Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Through the Eyes of a Bernie Sanders Missouri State Delegate- Big Changes Coming to the Missouri Democratic Party

Many of my close friends and family are genuinely confused, confounded and sometimes angry with me for continuing to support Bernie Sanders' Presidential campaign, even though many believe what the media is saying about Hillary's "winning" the nomination.

It seems no matter how hard I try to explain to them that it's not just about his Presidential campaign, but about the policies he's trying to bring into the Democratic Party itself, and that is why I am so passionate about his campaign, they don't really understand what I feel to be true; which is that the Democratic party has been sliding ever farther to the conservative side, too afraid to make the big leaps that brought us to the Moon and back, despite our being successful in such a grand endeavor.

I, like many other passionate Sanders supporters, raced to the polls to cast my vote for him in Missouri.

Over the weeks that followed, I had one disappointment after the other, starting with him "losing" Missouri and many other Southern States. Many Americans assume that a candidate has lost their nomination when they hear the news say that a candidate has lost a State election. Sounds reasonable, right?

But in a Presidential Primary, a loss doesn't mean that you are out, it just means you don't get as many delegates in that state as the other candidate. Here in Missouri, Hillary won the vote, but she only won it by a very small margin, giving her one delegate more than Bernie to go to the National Convention.

The media does a pretty terrible job of explaining to the rest of America who is so disconnected from how Politics work, that the only thing that ends a Presidential campaign is when the candidate has reached the 2,383 delegate threshold  OR the other candidate concedes.

The Democratic National Convention then becomes a big party where we all declare the winner of the nomination as well as set the party platform for the coming 4 years.

Of course, the media (again) does an extremely shitty job of explaining to people what that means, "setting the party platform" but this means that the votes that are made at the convention will basically set the "talking points" and guide all State Democratic Parties and the Democrats in the Congress and the Senate when creating policy for the 4 years moving forward.

Should one of these Elected Officials propose a policy, bill or law that is outside of the party platform, it is likely to get voted down by the Democrats and a similar platform exists for the Republican party.

Why Delegates Matter in this Election-

So what happens when there are two Democratic Presidential candidates who have an almost equal number of delegates heading into the Democratic National Convention and no one has conceded the race?

The Democratic National Convention becomes a "contested convention" which means every delegate and every superdelegate must come together, discuss and vote for their preferred candidate.

Many of the superdelegates "pledged" to vote for Hillary long before Bernie Sanders had entered the race. Over time, as the popularity for his platform grew, they began to switch their pledged support. The same thing happened in 2008 for Barrack Obama.

Even though many superdelegates remain pledged to Hillary, the question remains, what is a pledge really? In this case, it's a light promise that they may or may not have to keep. It's not binding in any way. It's not a contractual obligation and there would be no repercussions (at least not publicly) for someone who has switched.

So, on July 25th, when the convention will start, many of these Democratic National Delegates from all of the States will converge on Philadelphia for the first contested convention since 1952.  Out of the 4,765 National Delegates, 35 Missouri delegates will be voting for Bernie and 36 will be voting for Hillary.

Of course, everyone has to show up and actually be on the floor for the vote, and as I found out at the Missouri State Convention, that's a lot easier said than done.

In addition to the delegates, Missouri will send 4 Democrats to the convention as committeemen/women to serve on the Democratic National Committee. This committee cannot vote at the convention, but they do set the agenda and have a strong part to play in the National Democratic Party Platform.

Becoming a Delegate-

When the opportunity arose for me to go to a "Mass Meeting" for Missouri State Delegate elections, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  An invitation to be a delegate? I've never received that before, never from the Democratic Party or for any of the Presidents that I had voted for in the past.

I went to the meeting and sat at a table that had a Bernie sign on it with 5 other people, 5 women and 2 men, but since 1 woman and 1 man hadn't been able to vote in our Primary Election, they were unable to vote at this Mass Meeting.

The other table had about 3-4 women sitting at it (for HRC) and then the person who was chairing the meeting and her brother sat down at the HRC table once the meeting started and after she had explained the rules for proceeding.

We were advised to vote for 2 women, 2 alternate women, and 1 man to go to Philadelphia and be a National Delegate. We were also told that if selected, we would also be a State delegate to go to the Convention in Sedalia, but the rules were a little convoluted because somewhere in there we had a Caucus to go to for our Congressional District.

It wasn't very clear that if you campaigned to be a National Delegate at your Congressional District Caucus, and didn't make it, that you still had to go to the State Convention in Sedalia to participate in that.

Since our only male Bernie supporter told us that he couldn't possibly commit to going to Philadelphia, he decided not to try to do that, but what we didn't know was that he could still have been our State Delegate.  And, since no one really clarified the rules to us, and our Mass Meeting was ran by an HRC supporter who wasn't very interested in walking us through it, we had one empty seat where he could have been.

This is a very flawed delegate selection system and not intended to support a double candidacy.

At our Congressional District Caucus, I campaigned to be selected as a National Delegate and was not chosen, however I was encouraged to run as an At-Large Delegate when I went to the State Convention in Sedalia. So, I did that.

Resolutions for Bernie-

During the course of preparing for Sedalia, I was invited to a Facebook Group for Missouri State Delegates for Bernie Sanders.  It was fun meeting other people on Facebook that were in my State and also a Delegate for Bernie. As the weeks went by, a small cohesive group emerged of people wanting to write an submit resolutions at our convention.

A resolution was simply a mission statement which is designed to be incorporated into the State's Democratic Party Platform, and then possibly adopted at the National Convention as part of the National Democratic Party Platform.

Together we submitted 89 resolutions covering all aspects of Bernie's campaign platform including a $15 minimum wage, abolishing Super Delegates, reducing carbon omissions, reducing student debt, single payer health care, open primaries and Instant Run-Off voting.

These 89 resolutions were submitted to a committee of people that consisted of 4 Bernie Sanders supporters and 4 HRC supporters. The committee was appointed by the Missouri Democratic party chair, Roy Temple, who had made efforts to reach out to some of the leaders in our Bernie group for an amicable convention. No one wanted to see a repeat of Nevada playing out in Sedalia.

Despite having 89 resolutions (and none from HRC delegates), we only got 5 of them to be approved by the committee. We still considered that a win. Read the resolutions here.

Democratic National Committeemen/Women-

As I mentioned, there are 4, very highly coveted positions which were voted on in Sedalia, and those were for the Committeeman or Committeewoman positions. The Missouri Democratic Party had to send 2 of each and these had to be elected at the State Democratic Convention.

Anyone could campaign for this position, and we had 5 very dedicated Bernie Sanders supporters apply to do just that, but we had to get them approved by a Nominating Committee.

The Nominating Committee is made up of 4 Sanders supporters and 4 HRC supporters and all of them are appointed by Roy Temple, the party Chair.

Everything seemed to be pretty open until the Nominating committee's report came out and all 4 of the Nominees for the Democratic National Committee were HRC supporters. Not one Bernie supporter among them.

Not only that, but at least 2 of them were long time committee members and had sent out actual mailings to every single Delegate.  It takes some swagger to have access to that email list so of course many of us in the Facebook Group began strategizing right away about how we could make this more fair before heading into the Convention.

My suggestion to Nominate our own people from the floor of the convention had already come to the minds of the people who were running and it was clear right away that we would all work together to make this happen.

One of the problems that occurred in Nevada was that the rules for Nominating from the floor were changed without a proper vote, effectively eliminating the ability of the Berniecrats to nominate their own people to these positions.

A meeting was called of all of our Berniecrats, as many as we could reach, to figure out a plan for the day. We all gathered together in the early morning hours before the convention to talk about the problem (all 4 DNC candidates were HRC supporters) and how we were going to move forward.

One person was going to be responsible for presenting the motion to Nominate from the floor. This person stood up and nominated all 4 of our Berniecrat candidates and we were successful in having them added to the ballot.

At this point, it would come down to a vote between all of the HRC State Delegates and all of the Bernie Delegates.  Now, I know what you are thinking because earlier I mentioned that HRC had 36 delegates and Bernie had 35, but those are NATIONAL Delegates, not State Delegates.

State Delegate totals (based on the Primary results and how they break out by district) were 681 Delegates for Bernie Sanders and 644 for HRC.  We had the potential to vote our nominated Berniecrat candidates to the DNC if we could make sure our Delegates were going to show up.

Thankfully many of us had been calling all of the delegates to make sure they were going to come and to let them know just how important their presence would be at the State Convention. We were able to get 453 of our 681 delegates to the convention, while HRC ended up with 321 of her 644 Delegates.

Needless to say, there were over 100 more Bernie delegates at the state convention and as a result of our solidarity before the meeting, were able to vote all four of them into the DNC, unseating some very long-time members and creating a big win for Bernie Sanders in Missouri which will help him push his platform in Philadelphia.

Missouri Lieutenant Governor candidate Winston Apple, Missouri District 107 State Representative candidate Curtis Wylde, St. Louis Ward 15 Alderwoman Megan-Ellyia Green, and Mid-Missourians for Bernie Sanders founder Persephone Dakopolos beat out Missouri State Senator Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, and Missouri Democratic superdelegates Doug Brooks, Matt Robinson, and Sandy Querry.

The roar of the crowd in this video says it all as they made the announcement and many of us who worked hard on both the resolutions and the DNC appointments felt extremely satisfied with the results of our efforts.

The difference between the HRC and Bernie Delegates-

Throughout the day, and it was a long day, it became evident that the HRC side of the room was thinning out. Many of the people that had come were leaving before the day was over. By the time it came to vote for the DNC committeemen/women and to do the acclimation vote for the adoption of the resolutions, there was no doubt which side would be the victors.

Whether they felt there was no use once they saw the 100 delegate difference or they had other things to do later that day, the HRC supporters were not bringing it to the table, so-to-speak, and many came to tell us later that they admired the vigorous energy that we brought to the convention.

There is a palpable difference between incremental change and revolutionary change and I can tell you that Bernie Sanders' supporters are not going to wait it out. We are coming and will be the change we are looking for in the Democratic Party.

That is why, even though I wasn't elected to be a National Delegate, I will do whatever I can to make sure that our elected Delegates can make it to Philadelphia. #SeeYouInPhilly #NotMeUs