It wouldn’t be politics if things didn’t sometimes get bizarre.
At the Bernie Sanders caucus, a rumor spread that he had actually won California in a recount. Cheers and shouts and much revelry ensued. Skeptics, like me, searched our iPhones for verification and, of course, found none. Breaking the fact that this was viral faux news met with much disappointment. But one optimistic delegate said of the outburst, it was “great practice for the national convention.”
You have to love that sort of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, disappointment is a big part of progressive politics; like the tears that welled up in one young volunteer’s eyes when she learned that she wasn’t selected as a delegate. She truly believed she could sway enough ‘superdelegates’ to get Sanders nominated and then elected President.
Some background: yesterday was the Montana Democratic Party’s convention to elect delegates to July’s national convention in Philadelphia. It was split into four camps – Sanders people from Eastern and Western Montana, and Clinton people from the same two regions.
The biggest contingent, or caucus, was the Western Montana Bernie supporters. Numbering around 100, it had close to 30 candidates for only four seats.
Next was the Eastern Montana Bernie caucus with 40 members and 15 candidates vying for four spots.
I can’t really give you the numbers for the Hillary caucuses because I’d committed to Bernie and the Clinton folks were in a different area at the convention. It wasn’t as big a crowd, though, and based on last Tuesday’s Montana primary election results, they received one less delegate than Sanders to send to national.
Here’s some stream of consciousness from the Western Montana Sanders caucus:
Missoula sent the most folks but there were representatives from Arlee and St. Ignatius, Butte, Dillon, the Flathead, the Bitterroot and even Sanders County … Decent diversity in the form of tribal members, disabled, LGBT and the working poor … A number of veterans and many youngsters (people under 30) in the crowd … Issues ranging from foreign policy, climate change and a living wage to campaign finance reform and voting rights …
And here are some quotes:
“We can get the superdelgates to reconsider.”
“Every Bernie platform issue is a plank in my life”
“This is the best I’ve felt about politics in a long time.”
“Let’s restore the Democratic Party.”
“This is a turning point in our lives.”
And one quote that came from John Driscoll, a former legislator, PSC commissioner and candidate for the U.S. House, “We need to show respect to the Hillary Clinton campaign.” I hope that resonated with the crowd.
I mentioned bizarre moments at the head of this piece. Here’s the other: after electing the regional delegates, there were three other seats to be selected: two at large and one PLEO (Party Leader and Elected Official). Our caucus nominated a list and then a call came from the national Bernie Sanders campaign. It edited the list down, which apparently it has the right to do, “to reward those most committed to the campaign and to ensure affirmative action.”
Which is exactly what we were planning to do but I guess national didn’t trust us. This is perhaps the most disturbing event I’ve encountered in the Sanders campaign.
There was also some quibbling over numbers: scratching our heads over formulae and the correct balance of women and men on a particular ballot, etc.
“We’re the party of the people, not the party of math,” quipped one delegate.
But we got it all sorted out with a minimum of stress. As former U.S. Senate candidate Amanda Curtis, who chaired the caucus said, “Bernie people are the best.”
I’m going to leave you with two important points.
One: the Democratic Party better do some serious outreach to the Bernie camp. Advancing much of Bernie’s platform would be a good start. If the Democratic Party doesn’t want to go the way of the Republican Party – insulated, splintered and ineffective — it should be kissing Sanders’ supporters collective derrieres. The best political writer on the scene today, in my opinion, Rolling Stone’s Matt Tiabbi, sums it up succinctly.
This was no ordinary primary race, not a contest between warring factions within the party establishment, á la Obama-Clinton in ’08 or even Gore-Bradley in ’00. This was a barely quelled revolt that ought to have sent shock waves up and down the party, especially since the Vote of No Confidence overwhelmingly came from the next generation of voters …
The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.
This is especially the case now that the Republican Party has collapsed under the weight of its own nativist lunacy. It’s exactly the moment when the Democrats should feel free to become a real party of ordinary working people.
Two: It’s a damn shame you had to come to this site to read about the convention. I’m not a reporter, obviously. But you probably didn’t have a lot of choice. Besides one young TV reporter, struggling with her tripod, camera and microphone, there was no media presence. Politics may not garner the headlines of meth-fueled homicides or puppy-dog shows, but folks should know how the process works. Sometimes it’s important to see how the sausage is made.
UPDATE: I received a link to a Great Falls Tribune story on the convention. Here it is:
It’s a good piece, with more info on the Clinton caucus than I was able to relay. There’s also a list of all the delegates going to Philadelphia in July. Thank you reporter Phil Drake.
UPDATE #2: Here’s Montana Public Radio’s take on the convention:
Thank you reporter Corin Cates-Carney.