Regular readers of this blog know that I have no qualms being critical of my own Party. It is always out of love, and desire for us to get better. I remember my own entry into the Party, and my own frustration with barriers to participation. Personally, I believe that action on a liberal agenda is far more important than process. In my age, I have found myself being "that asshole" who starts up the process talk, and am always thankful when people call me out on it.
Of course, with age, I have also learned how to use process to end process. While there are some in this world who want to endlessly debate the fine lines of public policy, continuous debate with no resolution in sight means that people suffer. We see this in the calls to stop the MHA program because it's not good enough, or it's too harsh (depending on your point of view). But stopping it means more people will be without shelter, or be forced into suburbanization due to lack of affordable homes now.
With the influx of new members into the Party, I confess I was worried. The "throw the bums out" mentality that some exhibited - and the desire for ideological purity and a refusal to find common ground to get shit done that some explicitly endorsed - was terrifying. I have seen the Democratic Party get more and more liberal because more liberals have joined, and have been able to come into positions and change our agenda. Right now, we have the most liberal platform (at all levels) in probably forever, with the most liberal DNC Chair ever. But there does remain processes, so the desire for immediate change is one that goes unfulfilled.
We're five months into the year, and there has been significant changes at all levels of the Party. While earlier this year I bemoaned some aspersions cast toward prior Board members in my home Legislative District. Considering the makeup of the Board, I had concerns. Some of the most vocal Sanders supporters and some of the most vocal Clinton supporters. Brand new folks jumping into Party leadership for the first time ever, and some old hands. Across King County, I saw many new faces (which is awesome), but continued to be concerned about stability in the organizations. No person is more right than the next (except for me, of course), and I do not believe our Party survives if we lose the institutional knowledge.
But I kept coming back. As Second Vice Chair of the County Democratic Party, I was tasked with leading up the Bylaws & Rules Committee, and it was very exciting working with newcomers and old hacks like myself. Even better - we put together a set of bylaws that overhauled the previous system, and really de-centralized power to the committees and members of committees of the King County Democrats. I believe it was definitely the right thing to do, and I am excited to help our team implement and get used to the idea that the Board doesn't tell members what to do - members decide what they are going to do, and the Board focuses on the budget. More action, less process.
But what about the LDs? I confess myself immensely impressed with what we have been seeing. The ability of folks to work together toward a common goal - electing more Democrats, and holding our own accountable to a liberal platform. Sure, there remains disagreements over policies here and there. But I have been very glad to see some of the acrimony washed aside in order to work together. Debate on the issues with which we disagree, and then move on to work together where we do. After all, it's all shades of blue.
This has been reinforced by my outings of late. My home district - the 43rd - held our annual Ballots & Bubbly. It was a perfectly run event, great food, great people, great location. And the organization denied entry by Alex Tsimmerman. Center-left Democrats and the super progressive Democrats were working together to build a Party, and build a welcoming Party. So while there was a rocky start, I have to give praise to the folks who have chosen to put aside ideological differences to focus on the Party, and the leadership of Chair James Apa to bring it all together.
And this is continuing in so many other places. In my days, I have been to endorsement meetings at County that would go until Midnight or later (and similar situations in LDs that aren't the 43rd, where the rules make it basically impossible). Often this is because people who like to hear themselves talk more than I do entertain every opportunity to make a point of this or a motion for that. See, I'm a believer in reading up on the process in advance of a meeting, and asking questions before. In my ideal world, Points of Information would be limited severely, because there's no excuse not to ask before a meeting.
That said - the meetings I witnessed this week were jovial, as succinct as they could be, and very well run. What is clearer than ever: the new folks are not putting ideology above working to improve the basic infrastructure, and increase membership, in the organization. While remnants remain of people looking for purity in the process, or interested in allowing the process to be the enemy of action, on the whole I am so excited about the unity.
I know there are voices that believe we are still moving too slow. But bylaw changes don't happen overnight (again - four months at County, where we meet monthly). What is clear: the actions of our State Party Chair are designed to continue to grow a more inclusive and action-oriented Party. We are clearly on a great path. For folks who came in during the Dean years (like me!), we've been working hard to pull the party left, and to tear down barriers to participation. The speed at which that has happened over the last five months is astonishing.
We're not perfect. And it remains to be seen how this new Party will hold our elected officials accountable - and how many folks are going to go out and help win races in purple parts of the state. But we're pretty goddamn good. And I figure if I agree with 95% of where someone is 95% of the time, I'm pretty goddamn lucky.
There has been some talk about endorsing non-Democrats - which I have come down very much opposed. I'm not interested in helping build a Party that's going to run candidates against Democrats in partisan elections. There's also the common statement from Council Member Kshama Sawant that all Democratic Party leaders are "thoroughly pro-corporate."
Some folks like to say "well, what she meant was..." Bullfeathers. If she meant only elected officials in Congress, or national leaders, then she could have said that. I'm going to take her at her word - and the volunteer Party leaders in the 43rd are Party Leaders. In her estimation, that means they are "thoroughly pro-corporate." The fact is I still really like CM Sawant, and we are in agreement on a lot of local issues. I love that she has opened up a wide section of the left within which folks like me can thrive in the Democratic Party. But I reject the notion that I'm "pro-corporate."
Before people who purport to be Democrats jump in and defend her, I would just note that she's not interested in Party building for the Democratic Party. As the only elected official and leader of a political party that challenges the Democrats (much like the GOP), she's interested in building her Party. And that's awesome. By continuing the trope that all Democrats are corporate shills, that may well discourage people from joining the Democrats, and instead joining Socialist Alternative for their secret meetings.
So when she makes statements without facts, using a broad brush to attack Democrats, I'm always happy to see people push back. With facts. With citations.
Democrats do good things. And sometimes we do shitty things. But as I am watching our Party continue to grow and diversify in our ranks (and hopefully we'll see more of that in our leadership, especially more women. Women aren't rapey like too many men in our Party), I continue to swell with excitement about our direction. And if we can be patient and continue to work together, I know we can build a statewide network that will be successful for generations to come because of our values, not because we are resisting the other side.