Sunday, May 01, 2016

Big Picture Thoughts On District Convention

I'm not going to attempt a play by play on yesterday's 2nd CD Democratic convention, or the other three. Those who wanted that were following the Twitter feeds anyway. The ego of Shelley, my new pet turtle, is swelling at her online stardom as our metaphor for slow pace, and my old friends from the Fear The Turtle O'Malley campaign enjoyed it as well.

So instead, just a few big picture takeaways.

Less contentiousness than I expected. I'm Hillary-identified now, despite my neutrality through caucus season. I deliberately spent some time reaching across to Team Bernie, out of the need for unity and out of self-interest, as I was running (unsuccessfuly) for the presidential elector seat. Now that it's over, the mandatory disclaimer. The conventions only choose CANDIDATES for elector. You're not an ELECTOR unless your party's nominee wins the state.

Anyway, out of a few dozen conversations I only got one hostile reaction, and in the atmosphere of a competitive convention, only one isn't bad.

As I was in the Hillary room, I heard conflicting reports about the degree of Bernie Or Bust during the campaigning for Bernie delegates, and I'm not going to judge what I didn't hear. As I've said before, I don't mind letting every state vote, and I don't even mind people casting symbolic votes for their candidate in the roll call. But as soon as the last state votes, we need to get to work. We can't wait till the convention roll call to acknowledge who's going to be nominated and print the H on the doorknocking lit.

Points of contention. I'm not a platform guy and never have been. Sometimes I vote no on final passage just to troll the whole process. But I was trapped and had little choice but to watch. There were two points of heated debate that were proxy wars between the campaigns, and are likely to be end-game goals in Philly for Team Bernie.

They want to kill off superdelegates. I don't think that completely happens in the end, but I think some kind of reform discussion, perhaps a reduction in the number, happens.

The sad thing is, killing superdelegates probably has the opposite of the intended effect. All else being equal, the most likely person to win any election is someone who has won an election before. So if the congressman has to run against the grass roots activist, the congressman is likely to win, and that's one less seat available for a grass roots activist. We saw this on a smaller scale in the vote for Hillary's two female delegates; the top vote getter of 28 candidates, and the first ballot winner,  was the only elected official running, Clinton's Sen. Rita Hart. I ranked her high myself, as I didn't know most of the others.

The other proxy war in platform debate was minimum wage, and this is likely to be the number one national platform fight. Sanders supporters strongly want to specify $15 an hour. They may win this one, and as an Overton Window negotiating point that doesn't bother me a bit.

But one thing to remember: Even if Hillary crushes Trump in a landslide, gerrymandering and social separation may mean that there aren't 218 winnable Democratic House seats. The next president is likely to be on defense much of the time. What difference does a platform plank of $12.50 vs. $15 make if you're facing a Republican House that doesn't believe in any minimum wage?

Shelley. Because she has a shell.

Instant Runoff Voting did NOT speed things up.  Some convention steps cannot be speeded up. If 50 people run for a job, that's an hour of one minute speeches. If a candidate is trying to hit four districts, there's inevitably an interruption.

But the longest delays, the cause of down time, and the reason for 1:33 AM adjournments, has always been voting, more specifically vote COUNTING. In an effort to pick up the pace, Democrats introduced an IRV system of ranked choice voting this year. After a test ballot with ducks (incredibly, AFLAC! was not included), most people caught on.

We wound up casting fewer votes than in past years, but the process took just as long because counting them became more complicated. I don't know the rules, and in fairness to them I didn't offer to help on the rules committee. (In fairness to me, I think I paid my process dues for the year already with organizing our county caucuses and co-chairing county credentials.)

The problem I had with IRV was having to make too many choices. It's hard to choose your top 18 out of 28 candidates for two delegate slots. The top three or four were easy, and in some contests I voted Hell No from the bottom up first. But after 28 speeches, that seventh or eighth choice becomes a blur. In my contest for elector, we had roughly 30 candidates and were asked to pick a top six, and that seemed more reasonable.

Thanks, Washington County. The host county did a great job arranging things. It helps that county chair Lorraine Williams has a fantastic restaurant. She not only catered the lunch for a county party fundraiser - when things ran later than the "expected" 5:00 close (Zach Wahls noted that PM vs AM was not specified), she quickly organized a pasta dinner that she sold for a free will donation. (By 7 PM some delegates were out of cash.) That kind act made it possible for dozens of delegates to stay and keep working. But in retrospect, Lorraine, I'm sorry that I asked you at about midnight if you could also cover breakfast.

The rest of the Washington County party sold drinks and snacks at a minimal markup. A dollar for a Coke is below vending machine rates yet still yields a small profit. Amazingly, they still had a small supply of pop and doughnuts available at midnight.

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