Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pondering what happened in the room where it happens...

The Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) recently held their state convention.

Some shit went down.

Not old school “shit”, like back in the days of Truman when folk would fist-fight and then kick a horse.

I’m talking new-school shit, when people who are new to party politics meet up with folk who could run a clinic on how to get your party politics on...and shit gets real ‘cause oil and water and all that jazz.

Blink.

I’ve seen Facebook posts congratulating supporters of Bernie Sanders for advancing his agenda at the Missouri state convention. I’ve browsed through pictures of smiling newly elected delegates and read blog posts breaking down how Sanders supporters organized to get what was definitely an impressive turnout that garnered significant outcomes.

Some articles make it seem as if Team Sanders owned the room.

I’ve seen posts from Clinton supporters too, some expressing anger and frustration, others resigned to what went down.

Across the board, folk seem excited to move forward to the DNC.

But the thing is...and you just knew there was a thing...

I’ve also been flooded with emails, texts, calls, and GChats (Lawd, give me strength!) expressing outrage that attendees failed to pass resolutions on abortion rights, LGBT non-discrimination, or voting rights.

That got my attention.

Missouri has one abortion clinic, a 72-hour mandatory waiting period for abortion, and a state legislature that has made it their goal to end abortion access. My state is a test kitchen for abortion restrictions...and no progressive worth their vote doesn’t know that.

In Missouri, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied access to public accommodations and services.

And in November, Missouri voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would require photo identification in order to vote. A study by Missouri Secretary of State Kander found that 220,000 registered Missourians don’t have photo ID. Y’all can do the math on just how devastating this poll tax dressed up to look like a ballot measure would be.

If you want to know what Democratic lawmakers in Missouri end up spending too much time defending and not enough time advancing, these are on the top of the list and you can add in worker rights and freaky tax bullshit.

So, yay...glad to see resolutions on new stuff and workers rights and taxes.

But, seriously.

WTF?

When that many progressives gather in a space to elect delegates and pass resolutions that are being and will continue to be used to frame the state party’s priorities...and the gathering fails to pass resolutions supporting abortion rights, LGBT equality, and voting rights…

Well.

Whatever the fuck DID happen is not what could have or should have happened in the room where it happened.

A Quick Note on Representation.
The same logic that inspired Sanders supporters to organize around the state convention...the understanding that representation matters, no one can speak for you or advocate for your beliefs like one of you, and the concern that other folk may not prioritize your issues the way you need them to be prioritized…

Yeah, that’s the same logic that makes me cringe at the fact that no people of color were selected as 2016-2020 DNC Members-Elect.

And it wasn’t that people of color weren’t in the room where it happened.

Nope, everyone isn't already on the same page.
If I had a dollar for every time someone running for office in Missouri with a giant “D” by their name failed to give a full throated endorsement of abortion rights, I’d be able to finance photo ids for the 200,000 Missourians who may lose the vote in November.

And I’m not even going to dive into the confusion, messed up strategy, and compromises made on voting rights.

As for LGBT Equality, Dems have come a long way. But now is not the time to tone down support for non-discrimination bills or equality in general.

Now is the time to get specific as hell and loud about abortion, non-discrimination, and voting rights.

That isn’t what happened in the room where it happened.

Did Paper Fly and Shouts Ring Out in the Room Where It Happened?
At a fucking minimum, I expect a damn revolt when an abortion resolution doesn’t pass.

At a minimum, I expect paper to fly and shouts to ring out when a voting rights resolution isn’t proposed.

And damn it all to hell, if you can gather and organize to fight for representation on the slate, then you damn sure should be able to do the same for a non-discrimination resolution.

At a minimum, that should have happened in the room where it happened.

What Comes Next?
I’m left feeling that it is what it is.

The party will move forward.

The new blood made their priorities clear, and sent a strong message to the party about those priorities.

In the end, the big story out of the state gathering was representation.

Who organized and got what they wanted.

Who didn’t.

Do I think MODems are going to suddenly become horrible on LGBT rights?

No.

But a resolution would have sent a clear message to candidates, voters, and Missourians that MDP is all in on MONA and everyone else should be too.

Do I think MODems are going to stand up for abortion rights and demand the same of candidates who run under the party’s banner?

Um.

Some will, others won’t.

The party has a long way to go, and the lack of a resolution on abortion rights won’t help address a history littered with inconsistent and reluctant support for abortion rights.

Do I think MODems aren’t committed to protecting voting rights?

I’m pretty confident that Dems are committed to voting rights, particularly since the votes under attack are usually Dem votes.

But we’ve got a monster of a ballot measure coming up in November, and a resolution would have been a nice reminder to the press, voters, and Missourians that voting rights are under attack and Missouri Dems are the ones deep in the battle to protect them.

And no, I'm not just bitching to bitch.

These are Missouri specific issues that should be a priority for Dems because they sure as shit are a priority for the MO GOP.

In summary…
The world doesn’t revolve around the Missouri Democratic party, resolutions, or non-binding party platforms.

That said, it does matter what people do and what they fight for when they are in the room where it happens.

It is a privilege to be able to journey to Sedalia, spend the day there, and participate in the state convention. I personally don't think it should be so damn hard for folk like me to go...for all the reasons and then some.

But it is what it is.

And now we move onward.

Resolved...sort of.

Blink.

***cue Hamilton’s History Has Its Eyes On You***

8 comments:

Yankee T said...

Brilliant as always. Keep preaching.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your critique. As a Bernie delegate and member of the LGBT community, I myself was shocked that we didn't pass a resolution for LGBT protections. Unfortunately, with all of the chaos that was going on behind the scenes and my complete inexperience as a delegate, I didn't even realize the full extent of what was, and wasn't being included. That's on me, on our caucus, and on the MO Democratic Party.

Apparently there was only one resolution that was submitted by Bernie delegates (out of nearly 90, none submitted by Clinton delegates) that passed the Resolutions Committee. So some in our caucus did some politicking in order to try to give us a majority of what we wanted. The issues picked were not left up to most of us, and some of us are still trying to figure out what happened. It's extremely frustrating, but we're all a bit wiser to the procedures that actually take place, and hopefully can not let that happen again.

As for myself personally, I'm already working with other Bernie delegates to start working on getting actual LGBT legislation passed, in whatever way we can do so.

Most of us realize our jobs are far from over in this state, but we don't need the antiquated party procedures to affect the change we want to see, luckily.

Jonathan Barnett said...

Love this! I am the author of the article "The Missouri Experiment" that you linked to.

We fucked up, for sure. We actually voted on a list of resolutions without even reading it! I've been kicking myself and stepping on toes in closed groups about this since my own article was published.

I could give a handful of excuses for how this happened, but I won't. They don't make up for the failure to be truly inclusive. I could also share information about other shortcomings we faced and failed to overcome in forming a delegation that looks like Missouri, in terms of diversity.

Please keep on writing!

Jonathan Barnett (Queer white cis male and AIDS activist)

Jaelithe said...

The difference between the battle for slate representation and the battle for resolutions was this:

The slate, by the rules, could be selected by Sanders delegates and then voted upon on the floor. In fact, nominations for the DNC positions could, in general, be made from the floor. Any Democrat who had submitted an intent-to-run form by a certain deadline could be nominated from the floor, without any committee vote. (This means, by the way, too, that anyone who was unhappy with choices available on the two slates could have run themselves, or nominated any other delegate, as long as the candidate had submitted the intent form on time)

The resolutions, on the other hand, by the rules, could NOT be made from the floor. They could only be brought to the floor after being submitted in a certain format by a certain deadline, and approved by a resolutions committee. The resolutions committee members were hand picked by state party leadership. To give the appearance of fairness, the party did pick both Sanders and Clinton delegates for the resolutions committee. However, the particular Clinton and Sanders delegates the state party leadership picked were NOT all people with an interest in passing a boldly progressive agenda.

What this meant is that a majority of the resolutions committee was opposed to passing certain resolutions through their committee. Sanders delegates did write resolutions in support of LGBTQ rights, women's rights, and voting rights, and did properly submit those resolutions to the committee for approval. The committee refused to pass them. This meant that those resolutions could NOT, according to convention rules, be voted on from the floor.

The comment above that only one resolution got through was incorrect-- it was actually five resolutions. But five out of 70 or 80 that were submitted, and 10 or 15 that the delegation's progressive representatives had pushed hard for. As a Sanders delegate who did manage to get her resolution through committee (after much editing and compromise), I got an inside glimpse at this process and I have to say that, because of the rules the party set for the convention that required a resolution to be passed by a small committee before getting to a floor vote, getting a resolution passed was MUCH HARDER than electing candidates to the DNC. It's not that the group fought harder for DNC picks than resolutions. It's that the resolutions fight was a MUCH harder fight.

Pamela Merritt said...

J,

What I have issue with is that no one said a damn thing publicly during this entire process or following this process about any of that.

I had to vague-book about this to even get folk to pivot from celebration mode to addressing the fact that something horrible just happened.

The reason I'm not giving the process thorough consideration is that it is hard to do so as someone who is not a party member when the folk who should have been raising hell about the impact of the process as you described it were posting about the big win and how everything went great.

As a result, I not only question the process but also the people who, if what you said is true, were supposed to question, challenge, raise hell, live-stream, shout down, boo and otherwise disrupt the process in real time.

And I have no doubt that would have happened if certain resolutions had not made through the committee process. But we may have to agree to disagree on that.

Pamela Merritt said...

And I'd have a way easier time swallowing that LGBT, voting rights, and abortion resolutions were fought over if folk had messaged about how outraged they were that LGBT, voting rights, and abortion resolutions weren't passed.

That I had to dig for the information, scroll through the resolutions once they went live, and then reach out to people to find out what the hell went down speaks volumes to me.

Many of the same people who are quick to post their outrage have been silent on this. And that's not right. That's just not right.

Jaelithe said...

A lot of booing and challenging did happen on the convention floor. There was a motion to remove the chair just minutes in (which I actually thought was a bad move, for strategic reasons, but, it did happen). There was a motion to suspend the rules to allow more floor votes on things. Both were shot down by the chair who said such motions were against the rules. That caused a dozen points of order to be raised. People on the Sanders side felt that the state party was being obstructionist and unfair. People were ANGRY. People were shouting. There were so many objections to the process that we didn't even get to start on actual convention business until something like an hour in.

I didn't post about the big win and how everything went great, but I understand why some people did. There was so much pushback to everything we tried that it seemed like even with a majority, the people pushing for progressive moves might walk out of that room with NOTHING. The victories that were won were hard fought. I know it seems ridiculous that Democrats would have to fight other Democrats tooth and nail to get something so simple as a resolution in support of a progressive income tax, or a resolution declaring that climate change exists, JUST passed through a committee to ALLOW a vote on the floor, but this is Missouri, where half our Democrats are California Republicans, and this is the reality in the trenches. In that sort of situation small, hard-fought wins can feel like big ones.

I've been working on a post about the whole process, and my own frustrations with it, but frankly, I was pretty exhausted after spending an entire weekend battling for inches, and needed some time to think process and write something about it that would be useful and make sense.

I agree with you entirely that the DNC slate should have been more representative of our state's diversity, and I also agree with you entirely that there are resolutions that should have passed during the convention that didn't. I just don't agree about who needs the most side eye. As I understand it, there was a chance for the state party to endorse a unity slate for the DNC, and the state party rejected that idea, forcing the Sanders slate to scramble for qualified DNC picks. As I understand it, the majority of the resolutions that were approved were drafted by state party leadership, and it was state party leadership-picked committee members who blocked attempts to add more progressive resolutions to the platform. And as I understand it, the Clinton delegates outside of the resolutions committee submitted NO resolutions to the resolutions committee. Zero. Not one. Why not? I wonder if most of them even realized that they could. I'm not sure.

Anyway I'm glad you wrote this. I even shared it. I respect your thinking and I welcome your critique. But I'd welcome your voice even more on the convention floor four years from now.

Pamela Merritt said...

J,

Everyone in the room gets side-eye.

Because many of the same people expressing outrage now weren't too exhausted to post about the takeover, the big progressive victory, or the fact that something revolutionary happened in Sedalia. But they sure as shit didn't post about the lack of resolutions on abortion, LGBT equality or voting rights.

And yes, when I say everyone in the room I mean everyone. Notice that I didn't specify a camp in my condemnation.

But when I see people frame this a a great day for Missourians, a massive win for progressives...with no mention of all the progressive issues that went unresolved. Yeah, I'm not down for that.

I expect mainstream politicos to do as mainstream politicos do.

I expect people who speak of revolution to throw down, tell the world why they threw down, and save the celebration for another day.