I had plans for Saturday, December 3rd, but when the event notice popped up on my newsfeed I knew I wanted to be at this Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) meeting instead.
I probably should have read the event description a little closer, because I didn’t fully realize that I was going to a protest, but it was brilliant and I’m thrilled that I didn’t chicken out. I carpooled with some local progressives and enjoyed a lovely enlightened conversation with my new friends. Only after we got to City Hall did I see the other folks there with signs and begin to understand what I’d signed on for.
The central committee was meeting to elect 6 new members-at-large. They had a brunch catered for their event where the labor caucus met before the general meeting with the election that we were targeting. Our fearless leaders, Sam (Chair of the Young Democrats of Michigan) and Kelly gave us a rundown of what was happening. Basically, 178 (or so) members of this committee are voting in a so-called “open election” being held behind closed doors. In theory, we were welcome there as party members but there was no invitation to the public. After all, it was catered. They were not expecting the great unwashed to crash their party. We, as progressives, are there to make sure that each one of those six seats are filled with progressives who support Keith Ellison for DNC chair. We also wanted an opportunity to speak. Everybody who could Livebook the event was asked to do so, and I did.
With phones and signs raised high we began to chant: “Whose party? Our Party!” and, following Sam, we marched loudly and proudly into a hallway filled with some very surprised democrats. On past the canapes and finger sandwiches, we were still chanting as Sam opened a door and led us into the meeting room.
A slight miscalculation in timing meant that we’d marched into the labor caucus meeting instead of the central committee meeting. Oops.
There is still some confusion about details in the Open Meetings Act regarding the nature of the line we crossed, but legal or no, Sam was told the meeting was private and was physically pushed out of the door. This act of violence will not be forgotten.
We chanted our way back through the gathering of party members who mostly seemed amused or at least disinterested. Several were supportive, coming up to chat with us but a few, like the bouncer in the meeting room and his friends, were downright hostile to us. One woman even went as far as to say that we weren’t invited. Invited? To an open meeting?
So we mingled until the central committee met and we saw that the room was filled with assigned seating for the nearly 200 credentialed voting members with about two dozen folding chairs for the rest of the MDP. They obviously don’t get a lot of visitors at these meetings. You know, catering expenses and all.
It’s politics, it’s a meeting, it’s been invaded by angry young party members, some of whom are not familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order. When one person in the back began to shout questions there was no love in that room for them. Heaven forbid they should have to explain anything to us. (admittedly, some of the questions were a little dim…)
The period for public commentary is called, oddly enough, Good and Welfare. It’s the allotted time for members of the party to address the committee. It was on the agenda, as it always is, after the vote. A member of our group requested that it be moved up to before the vote so that we could be heard. After many feathers were ruffled, motions were made, seconded, voted on and passed, it was done. We had 10 minutes of Good and Welfare before the vote. Once our time was up, we had to wait until the end to finish. It was a win.
It ended up being a huge win as the room cleared out after the vote and, as non-voting members of the MDP walked up to the front of the room to be heard, the voting members walked out. Shameful.
The vote ended up being this preposterous 1950’s freak show of cronyism and binarism. They had 6 seats and, in order to maintain the perfect binary balance, they had to give them to 3 men and 3 women. So they voted with pink and blue index cards. No kidding. It was hard to watch.
And the cronyism? The early G&W section gave me some insights because at least 2 of the folks who took advantage of it (it ended up being extended to cover all the speakers because nobody knows how to be brief when they take the mike) used their time to endorse a woman named Michelle. When the floor opened up to (girl) nominations, Michelle was nominated first. The call went out for more nominations and another one came in but was quickly withdrawn when the chairman reminded the nominee that she would be running against Michelle. There was obviously no point in that. The first positions are given to pre-selected choices (like Michelle and a guy who wasn’t there so his slide into power wasn’t as obvious to me) and the rest of the pack slugs it out over the remaining seats.
I learned a lot. I’m glad I went. I wish I had the guts to share my G&W with the committee. I didn’t, but I can share it now:
“Wake up. This is over; the catered meetings, the pink and blue cards, the walking out without listening to your people.
You lost. You’re fired.
I proclaim Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren the Lord and Lady of the new progressive Democratic party. Woe upon those that backed Clinton despite her hawkish foreign policies, indifference to black lives, enthusiasm for wall street, fracking, and fossil fuels.
We are the children of the planet and the internet.
We stand with Standing Rock.
We demand clean water, clean air, and clean energy.
We reject your oligarchy.
We question your fundamental assumption that human beings must be “represented” in an increasingly educated and connected world.
We demand transparency at every level of government so that we may assess your claims that you faithfully “represent” us, the people.
We are on the right side of history.
Please, please, please join us. Do not fight us.
We are going to win.
Hindsight is 2020
Warren – Sanders
Then I drop the mic.