Today I headed down to the Madison Labor Temple to see if I could be 1 of the 7 people in the 2nd Congressional District of Wisconsin that were allowed to go to Philadelphia this summer for the Democratic National Convention. I would have been a delegate for Bernie Sanders, and the 7 delegates is Bernie's share of the 11 delegates allocated to the Madison-area 2nd district, based on Bernie winning over 60% in the district in the April 5 primary. I could go on as to how it was determined that there were 11 delegates here, but it's really mundane and really isn't worth explaining.
I want to emphasize that this meeting dealt with pledged delegates, which is separate from "superdelegates", who are elected officials and other party-related individuals, which is a topic that may lead to consternation if neither candidate wraps up the nomination through the pledged delegates that are determined via primaries and caucuses.
These pledged delegate numbers are locked in for both candidates, and what we were meeting about today was to figure out who got selected, which is done in an open caucus of attendees from all of the county caucuses in the district that were held a couple of weeks ago. You didn't have to be a party member to be one of these pledged delegates, but you were pledging to vote for a certain candidate. I put my name in as part of a Dem Party nominating slate, mostly out of paranoia of monkey business that some of us had regarding the Party trying to rig things toward Hillary Clinton and away of Bernie. Well, that and the prospect of being a delegate on the DNC floor would be pretty fucking sweet, and even more so that I would be propping Bernie by doing so.
I shouldn't have worried about monkey business- the DPW ran things above-board and transparently. They split up the giant room between Bernie backers and Clinton supporters (there were a lot more Sanders backers), and the "sub-caucuses" started from there, with Clinton backers picking their 4 delegates (split 2-2 by gender) and Sanders supporters picking their 7 and 1 alternate (3 men, 4 women, and 1 male alternate). There were well above that number of people who said they'd make the trip to Philly, so voting had to take place to decide those spots, and when I arrived I noticed that some of the potential delegates were actually politicking and had created their own literature. I wasn't going that heavy, and instead I joined the large crowd at the Bernie side of the room, and mostly observed, although I talked to some people I knew and gave some opinions if someone saw my name tag and asked about it.
The Bernie group was a mixed bag of local elected officials, experienced Dem campaigners, hard-core leftie activists who had actively worked for Bernie, everyday Dem voters/party members who liked Bernie, and people who were new to politics and had been inspired by Bernie's message and movement to get involved. The smaller group of Clinton backers and delegate wanna-bes had more experienced political types (although there were everyday voters as well), and the people I talked to that were at that meeting said their vote was relatively straightforward, with the delegates decided within an hour. It made sense- the Clinton knew what they wanted to do, many had already done it before, and many had an idea who should do what, so their vote went off without much concern.
Because many of the 30+ of us on the Sanders side were largely unknown to most of the group, it was agreed that everyone could give a 1-minute speech explaining why they should be chosen to represent Bernie's voters at the DNC. I scribbled some notes together, promptly forgot half of them during my spiel, and centered my support for Bernie around progressive values and how I felt having Bernie heading the ticket would be a major help to the party at federal and state levels because of those values. The speeches ranged from written prose to rambling reasons, but it was pretty cool to get all the different perspectives and reasons we had for backing the man, and in wanting to vote for him in Philly.
Following that, the 105 of us there each got a ballot, and we voted for 3 men and 4 women out of the group. If any person was named on more than 1/2 the ballots (or 53 votes), then (Game show host voice) "they were heading to City of Brotherly Love!" After the votes were gathered, the local Dem Party officials headed to the other side of the room to tally up the votes by hand (and we could drop in and watch them do it, so no fears about funny business). This also meant that we had another hour to kill, which allowed for mingling,Internet surfing and other tom-foolery.
In that time, I got into a very cool conversation with another Dem member with connections to major state officials regarding a topic I discussed last week regarding intra-party Dem primaries, and in particular the circumstance surrounding State Rep. Robb Kahl possibly being challenged this August. He reiterated that Kahl's work for other Dems is something that does not go unnoticed by other members of the party (elected and otherwise), and he put it in contrast to other members in pro-Dem seats that don't do much work for the party. We both agreed that in a post- Citizens United and McCutcheon world that such fundraising and favor-exchanging was something that had become more important in politics, whether we liked it or not (our solutions on how to solve and deal with this situation may have been different). I brought up to him that I think that post-CU reality was likely a reason why Bernie has gotten as many individual donations as he has- because if big money is going to exist, then more small money is needed to counteract that to dilute the big interests. It leads to two different approaches for candidates and segments of parties, depending on who or what supports your campaign- whether it's directly, or through "independent" expenditures).
But back to DNC delegate selection. The votes from the 1st round were tallied, and 1 man and 3 women got the required amount of 53 votes, so they were penciled into Philly as Bernie delegates. The others that were allowed to stay in the running were the 4 men that got the next highest number of votes (later expanded to 5 by request and approval), and the other 2 women that placed in the top 5 (later expanded to the top 6).
I wasn't one of those people left in the running. I got all of 4 votes- me and 3 others who were kind enough to give me a nod. So I was eliminated from the trip to Philly, but I still got to vote in the 2nd round. I had been there for well over 3 hours at this point and I had to get home, so after I got a 2nd ballot, I filled out the names of the people I wanted, handed them in, then headed out. Hopefully 2 ballots was all they needed (although I haven't seen an update yet), and that everything went smoothly from there. But I will say it was an interesting and fun experience, and I got to meet a lot of decent people who were mostly into this thing for the right reasons.
This is mostly a vanity post, but I figured you might want to know how these things actually work, and how pledged delegates with the signs and the funny hats and other schwag get chosen. Feel free to drop on in with any questions you might have on it, because I can tell you that this was handled legitimately, and it was worth the time on my Sunday to take part in. Even if I don't get to cast a vote for Bernie in Philly this July.