Michigan Democratic Party Spring State Convention 2017

On Saturday February 11, 2017 my wife and I went to our first Democratic Party convention! We showed up at 7:30 AM as suggested by our local DSA. The idea was not to “push the dems left”, but rather to vote Berniecrats into key committees. A lot of people have been arguing whether or not this strategy of “#DemEnter” works. The Democratic party has all the vigor of a baloney sandwich on white bread, but there are millions on the outside that need political power. To get voting rights at the convention you just have to hold your nose long enough to join the democratic party. You must register a month before the convention (this is free (well, it costs the price of the postage stamp)).

On our way to the Progressive Caucus, there were three groups tabling. First off was the DSA 🌹, which is a loose-nit socialist group aiming at socialist values (society should serve people over profits). Their table was seeing the least action, due to bad placement, liberal fears of “socialism”. I chit chatted for them a bit, met David who runs the Detroit Chapter. Since I’ve joined, there’s only been one meeting 😿. There’s two different groups that are from the womb of Bernie Sander’s Our Revolution, and I’m sure there’s overlap between all three, first was Michigan to Believe In which is a Facebook group of Berners looking to organize around progressive policies. The other group Michigan for Revolution seemed like they were much more left leaning, and had their shit together like no one else. They bussed people in, coordinated demonstrations (more on this later), and had brought with them Birdie Sanders (see image above)!

Progressive Caucus

To say the Progressive Caucus was a complete clusterfuck would be a severe understatement. There were not enough chairs to accomodate all the people who showed up. The microphone was turned super low, Bob Alexander, who was chair (now vice-chair) of the progressive caucus was over seeing it. The rules report were printed on a half piece of paper on micro-font making them illegible for most people. I’d been there an hour and a half, then we get an announcement “If you didn’t register at this table, you will not be able to vote, you have 5 minutes”. The Dem’s in charge didn’t think it was worth their time to set up when all the other organizations were setting up. A swarm of people went to the tables, which were organized by district.

I’m in district 9 (it’s exactly like the movie of the same name). The Dems running the registration didn’t think it was a good idea to put signage on walls, so people knew which line was which. After my first walk thru of the wrong line, I was able to get into the correct one. I tried to get people into the correct lines via word of mouth. At least one person hadn’t registered at the main tables (at the front of Cobo Hall) and couldn’t register to vote at the Progressive Caucus.

Back inside, it’s standing room only, nearly ever district is overflowing. District 9 is a 30 minute drive from Detroit, meanwhile people from far away districts, like the Upper Peninsula can go fuck a woodchuck as far as the Democrats are concerned. Lansing was chosen as our state capital because it is in the center of the state. Detroit was chosen as the home of the Democratic Convention because it’s a “cool” “hip” town to be in these days. I over heard someone say that the previous progressive caucus had 30 people show up. We had over 600 show up. It took 45 minutes until the credential report. UGH.

Then we cannot start the caucus STILL because the parliamentarian was late and hadn’t shown up. I believe he showed up 15 minutes before the official start of the meeting. There were a lot of rumors that this was an intentional DNC “Fuck You” to the Progressive Caucus. The caucus was barely started before the 2nd round of Constituency Caucus Meetings began. So, voting in the Progressive Caucus meant you would have to miss the Veteran’s Caucus, LGBT Caucus, Labor Caucus, Justice Caucus, Michigan Educators Association Caucus, Indo American Caucus, Arab American Caucus, Faith Caucus, or Bangladeshi American Caucus as well as part of lunch.

The meeting was disorganized, no one understood the rules, each time someone starts speaking everyone in the back of the room has to shout “LOUDER” until they restarted. After we finally had all the parts necessary to actually have the meeting Debbie Dingell gave a completely out of touch speech (more on her out of touch speeches later).

There were good things that came of it as well! Gretchen Whitmer gave a speech (while we were waiting for our parlimentarian) that breathed fire into the room. She’s running for governor in 2018. She talked about how mad as hell she was about the current state of Michigan’s educational system, outrage over the Flint water scandal (IT’S 2017, FLINT STILL DOES NOT HAVE CLEAN WATER), women’s reproductive rights and more. If we could get 5 more Gretchens, the state would be in great shape. She also gave a phenomenal speech at The Women’s March on Lansing. Kelly Collison of Michigan for Revolution became the new chair of the progressive caucus. Most people started to leave before all of the voting was done for the caucus.

Around this time, Michigan For Revolution crowded around in a large circle in the middle of Cobo and started some Left-Wing chants. You could smell the liberal fear as they stood in line to get their name tags. I would have joined in, but I’m not sure the proper decorum for addressing the chants of others. There was also a boat show and cheerleading convention at Cobo that day, neither group was impressed. I’m going to be helping/joining Michigan for Revolution ASAP.

District Caucus

Next up was the Congressional District Caucuses. Again, shitty mic, people didn’t realize that they had to hit a table to get voting rights. Lots of arguing about who could and should vote. Sander Levin gave a decent speech about fighting the Republicans’ policies. There were two rival slates, one was the Progressive Unity Caucus, the other was the Michigan For Revolution Slate. The older school Dems assured everyone that they brought in a lot of Berniecrats, and that they were given key positions. The end result was a mix of both slates, Berniecrats getting in all over the place. The 9th district sessions, I heard the most open discussion about how people aren’t our enemies, and that politicians need to listen to their constituents.

Main Room

To show how the Democrats have their finger on the pulse of today’s society, they blasted music from the mid 60s to the mid 70s. There were 4,126 people who showed up at the convention. Multiple speakers said the main room was “standing room only”, but this was the first room of the day where I saw empty chairs (though, not a lot).

Let me address the elephants in the rooms. No one at any point during the entire day mentioned Hillary Clinton. No one ever said “Debbie Wasserman-Schultz”. People brought up Bernie Sanders as much as they could, mentioning that you were part of his campaign essentially got you every vote in every room. People brought up how great it was “that all these young people are energizing the party”. No one brought up that the Democrats told the grass roots movement after the 2008 election to “go get lost, Obama would be center-right corporatist for the next 8 years”. In my opinion, until there’s an official DNC apology for Wasserman Schultz theft of the election from Bernie, there will be an “US vs THEM” inside and outside the democratic party.

Inside the main room the Democrats patted themselves on the back for bringing in so many people. At one point someone asked “if this is your first convention stand up” at least 60% of the people stood up. I can’t speak for long term dems if they’re happy to have people inside the party, even if they look at it with disdain, or they’re completely tone-def to the attempted coup going on. There was a video that showed all the protests of the last few weeks, and Dems essentially took credit for every recent grass roots action. Lots of Obama clips, lots of Bernie clips, MIA (just like in real life) Hillary Clinton.

Many Democratic leaders gave some touching, and not so touching speeches. Many of these people have been fighting the good fight for years (so apologies for shitting on you all over this post). Debbie Dingell gave another speech, and flubbed a line making it seem like she was pro-NAFTA. This took a room that was full of loud cheers to a dead silence. For the record, Debbie Dingell is outspokenly against NAFTA.

There was one piece of slight drama that happened in the main room though. It went something like this:

“We’re taking nominations for the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.”
“Brandon Dillon!”

“Any other nominations?”
“This other guy!”

“I’m sorry, BRANDON DILLON is the only one with the necessary amount of signatures!”
“Why the fuck are you wasting our time with this parliamentary bullshit then?”

The following resolutions were adopted, making it the most progressive constitution ever: Support ACA (not single payer that most Americans want), Public Education, Medicare, clean water for Flint, Opposition to Trump Administration, Support of redistricting in a non-gerrymandered way, support of comprehensive review of bylaws of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Then it was over. Myself and the wife were energized by the democratic process, and I’ll be advocating all my lefty, socialist, communist, anarchist, etc friends join the Democratic Party because there are WAY more of us than there are of them.

Author: Steve Barman

A writer of javascripts and movie scripts. Twitter, Github, Tumblr.

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