The first time I got directly involved in a political campaign (in my adult life) was in 2007, and frankly, it was because I was terrified. That someone of this caliber could be one proverbial heartbeat away from the Presidency (which, at the time, was a pretty prestigious thing, but I digress) lit such a tremendous fire under me. I cold-called on the curbs of SF before they were so prohibitively unsanitary to permit such politicking.
I continued to help campaigns at both the federal and local (more on that soon) levels. My most recent round of service culminated this year, along with my fears: in the age of Trump, I immediately connected with SwingLeft‘s very focused and strategic goal of taking back the House.
Thankfully my work paid off: we at last have a shard of accountability back at the Federal level, and one of the first pieces being advanced by the now-Democratic House (strongly and ably led by Nancy Pelosi) is HR1. Also marketed by the Dems as #ForThePeople / #ForThePeopleAct, the legislation’s overall theme is to put the hands of government back into the hands of people vs. those of special interests, through more transparent and representative funding and reduced barriers to voting. It makes my civic heart proud.
But then I got this note….
Wait a minute. I remember this person from a local campaign I’d worked on – he’d been an organizer and I’d co-hosted an event and helped with a few others.
What in the heck is an Assembly Delegate?
Nobody around me seems to know. I’m talking educated people. People who vote. Do you know? Nobody I seem to ask knows.
So I got interested. After all this work I’d done to open up our politics, it seemed odd that other elections were happening that I knew nothing about. I never heard about it from the Democratic Party. No mailers. No vote by mail. And this election was going to happen on a Saturday, during two hours, at a community center which happens to be down the street from me. That was the only option to participate (if you happened to know about it)
Fortunately, a branch of the Democratic party did some work to make this clear. But this wasn’t the “mainstream” Democratic party, if you will. This was made by some indie-rebel types within the party. And I only found this because I knew about the election: as a former campaign volunteer, I guess I’m “an insider.”
Because I happen to live about 3 blocks from the voting location and had few obligations the day of voting, I was fortunate enough to tough this murky, inaccessible process out. I braved the lines among various special interest groups that were marketed in from corners of the City to “align” the ballots to the slates with access to the most campaign funds. You can imagine how a non-establishment party slate may play out in this scenario (do watch the video).
This didn’t feel democratic to me. After all the work I’d done to elect a Congress to push forward legislation to open up our Democracy, I realized that a Democracy is only as good as its inputs. When the candidates and their agendas are pre-determined by those in power already, the inputs are broken.