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The Joy of Voting for Progressive Delegates

Move over, corporatists. Grassroot Dems are here!


My June 2016 DemExit

At noon on January 7, 2017, my seven-year-old son and I filed into Long Beach’s Teamsters Union Hall with a few dozen other people.

My son was there for cookies and donuts. I was there for something bigger: selecting progressive Californian Democratic delegates for my Assembly District, AD70.

In January 2016, I was so politically disengaged that I didn’t even know delegates existed. By June 2016, I’d learned that there are two different kinds of Democratic delegates: pledged and unpledged.

Pledged delegates are “selected based on the party primaries and caucuses in each U.S. state.” These delegates reflect the wishes of their local bases. Unpledged delegates, on the other hand, are “seated automatically” and vote as they wish.

Unpledged delegates were designed to limit the grassroots impact on the Democratic party. Former Democratic National Convention chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz explained this in early 2016 (2:05-2:37):

“Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists. We are, as a Democratic Party, really highlight and emphasize inclusiveness and diversity at our convention, and so we want to give every opportunity to grassroots activists and diverse, committed Democrats to be able to participate, attend, and be a delegate at the convention. And so we separate out those unpledged delegates to make sure that there isn’t competition between them.” – Debbie Wasserman Schulz

Got that? Unpledged delegates are there to ensure “party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.”

I saw how the Democratic party worked to insulate its officials’ desires from the people’s needs, Representing people wasn’t its main interest. It seemed more interested in the illusion of representation than representation itself.

Having seen this and other ways that Democratic officials, unworthy of the title “leaders,” work to represent their own interests over those of voters. I left the Democratic party on June 10, 2016. That day, I wrote that the Democratic party no longer had my consent to represent me.

My January 2017 DemEnter

I was intrigued when a fellow California Democrat alerted me to California’s Assembly District elections the first full weekend in January. I was also wary. I’d have to re-register as a Democrat to vote for Democratic delegates.

Progressive Army‘s Michael Graham has made many compelling cases for aggressively pushing the Democratic party left from within. My head understands and supports these arguments. My heart, frankly, wants to see the entire Democratic establishment cast into Mordor’s Mount Doom.

My head won when I decided to vote for delegates. When I re-registered as a Democrat, I did so tactically. I did so under no illusion whatsoever that the Democratic party currently represents me or the millions currently powerless within the United States.

(Saying they do doesn’t make it true.)

Per adems2017.vote, elected delegates “have a chance to vote for the new party chair and other leadership” in ways that “will determine how welcoming, grassroots-focused and innovative the party becomes or how beholden it will remain to the big money interests.”

I re-registered Democrat to help empower grassroots Democrats within my district and state.

Selecting Progressive Delegates

Each voter could vote for up to fourteen candidates.

As I listened to delegates give their one-minute speeches, I referred to two candidate lists. One was a list of progressives provided by a fiery local progressive friend; the other, a “Blue Revolution” handout I’d picked up on my way in.

My favorite candidate was Allison Miller of the California Nurses Association. Her words moved me enough to tweet them:

By the time the candidates’ speeches wrapped up, I’d highlighted the maximum total of fourteen candidates for whom I could vote. When I looked around, I was thrilled to see that the line of voters wrapped around the inside of the hall before stretching outside.

I had to run home before I could stand in line to pick up my ballot. Stepping outside with my candidates selected and votes not yet cast, I saw a couple hundred people standing in a line that stretched a couple hundred yards back to the street.

I didn’t want to wait in line, but I was thrilled to see so many people engaged.

A lovely line-wait

Oncology Nurse Allison Miller: won my heart, if not (yet) a seat

I ended up waiting in line for an hour and a half.

I loved every second of the wait, which was filled with the warm, impassioned insights of several voters and delegates.

Nearly a dozen different Berners shared with me what they’d learned from the 2016 presidential election. They passionately espoused their positive visions of shaping the Democratic party in the coming months. They filled me with the joy of hope.

Like me, many had never participated in politics beyond voting in general elections once every couple of years. Like me, many had had their eyes, and hearts, opened by one Vermont Senator’s message that there are many possibilities beyond what Republicans and Democrats wished to offer.

Online, I’ve been lucky to find a progressive family – a Progressive Army – that shares my demand for and commitment to building a system that favors the health of individuals over the wealth of corporations. Thanks to the Progressive Army family, I know I’m not alone.

Even so, I was exhilarated to find a local family. I was excited to stand close enough to high-five and hug them and to know that I’m now part of a local progressive family, too.

Together, We Are Mighty

In December, I’d attended a #NoDAPL protest in downtown Los Angeles. I summed up my feelings in a single tweet:

Lisa Kato: won!

I felt this even more powerfully as I strode away from my new progressive family after voting.

Shannon Ross: won!

Eight of my fourteen candidates won, which is great news.

Better news by far is that progressives are awakening. We’re finding each other. We’ve begun the journey toward effecting lifesaving changes to United States politics. Maybe, if we stick to it, voters and our elected delegates will eliminate superdelegates. Maybe we’ll be able to ensure that no one person ever gets more than one vote.
No longer do we perceive our duty as done simply by voting every two years. We now understand we need to be together, for each other, every day. And by God, we will.

Written by Deborah Bryan

Deborah Bryan grew up poor and afraid. She has a pretty good life now, but can't rest easy until everyone, everywhere, is fed, sheltered, and free from harm.

Deborah is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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The Joy of Voting for Progressive Delegates