressive Democrats. "During the first day of the convention, California Democratic Party chair John Burton yelled at protesting nurses to “shut the fuck up and go outside.” Burton condescendingly told the protesters, “There’re some people who have been fighting for that issue before you guys were born.”

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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