O-M-G The Democratic Party is Like So Weak

How many Democratic voters lament their party’s weakness in public or online?  I’m a life-long member of the Democratic Party. By that, I mean I was raised by progressive parents and once I turned 18 I was so excited to register as a Democratic voter and vote for progressive Democratic candidates.

I didn’t get really engaged in politics online until about 2015. Once I did, there was a shocking amount of criticism about the Democratic party.  It wouldn’t have been shocking if it was from the Republican party and conservative voters, but it was seemingly from members of their own party.

Here’s the thing. Just because a candidate or elected official is registered with the party you are registered with, doesn’t mean you owe them allegiance. You have the right to criticize their actions, voting, and rhetoric. Of course you do. That’s democracy. You have a right to support challengers to incumbents within your own party.  That’s how we get a Rep like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which is what we need. We need people who care about the community they represent, and you know actually go to that community and listen to the constituents.

There is a difference though, between speaking your mind to a specific representative’s work to represent the people, and attacking the entire party. Painting them with a brush that says “the establishment is horrible and wrong and poopy”.  It’s a lazy cop-out and it neglects to account for what the attacker is doing to help.

People love to throw rocks from the outside, but how much are they working to make the party stronger? Most of them will respond with saying “I’m making them stronger by telling them how to get there.” Really?

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Here is my challenge to Democratic voters, who wish their party was stronger. Ask yourself what you have done to roll up your sleeves and work to make your party as strong as it needs to be, to beat the bad faith actors in the GOP.  There are a number of ways to help:

  1. Pick a candidate and volunteer in their campaign
  2. Make phone calls
  3. Canvass to gather petitions to put them on the ballot
  4. Host a phone bank
  5. Host a rally or watch party
  6. Make small contributions to support their campaign, so they can run their campaign without owing lobbyists and wealthy execs
  7. Become a delegate for them at the convention
  8. Register people to vote
  9.  Talk to other voters about why they are the best candidate – remember how you respect people is a reflection on the candidate you support. You are representing them
  10. Do the hard work of putting together your top issues, and then go review the plans of each primary candidate on those issues, and grade them. Your grade. Who is the best?  Not perfect, but which candidate gets the highest grade? If none of them do, are you being realistic? Because the alternative is Trump, so grade him too.

My point is, if you have a beef with the Democratic party, each out to them directly, instead of trashing them online.  If you really want them to be stronger, reach out to the local committee (county level), the state party, or the DNC.  Become more active in the party, so that it can reflect more of what you want to see.

Expecting your party to work exactly as you want, with you doing nothing else than shouting at them, is like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the store, because their parent won’t buy them the toy. Well, the child hasn’t cleaned their room, doesn’t eat their vegetables, and the parents are on a fixed budget.

So this is my challenge to you.  Get involved. Start to look at each candidate and elected official individually. Don’t write them off because of one thing they said, or one vote. Take a real look at their record and give them a reasonable grade, knowing that the job of representing people is not as easy as it may seem.  If you still aren’t satisfied, then run for office and be the representative who will deliver on what you want.

We need Democratic voters off the sidelines in 2020 and going forward. We certainly need them to stop attacking their own party, as if that will help anyone but Trump and the Republican party. We get out what we put in to your party and to your democracy. It’s time we make some lasting investments.

Ugh Do I Have to Be Nice?

So recently I posted on a local Facebook group, because I was hosting a phone banking event for a candidate I’m supporting in the Democratic primary. Quite quickly there was a laughing reaction to my post, and a comment that said “good luck with that!”. I sensed, despite emotion being lost in social media, that the comment was likely meant sarcastically. I was dumbfounded as to why. I confirmed if it was indeed sarcastic and it was immediately confirmed. I wanted to post redacted print screens, but the admin of the group deleted my post. I’ve messaged them to confirm they did this, but it seems that they did. I so wish they hadn’t.

When I posted the phone banking event, I didn’t expect a bunch of people to sign up, but I also didn’t expect people to be rude about it. I’m on twitter and facebook enough to have dealt with my fair share of trolls and bots, but this is supposed to be a local group.  I follow the same group account on Twitter, and although I will admit I haven’t seen national politics coming from that account or page, I do see stuff about the community. It seems I misjudged the point of the page.  I thought the page on Facebook, and the account on Twitter, was meant to be a way to bring people in the community together. I thought it was a way to help us get to know each other, and maybe enable us to do what we can to make our community as good as it can be. To help us all thrive.

For me, being a member of a community means doing my part, and that includes participating in my democracy. I consider it my civic duty. To me it is the ultimate act of patriotism. The more citizens participate in our democracy, the more our democracy will represent the interests of our community. 

After the other person on the post started posting back, I started writing a knee-jerk response, and then I took a step back.  Not only would I reflect badly on the campaign I’m volunteering for, I wouldn’t make the situation better.  I’m annoyed this is the first response I got.  I would have so preferred no response, to that. Instead, I expressed that I was sorry they felt the need to insult me, and I wished them well.

They then started posting Trump/MAGA stuff and that re-affirmed my decision not to make it worse. It’s not just that the Trump/MAGA crowd is most commonly about racism and claiming everyone is out to get them and their way of life. It’s also that there was no need to go down that petty of a path. How does any of that build up our community or bring us closer together? I was trying to bring us closer together. I was not forcing my candidate on anyone. I was posting for those interested. Those not interested could have just ignored the post. I would have welcomed a respectful debate on any issue we might disagree on, but that wasn’t on the table here.

I didn’t share one of my political blog posts, or a meme. I posted a local event that I thought other people in my local community might be interested in. I wasn’t selling anything. I was volunteering my time, and inviting others to join. 

Being a liberal Democratic voter, I am used to getting called a snowflake, a smash-up between liberal and the R word (I don’t get how this makes anyone a better person, smashing up the R word with anything), and I get labeled with some sort of allegiance to a “deep state”/do-nothing Democratic Party.  Ironically, a “Do-Nothing” Congress has a specific meaning that most aren’t aware of (The ‘do-nothing Congress’ graduates to the ‘do-nothing-much Congress’: 12/20/2016) It’s not all of Congress, in the current session, and voters need to check that. Right now, the Senate is the problem, thanks to Mitch McConnell and every Senator not standing up to his corruption.

When it comes to volunteering for a campaign, or spending time paying attention to politics, our representatives, campaigns for office, and our elections, I just think this country needs to really consider our individual responsibility. I believe we get what we put into our democracy.  If we want our government to work better, we might just have to do some work ourselves.

Right now is the primary season for the Presidential elections.  If you are registered with a political party, this is your chance to have a say in who will run for President in your party. This is it. You can support candidates who you believe will represent your community for the better. 

I believe that sitting on the sidelines, painting all politicians and elected officials as bad people, is lazy. Our democracy takes more work than to moan and complain, from the cheap seats. It requires that we are part of it. We are meant to be an informed member of the electorate. We are meant to pay attention to how our representatives are representing us. We are supposed to call them and contact them and tell them how we want them to vote. We are supposed to challenge them. We are supposed to show up to town halls, and if they don’t hold town halls insist that they do. We should write, call, email, and get on social media. If we are up to it, we should run for office.

I will absolutely vote for the Democratic nominee, but more than that I will volunteer for them, I will campaign for them, and I will not sit on the sidelines, because our democracy demands that we all work for it. It’s up to us to make it as good as it can be, and the more that we participate, the more that we are involved, the more our democracy can deliver for us all. 

I believe it is a privilege that I have, this freedom to elect representatives who are bound to serve my interest. I believe it is my civic duty to make sure they do, and if they don’t, it’s my responsibility to call them out, and support a challenger if they don’t do right by my community. I cherish this right, this privilege, and this opportunity, to have a say in how my government works. I wish more would join me.

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
—George Jean Nathan

Who is Going to Fix the Potholes?

Early this year, candidates started announcing their intentions to run for the Democratic nomination for President, in the 2020 election. At first, I rolled my eyes. It’s that reflexive disdain for politics, that people often feel. The thing is, I have a B.S. in political science. I love this stuff. Nevertheless, I was annoyed that people were announcing so early. It’s like when the grocery store has Halloween candy in August. Do we have to start so early?

Then I started seeing what a stellar list of candidates there were, and the level of debate that was forming. Elizabeth Warren is a huge reason for this, and she’s not even my first pick. She’s put forward so much policy, she has made her candidacy the one to beat, on merit. She is the gold standard candidate, as far as I’m concern. She has plans and a platform, for her Presidency. Every candidate should be aiming for that bar.

The reason I rolled my eyes, at first, wasn’t the candidates. They weren’t the problem. It was because I don’t want the 2020 Democratic primary to drown out the election we have before that. If anyone is confused at what I’m talking about, I mean the 2019 election. If anyone is wondering what freaking election there is in 2019, you are not alone.

According to this – In the U.S., Almost No One Votes in Local Elections only about 15% – 30% vote in local elections. I live in Rochester, NY, and I usually see returns around 31% in a good year. 

Understand that this is a percentage of registered voters. There is a significant amount of our population, that is eligible to vote and are not registered. People complain about potholes, and they complain about corruption, but when we look to blame the politicians, we might want to save some blame for ourselves.

This country is a baby, compared to a lot of other countries. When we talk about the promise of our country, our potential, we are really talking about proving our democracy can work. We have yet to do that. We have yet to successfully guarantee that our democracy protects our citizens equally, and cares for the common good in a measured and real way. Part of that is because we are not doing our jobs as citizens. The entire idea of representation, when our forefathers were forming this nation, was to ensure that the people would tell the representatives how to represent their interests. It was never meant to run on auto-pilot.

Last year, we got a really good bump in turnout. We elected a record number of women to Congress and we made strides in state elections. I’m not just talking about Democrats. I’m talking about the country. We made strides in getting people to turn out and vote; to participate in our democracy.

Despite that, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Democracy is not a one-time thing, and we can’t just think we did pretty good showing up for that one vote, and now things should get better. Democracy is incumbent upon a participating citizenry. It is our civic duty, to ensure that laws are upheld It is also our job to ensure that representatives are accountable, transparent, and working for us, the people. 

There is a good check list of things, every citizen should be doing, if they are to be upholding their personal civic duty: 

1. Be Registered to Vote 

    • This includes periodically checking and confirming that you registration is in good standing.
    • If you need any information about registering, checking your registration, polling place, or to see who is on your ballot, google your county’s Board of Elections (BOE). For instance, I live in Monroe County, New York. I would google “Monroe County Board of Elections, New York” and I would get their website. From there I can call them or just search the site for what I need. 
    • Election laws are different in each state. It is important to register as early as possible, because some states have deadlines. Some might require ID. Look this stuff up now, so you know it and can plan accordingly. 
    • If you’re a super nerd (like me) you can go here on election night to see the returns, as they come in. They will be unofficial until the BOE certifies the results, which happens after election night. 

2. Identify Your Representatives 

    • President and Congress is good, but this is important at all levels of government. Put their contact info in your phone, if you want to be super dialed in 
    • Some apps will looks this stuff up for you, like https://www.countable.us/ and https://ballotpedia.org 
    • Local officials you can look up by going to your county, city and town websites, or calling them and asking them to tell you. Remember they work for you. Remember, they are good people and be nice to them. (Sincerely, someone who used to work for the BOE) 

3. Pay Attention to Your Representatives 

    • Pay attention to the news, or check the appropriate government sites, to see how your officials are voting on legislation. 
    • If you want your rep to propose legislation or vote a certain way, contact them. Otherwise, the only people talking to them, will be lobbyists, and the lobbyists will write them checks to get them re-elected. The only way to combat that, is a bunch of citizens calling them, to respectfully state, that they will vote them out, if they do not vote in the interest of the community. 
    • Use apps like https://resist.bot/ and https://www.countable.us/ to stay in touch, by sending them emails on issues that are important to you. 
    • If you really need their help on something, call their office and ask if you can make an appointment. If they are in Congress, remember that they split their time with being local and in DC, so it might be some time before you can get an appointment. Remember that whether you like your rep or not, their aides are government workers. Be kind to them, and remember they are just doing their job. 

4. Vote 

    • This should be number 1, but it comes after you do 1-3. 
    • Go with friends, volunteer to help elderly get to the polls, encourage fellow citizens to remember to vote. 
    • Support every citizen’s inalienable right to vote. Fight any voter suppression in your state. Every vote should count, and every vote should count equal to every other vote. 

5. Rinse and Repeat, All Year, Every Year 

I’m actually excited about the 2020 Democratic candidates (most of them). I think debate is good and challenging each other to be better is good. I think hearing different ideas is good. I think diverse plans and people, are good. 

I still want us to focus on the election at hand, and right now, that is the 2019 local election. The wins we have, in 2019, will build local coalitions across this country, for the 2020 election. Every year, we end up stronger or weaker, by the outcome of the previous year’s election. This is true for each political party, and it’s true for the country. 

I think our country will deliver on the promise of our democracy, when we can consistently get real turnout. I want to say 100% but I know people will call me naïve and a dreamer. If I say 90% some will say that is still too high to expect, but I think it’s necessary. Let’s at least try to improve on the last election at the same level. If 30% is the best we do for local elections, let’s shoot for 40% this year. Is that a lot? I would argue it’s not, but I also want 100%. Let’s say it would be a huge improvement. 

I commit to getting out the vote this year, and encouraging better voter turnout, even though is a local election year. I hope you will too. At least commit to the basics of civic duty, if you agree with me. Be registered, know your state’s election laws, know the candidates, and vote. 

Then maybe we can fix some of these damn pot holes, literally and proverbially.

The NY Governor’s Democratic Primary

I wrote this piece, in April, shortly after Cynthia Nixon announced she was running for the office.

One Upstate New York Democrat’s View on Cythia Nixon and the Governor’s Race

Last night, I watched the debate.  What did I learn? Not much. Cuomo is pretty smug and likes being seen as a tough New Yorker. It’s a really bad look, and I wish he’d see it doesn’t really endear himself to voters. His dad seemed to know this. I was much younger, but I remember Mario Cuomo having more grace and humility to his ways.

Andrew Cuomo would have been way better focusing on her lack of experience, instead of taking cheap shots at her incorporating or sending a letter to the Governor’s office.  Citizens are supposed to ask our elected officials and government offices to help with our complaints. He didn’t make her look bad, as much as he made it look like he was using his office to find any dirt he could find on her. I get that he doesn’t want her to just look all progressive and squeaky clean, but she does. It’s not a fight he’s going to win. Instead he should have focused on his experience at doing the real work of being Governor. We need people with expertise.

I see people going after Senator Schumer and Rep Nancy Pelosi, calling them establishment. People like to demonize expertise as a bad thing, but in the face of a corrupt administration in the White House, we need people who already know where the proverbial lights are. We need people who know the rules and how to resist this administration every time they do something horrible to citizens and refugees.

I think Cynthia Nixon has some fantastic ideas. I think she sounds like an excellent progressive. She still has absolutely no experience in public service, and I think it’s dangerous to elect her as Governor of our state, without first having her run for a lower office. Her name and celebrity status shouldn’t preclude her from making that kind of commitment, if that’s what she really wants to do. Run for Mayor or State Legislature, and then run for Governor, after you get some experience. If you apply to a company, do you apply for CEO, without ever even being a Manager at any company? Or do you apply for the position of Manager and work your way up? We shouldn’t shortcut that hard work. The experience gained is invaluable. It cannot be bought.

I do think it was a bogus question, to ask her if she would donate her salary.  Public servants should get a salary, because we don’t want wealthy autocrats running our government for no pay. If we have that, they will be lining their pockets in other ways. That salary is a drop in the bucket of our state budget, and I would have so much preferred a question on the state’s agricultural concerns, what she even knows about upstate needs, and how we don’t really give much of a crap about the MTA. There is no MTA in Albany, Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, Buffalo, or Niagara Falls (yes there is a US Niagara Falls; not just one in Canada).

So here is where I am at. I will vote for him in the primary, but I walked away from the debate finding him smug and quite possibly a sexist guy. I hate to say that, but I really want him to answer for that donation from the Weinstein lawyer, right as he suspended the investigation. Why did he suspend the investigation? I want a good reason, and I can’t imagine one.

I think it’s dangerous to vote for someone with 0 experience, for Governor of an entire state, so I’m going with our incumbent Governor, who has been on the ground helping Puerto Rico, offering legal assistance to detained immigrants, and who has done a lot of good for this state. If a more progressive candidate comes along, with experience, he better watch out, but for now his experience trumps her progressive desires.

Without the experience of how being governor and fighting a state legislature actually works, that’s all it is. It’s what she would love to do. I have a lot I’d love to see done. Getting it done is the hard part. If it was easy, everyone would do it.  I will say this. If Cynthia Nixon wins the primary, she will get my vote in November. No way will I allow this state, that I love, turn to red.

Neither of them is perfect, and neither is a bad candidate. We aren’t picking between the lesser of two evils or two bad candidates. We are choosing between two decent candidates. This isn’t a purity test. This is a representative democracy, by the people and for the people. We are all human, and we must keep that in mind, when we look to our elected officials and candidates to pass our litmus tests.

Either way, I hope Democrats and Independents and people who don’t register with a party, all show up to vote. I hope Republicans vote. I hope everyone votes for the party that wants to ensure there is accountability and transparency. We need a blue Congress, not just to stop Trump, but to stop McConnell. He is a poison pill in the Senate, and he must be stopped. We need Democratic Governors, to ensure that states protect their people’s rights, if the federal government tries to not protect them. We must be united, in the face of a faction of people relentlessly trying to divide us.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your thoughts.

My Apology to Hillary Clinton and Robin Wilt

I owe an apology to Hillary Clinton and to Robin Wilt.  Hillary Clinton ran for President, in 2016, and despite winning the popular vote, lost the electoral college by about 40,000 votes. It cost her the Presidency, and despite all the talking heads, it was not as simple as they may like to pretend it was.

Robin Wilt just ran in the Democratic primary, for the 25th Congressional district, in New York. This is the seat that has been represented, for decades, by a giant. Louise Slaughter was the real deal. She was brilliant, competent, compassionate, and she had no ego. I got to meet her, and even work with her, on county level politics, about 20 years ago. She never needed the fanfare, and just wanted to get the job done, whatever the job was. She was happy taking a back seat, to give up a more prime seat, if there was bickering. She really had no hubris. Filling her shoes is not something that can ever be done, but this seat in Congress, must nevertheless be filled. We need our representation.

I compared the 4 candidates, on the ballot in the Democratic primary, for this seat.. They included Joe Morelle, a longtime Assemblyman, and what many label the establishment Democrat. That seems to be a smear lately, and I think that’s bad for the entire resistance, that progressives in the party are using it against people on our own side of the aisle, but we’ll get to that.

Rachel Barnhart, was a local reporter, who has repeatedly attempted to enter elected office, but has yet to be successful.  I give her credit, for standing up and running for any office. It’s not easy, and it take a lot of commitment.  That’s about all I give her, because I don’t respect her campaign tactics, and I have concerns that she keeps running for different offices, hoping to get a good gig.  I also think she keeps running, so she can fund-raise to pay off past campaign debt, but that’s just my experience with the motivations people have to run for any office available.

Adam McFadden is a member of the Rochester City Counsel. He is a good local politician, but also a hothead, and I did not have confidence in his ability to be effective in Congress. I like him at the city level, even if that is selfish of me. I think he’s good for Rochester.

Robin Wilt is a professional, who has served on the Brighton, NY town board, and who has been a long time grassroots activist. She is the real deal. She didn’t just get into politics, for the limelight. She got into the political sphere, because she was attempting to affect change. What happened? She did. She got change to happen, again and again.  Once you compare all 4 of the candidates, it’s not hard to see why I chose to vote for Robin Wilt. She may not have been the “obvious” choice, but I had absolute confidence that she was the best choice.

Morelle won the primary. He’s really a good guy, and I know he will be receptive to his constituents. I’m excited to vote for him to be my next rep in the house, this November. I’m still bummed it won’t be Wilt on the ballot, but I will move on. We have too much to fight for, too much to resist, to dwell on what is done.

To that end, I won’t lament over the 2016 election either. i.e. How I saw the candidates and such. I already wrote on that, here (I May Be a Relucant Clinton Supporter, But I’m Getting There) . Instead, I want to explain why I owe Ms. Clinton and Ms. Wilt an apology.

See, I kind of stumbled into my engagement with both the 2016 Presidential election, and this 2018 Democratic primary for the 2018 midterm elections.  It’s not like I tripped and fell. It’s more like I was lazy. I rolled out of bed, and dragged myself to the voting booth, with tepid zeal, and it had little to do with the candidates. Despite the mass of incivility people fling at candidates and elected officials, my indifference was more emblematic of the tenor of standard American voter apathy. Spare me the character assassinations, you might all choke my apathy out to really being about. I’m talking about something more important.

My friends consider me an exception to the rule, because I am an informed citizen, and they are not wrong.  America is a paradox. People wave the flag and cry patriotism. People also roll their eyes at campaigns and complain when people bring up politics. “I just can’t. I could care less. They all suck. Blah, blah, blah.” Well put, don’t you think?  The point is, we have a bigger problem than corrupt, racist, and/or lazy elected officials. We have a lazy, apathetic citizenry, and I am part of the problem. For that, I need to apologize to the candidates who stood up to serve, and who were let down by the citizens who they would have represented with their whole heart and soul.

I know, I sound like a naive simpleton, musing romantic notions about the ideals of our democracy.  To that I say, sit down won’t you please?  This country is a democratic republic. Yes, it’s a republic, because we elected a President, but it is still a representative democracy, in that we vote for our leaders, and the executive branch is a co-equal branch, that has no more power than the legislative body of representatives.

I am starting to really see that our problems and our solutions are intertwined. The more people engage in the process, by being informed and by voting, the more representative our democracy can be. The less people engage, the less it is representative. If you were elected to office, and your constituents never called or contacted you, to ask you to vote a certain way on a bill, but a contact from a lobbying group did contact you, that is the only voice you hear.

It’s easy to blame the politicians, but it’s harder to take responsibility, for our part in this. If we aren’t telling our elected officials how we want them to represent us, how do we expect them to know?  If we keep re-electing the people, who never vote in our interests, how do we expect to get any better results? (I’m looking at you, Kentucky. Mitch McConnell is a cancer in the Senate. He has perverted the Senate rules and our country’s laws, for greedy personal agenda, and has never once served the actual needs of the people of Kentucky.)

I supported Sanders, in 2016, vowing to ultimately support the nominee, as the Presidential election was too important. He disappointed me more than I can say, after the nomination, but I also disappointed myself. I should have volunteered more, in Clinton’s campaign. I could have phone banked (in hindsight, focusing on Wisconsin and Michigan would have been really helpful).

I did support Clinton online, pushing for people to give her a chance. I did do some canvassing (knocking on doors and getting people to consider voting for her). I took off of work on Election day, so I could volunteer with the local Democratic Committee. They coordinate driving people to the polls to vote, if they don’t have a way to get there. Republicans spin this as us desperate to get out our vote. Not only is that crass, cynical, and jaded, it’s inaccurate. I have been a life-long democrat. I won’t speak for the whole party, but including when I was the Director of Operations at the Monroe County Democratic Committee and on that election day, my primary goal was to ensure citizens had their voices heard. Even if you were planning to register or vote for a Republican, I still wanted to get you registered and get you to the polls. That is the only way all of our voices are heard.

On that election day, I answered phones, looked up peoples’ registration, polling places, coordinated rides, helped around the office, and did whatever I could to help.  I should have been doing that for weeks. My “lazy” excuse is that I have lupus and fibromyalgia, so even though I sit at a desk all day, I’m exhausted by the time I’m done with work, and can’t fathom going to volunteer anywhere. I am working to push past that, because I know so many accomplish so much more, with so much less than I have.

When it came to the primary for the 25th Congressional district, I would say I did the least amount possible, for a citizen to do, while still being involved at all.  I looked up who the candidates were, I picked one, and I voted.  Because I like to encourage the voter turnout, I put together the info I found, into a tweet:

I wasn’t able to watch the debate, because I was attending a preview screening of the Mr. Rogers documentary that night, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. It was a very special story, that I’m glad I got to see. I figured I would look for the debate online. I also found the Democrat and Chronicle’s summary of it. To be fair to all candidates, I included a 2nd thread to the tweet, listing all their twitter handles and websites, so voters could decide for themselves. I didn’t inject my opinion, because my first goal was to encourage people to show up.

After work, I went to my therapy session, and then went home to pick up my partner, so we could go vote together.  It took us less than 15 minutes. There was 1 guy ahead of us. I checked online later, and saw a local news outlet had reported about 16% turnout, for the election.  It is considered that there should be at least 20% of a body, to achieve a quorum (the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. ~ google dictionary definition ). We didn’t even achieve that.

It gave me hope to see how well NY14 did in showing the country that a newcomer can oust a decades long incumbent, if that incumbent gets complacent and doesn’t engage with their constituents. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also showed that the Democratic party is a huge tent. While pundits wax nostalgic, for the Democratic party to be progressive and not “establishment”, I would again like to ask them to take a damn seat. Nancy Pelosi has worked hard to do good, despite the many character assassinations against her. Same with Chuck Schumer. That doesn’t mean they aren’t flawed, and don’t make any bad decisions.

I have disagreed with both of them many times. Most recently, their condemning of Maxine Waters. Representative Waters wasn’t advocating harassment, but she was encouraging people to speak truth to power. She was saying, that if you support a fascist, expect to have people protesting you. What’s more, they knew this, but spoke against her, instead of backing her up. Meanwhile none of them thought to condemn Steve King for retweeting a nazi.  Does that mean we should dump them? No. It really doesn’t, and the mob mentality to pile on, when we find a crack in the walls, drives me nuts. No elected official is perfect, but we have to balance the good with the bad.

The thing is, the Democratic party needs only one message. We want every citizen to vote. Be informed, and be engaged. Vote. Republicans are pushing against voting rights, for gerrymandering, and for closing polling places, shortening early voting windows, and making voting harder. It’s pretty easy to see which party wants our democracy to be truly representative, and which party just wants to wield power, with no one to stop them, and no one paying attention. Beyond that one succinct message, the party needs to drown out the talking heads and just get to the real work of grassroots campaigning, for every candidate on the ballot. Divide resources equally, stop playing favorites, and put the egos aside.

I truly do believe that how representative a democracy can be, directly correlates to how engaged it’s citizenry is in the process. Right now, I think our federal government is so far from being representative, we are close to losing that representation; that democracy. The thing is, it can truly change over night.  Not by polls, or noise. Not by a big October surprise, or some bombshell occurrence, even though those things can affect outcomes. No. It can happen in 1 day. The one day, that the elected officials stop representing us, and we can choose who we want speaking for us all over again. Every elected official is fired, on that day, and asking to be re-hired. Every citizen is their boss.

Election day is a sacred day, when we get to choose who represents us and how we are represented.  It will never matter what the polls say. “She doesn’t have a chance”, “He’s got it in the bag”, “It’s a tight race, but demographics and turn out averages suggest, blah, blah, blah.” It’s all speculation. Sure there is some analysis to it, but every year, there is a new pool of eligible voters. American citizens turn 18, and get to cast a vote. Any year they choose to yield that power, they can swing the whole ball game.

Does this all sound naive? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. It’s the very core of what this country is supposed to be about. The experiment of a free democracy seems to live on America’s shoulders. It’s time us citizens take our part in holding up that burden. It’s time we show up.

Hillary Clinton, I’m sorry I didn’t volunteer more, and sooner.

Robin Wilt, I’m sorry I researched too late, and didn’t volunteer at all. I showed up to vote, but that is not always enough. It’s especially not enough when the authentic candidate is an underdog. When 2 of the 4 candidates have massive name recognition, grassroots campaigning is imperative, and it takes people being willing to volunteer their free time to help get the word out. Really believe in someone? You might have to get your hands dirty, and get out in the streets.

I promise to do better. To phone bank, canvass, volunteer, engage and to show up. It’s my patriotic duty, as a citizen of this country, and not doing so is abdicating my responsibility to this country that I owe so much.

 

One Upstate New York Democrat’s View on Cynthia Nixon and the Governor’s Race

I’m not sold yet. I have my disagreements with Cuomo, but he’s got a lot of good experience and has handled a lot of tough choices. I am proud of how involved he’s been in Puerto Rico’s recovery, while our President* threw paper towels and ran. Cuomo is also a very inclusive Governor. He’s capable and is a reasonable person, from what I’ve seen. Whether any of his opposition like it or not, The first paragraph on this website is full of verifiable, hard numbers of what he’s accomplished Governor Cuomo 2016 Accomplishments – ny.gov website

  • FY 2017 Budget, for the sixth consecutive year, keeps spending below 2 percent
  • Implementing the lowest middle class tax rate in 70 years.
  • Passing a $15 statewide minimum wage
  • 12 weeks of paid family leave
  • Reforms to combat the devastating effects of the Citizens United decision
  • Comprehensive plan to end New York’s heroin and opioid epidemic

There’s more after that, and that’s just for one year. He is getting stuff done, which is not easy in government bureaucracy.

I would like to see our Governor legalize marijuana with way less restriction medically, as well as recreationally. We are already growing hemp. We can help farmers and grow our economy. I would like New York state to decriminalize marijuana. People of color are disproportionately jailed for possession, when white people consume it at the same rate (ACLU – Report: The War on Marijuana in Black and White). I would like more help for upstate city schools, like Rochester, where I live. I want these schools to thrive. I want the kids, in this community, to thrive. I want the teachers and faculty to have the resources, facilities, and the pay they need and earn.

I want us to invest even more in renewable energies that make sense for our climate and region.  I want us to address homelessness in a progressive manner. Tiny homes, comprehensive mental and physical health care. Continuing education and job assistance.  We are stepping in the right direction, by starting to help some families, with community college costs. I think of it like ACA. At least we started something. We put something in place, where there was nothing, in an attempt to go in the right direction. Now let’s look at what is working and what can still be improved. Let’s just keep doing that, until we get to a place where we thrive. Other countries do it, and I think we can too.

I want us to crack down on abuse. Whether it be domestic abuse, animal abuse, human trafficking, wild animal trafficking, any kind of violence. We need to protect the victims and survivors, rather than the law being dedicated to the rights of the abusers and perpetrators. The ones abused end up losing rights, and that injustice has never been addressed.

To be fair, I want this (extensive) agenda of every elected official, and I want much more.

As for Nixon, I think she’s an intelligent woman, who’s got a good resume of activism and advocacy, and seems to be a person with a moral compass. I’m just not sure about starting at Governor. How much time has she really spent in NY towns and cities outside NYC area? Being Governor is a huge job.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m so happy so many citizens are running for elected office, all over the country. That is how our democracy will thrive. It’s just my personal philosophy on public service, that I wish people would start local, when deciding to run for elected office.

I get that “anyone can be President”. I also think we’ve seen, that it doesn’t mean anyone should be. Just because a person fits the legal qualifications (those could be better, by the by), that doesn’t mean they necessarily have the resume, and are qualified to handle the responsibilities of the job.

I wasn’t hired as CEO at my current job, because that would not match my qualifications (at all). I know it’s cliche, but it does follow. It’s not a 100% rule, and she may certainly transcend the norm. Some people just rock whatever they do. I didn’t agree with Schwarzenegger on LGBTQ matters, but he didn’t destroy California. Not like Trump is doing to our federal government.

Being an elected official, particularly in the executive branch, is a lot of crisis management, in addition to policy and agenda campaigning. It’s fighting over paying for staples, education, lifetime Congressional pensions (yes, I know that’s federal, not state level, just felt like slipping that in). It’s dealing with ensuring agencies respond during weather emergencies, and handling other such unpredictable occurrences, that derail agendas and budgets, constantly.  I don’t see how someone can just be in charge, of a whole state, until they have some experience at a local or regional level first. She may have other resume qualifications, that can make up for a lack of this type of experience. I don’t know enough yet, as I’m still learning about her, and how her candidacy compares to Cuomo’s.

She may well be the best candidate, but I’m definitely undecided right now. I am concerned about this leap, straight to Governor, and it does make me lean toward keeping the experience we have in Cuomo. We have more critical seats to overturn, in this election, and sometimes it’s not just about someone deciding to run for a specific seat. It’s also about which incumbents are measured, progressive, and not half bad.  There are some really bad elected officials out there, and while Cuomo may not be 100% perfect, I don’t think he’s so bad, that we need to run him out of town either.

We will never have perfect elected officials, and it’s folly to attempt that.  It’s also easy for our opponents to help fan the flames of our strongest candidates’ weaknesses, so that we end up with weaker candidates. They tried with Bernie, and people ate it up. Purist ideology politics will sink us.  The idea is that people represent people.  People are human, and the best we should expect from our candidates and officials is honesty and transparency.

I know some people can’t stand Cuomo, but I feel like that is a lot about the divisive “right has to hate left” attitude, drowning out reasonably acknowledging the merits of the other side. Yes, I acknowledge that left has to hate right also exists.  I acknowledge there are good Republican elected officials. I have voted for Republicans, and will again, if they are the better candidate.

I don’t think Cuomo is given a fair assessment. (Clinton, Pelosi, and Schumer too.) The hardest part about engaging in the political process, as a citizen, seems to be taking the time to identify good elected officials.  It’s easier to crap on the process, wash your hands of participating, and write them off as all bad and corrupt. It takes more time to keep up with your representatives. Know whether they keep their promises and are responsive, when you reach out to tell them how you want to be represented.  It takes work, but that is the real patriotic duty of every citizen.

We are supposed to pay attention to who is representing our interests, and who would like to represent us next. We must all hold our officials accountable to the oath they swear, to defend the Constitution. This includes inherent rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I know for a fact, that there are really wonderful public servants, and some really great new candidates this year. A lot of principled, well-meaning citizens are representing us, or want to, in all levels of government. I should know. I used to work at the Board of Elections.

I get that it’s harsh to say, but unless Nixon really is that much better than Cuomo, I’d rather focus our campaign resources on other races, where there are real threats to our democracy sitting in those seats. In a healthy democracy, I hope to see debate and compromise across the aisle, as well as within each party. That can’t happen, when our government is being controlled and abused by one party.

When one side of the aisle is acting like kleptocratic, jingoistic, xenophobic, fascists, we can’t afford in-fighting. We must band together and defeat our common enemy first. Threats to our democracy. It must be stopped in its tracks, before we can utilize our democracy, to work out the rest.

Still. I’m not sure yet, on Nixon, for Governor. We’ll see.

No matter what, I absolutely LOVE her acting, activism, and advocacy.

I’m a Bernie Supporter, So Why Haven’t I Given Up?

The primaries that took place last night resulted in more delegates being added to the banks for Clinton and Sanders.  If you put Super Delegates aside, not much changed.  The delegate count is 1,331/1,640 Sanders/Clinton, respectively. That translates to 45% / 55%, respectively.  This pervasive idea in the media that Sanders is a fringe candidate, an almost 3rd party candidate, who doesn’t have a chance.  I just don’t get it.  There are 851 delegates left in the remaining state primaries, before the convention.  One of those is California, which has 546 delegates to be applied.  The California primary has historically been one that can sway a nomination.

If the rest of the delegates are split 50/50, then we will have just about the current % of delegates each.  Sanders has 45% of the primary delegates, and I think that should be talked about more. There is a huge base of support for his candidacy and I think the Super Delegates should be pressured more by the media.  Why are they not hammering them for pledging to support a candidate in opposition to how their district/state voted?

I am in the Berniecrat minority, in that I will support Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination.  I don’t believe she is evil or all bad.  I think she will make a good president.  But the primary election is not over, and I want Bernie.  I will support him for as long as he as asked for support, which is through the nominating convention.  But we do have to be realists at the end of the day.  There is no way I will not vote  There is no way I will allow my vote be a 3rd party vote, that will only serve to splinter the vote.  Either way, such actions would ensure that Trump or any other GOP candidate ends up in the White House.  This is just too important.  Our rights, our civil liberties, our environment.  All are on the line.

For now, I will not stop championing Sanders.  The convention has yet to happen, and I will support him as long as I can.  As much as I am a supporter, what has really stoked my backing of Sanders is how the media is influencing this primary.  Time and time again, the delegate count is reported with the super delegates in the total.  But why would they do that? The old adage “don’t count your chickens, before they hatch.” comes to mind.  They haven’t cast their vote, and any political journalist worth their salt, knows that if the delegate counts are close, the supers may well be up for grabs.  We could easily end up going to a 2nd ballot.  Supers can publicly announce their intent to support one candidate or another, but I would argue that doing so is an attempt to sway the state primaries and the votes of the people.  I don’t like it, and I find it a bit underhanded.

In any event, when the media reports the Super Delegates, as if those votes have already been cast, they are painting a picture that the primary is really over.  Clinton has this sewn up and she is going to win the nomination.  That has been the rhetoric in the media throughout this primary, and it seems like it should be illegal.  To report on a primary and suggesting that one candidate has the nomination in the bag, before all the states have even had their votes.  It’s like how states are called the minute polling places close, even when people are still standing in line.  There is a direct correlation to people believe a race is over or has been called, to them not voting.  If the people think there is still a race, they are more likely to think that their vote may make a difference.  They are more likely to vote.

Can’t we slow down just long enough to let people vote? Would that really upset the balance to such an extent that our society would fall apart?  I think not.  But it might encourage the voters not to give up on the process. And that seems worthwhile.

How I Feel About This Election Year

It is likely that only a handful of people will read this, and 2 will probably be my parents (thanks, guys).  I’m not some political analyst, who has experience, savvy and inexplicable knowledge of facts and figures.  I’m just a voter, who has what is most likely an extremely minority view of this year’s elections.

Background:
I have a B.S. in Political Science, with a double major in English Literature and a minor in Philosophy, from SUNY Brockport.  I graduated in 2000 with $25K in student loans, and I never thought it should have been free. I had always known there was a cost to get to go to college, and it never had occurred to me that it should be free.  I love the idea, though, so I’m on board.  After college, I worked as a sous chef at a country club, while “moonlighting” in the day time, volunteering at the Monroe County Democratic Committee (MCDC).

From there, I was hired at the Board of Elections, in the Information Systems department. I was working there for the 2000 election, as we sat around at midnight (our county successfully reported), and were so glad we weren’t in Miami Dade county. I’ve been around computers since I was a kid, so I ended up in IT, which has been great.  Great, because it’s kept me employed, for most of the time, since I graduated.  I was quickly asked to be the Director of Operations at the MCDC, which lasted almost 2 years (2 elections, at least).

When the chair stepped down, his replacement needed a salary, and it would come from mine.  I eventually found a job, again in IT, but not in politics anymore.  I haven’t worked in politics since 2002.  But I still vote.  I still try to learn about the candidates.  There have been a couple of local elections where I was lazy.  I didn’t learn about the candidates, and I didn’t vote.  I kick myself for that, because I know better.

Now:
This year, something rare is happening.  The candidates in both parties are causing people to pay attention.  Trump is one of the scariest people a Jewish Lesbian, like myself, could see on the stage.  But this isn’t about him lighting a match to hate, racism, violent vigilantism, etc.  This is about the party I have been registered with, since I turned 18.  I was so excited to register, and vote absentee ballot for Bill Clinton.  Now we have two candidates in the Democratic Primary, and it’s lighting a different fire.  The trouble is, for some, this has become divisive instead of producing productive debate.

Where I Stand:
I am a Hillary Clinton fan.  I know, for some this will cause distaste.  I don’t really get it, but I hope you will hear me out.  In my experience, she has done an incredible amount of good.  She has fought for the middle class, and took a huge beating for trying to improve health care as First Lady.  She took the flack, in an effort to try to move us forward, and I don’t think she gets the credit she deserves for that work.  I was excited to vote for her for US Senate, in NY.  She did a lot of good for NY state, and I was selfishly not wanting her to run for President, in 2008.  I wanted her to stay in NY, doing good for our state.  I still planned to support her run for President.  When I was a kid I decided that I wanted to be the 2nd female President of the United States.  Just day dreaming, you know.  I wanted there to be a female President, and I really felt we should have one in office by the time I was 35 (the legal age to run for President).  I’m 38 now, and that hasn’t happened yet.

But when I heard President Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention, I was blown away.  I looked at his platform and Clinton’s.  I felt that he was a Jr Senator, with little ties or promises to make him beholden to special interests.  Hillary Clinton has shattered glass ceilings for women, but she also does have a lot of ties to special interest, and I just believed Obama might have that rare opportunity to have slipped in under the wire.  I was incredibly happy when President Obama appointed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  She has built a lot of international relationships, which puts her in a great position to lead this country in the global community.

But here we are again.  Hillary Clinton is running, and I was planning on supporting her.  I’m sorry that I don’t have that blind loyalty to just say it is her turn and throw her my support.  Bernie Sanders got into the race, and it was probably meant as a spoiler.  Raise the debate and try to up the dialogue.  Something happened.  He sparked a fire of his own. One that is incredibly progressive.  The kind of progressive rhetoric that I was used to hearing from the Clintons.  They have become much more moderate, and Bernie Sanders is liberal and dreams so big.  It’s fantastic.  He wants to blow open the doors to the corruption and special interest agendas in our government.  He wants to create the kind of equality that will ensure the middle class is the strongest it can ever be, and ensure we all have the opportunity to reach our potential.

In order to do that, people making minimum wage, must be able to survive.  And not just survive, but have health care, the chance to go to college, and raise kids.  I get that minimum wage jobs are meant to be a stepping stone, but they are also the only job that some people can get, and it’s not right that the pay check is not enough to pay bills, afford proper nutrition, health care etc.

I think Hillary Clinton wants these things too.  I really do, and I wish Democrats and Independents would ease up on the barrage of attacks against her.  So much of that is coming from the GOP, because they are terrified of her getting in the White House. A lot of people are not willing to unite behind her, if she gets the nomination.  I absolutely will.  She is a fantastic candidate and I respect her career and her run for President.  But we are not there yet.  While Bernie Sanders has an incredibly tough road to getting enough delegates to push a 2nd ballot at the convention, I think he can still do it, and a lot of people can.  There are a lot of primaries left, and I think we should keep supporting our candidates in a positive manner.  We should respect both candidates, because one of them WILL be the nominee.  We have to remember the big picture.  The GOP candidates have all made statements that are sexist, racist, homophobic, etc.  They are a scary bunch and the Democratic candidates shine in comparison.

The Voters’ Issues:
So now we have an issue of voter suppression, which has come to light from the NY primary, as well as AZ and other states.  I wanted to speak to this, because again I have what is probably a minority view.  I was in a good position, having worked at the Board of Elections, that I knew the election laws.  I understand them.  Yes, they are strict, and I somewhat agree with the complaints of how strict they are.  In NY, when you register to vote, you can register with a party or no party.

You can vote in primaries of the party that has a primary, IF you are registered with that party.  You can change parties, but you have to do it before a general election.  So if you want to vote in next year’s primary for the Republican party, you have to change your party affiliation to Republican before this year’s general.  That’s where a lot of the complaints in this primary are coming from.  Independents wanted to vote in the Democratic primary, but they didn’t change their affiliation before last year’s general election.  The contest between Sanders and Clinton hadn’t heated up by then, so people didn’t know how much they would want to be able to take part in the primary.

The idea of open primaries is interesting, but I am not sure I am in support of it.  If you want to vote in a party’s primary, I think you should be registered with that party.  This law that you have to change your affiliation before the next year, seems logical to me.  It (I think) is meant to prevent a bum rush of people voting for a spoiler who won’t be a contender in the general election, in an attempt to sabotage a party’s primary.  Imagine if a candidate with no real experience or agenda was running against an excellent candidate in either a Republican or Democratic primary.  If voters from the opposing party wanted to sabotage the nomination of the other party, they could vote for the spoiler and prop up a lesser candidate against their party’s nominee.

If I Had My Way:
But what am I in favor of?  I got beat up on twitter this week, for trying to explain this whole view, and was even accused of supporting Jim Crow laws.  Yeah, online posters are something.   I am in favor of the following – automatic enrollment at 18, with no party affiliation, until you choose one.  You must be affiliated with a party in which primary you want to participate at least 6 months ahead of the contest.  I know, that may result in missing out on their primary, but it does prevent people from enrolling with a party that they don’t genuinely favor.  I also support elections being a national holiday.  We pride ourselves on our free and open elections, but laws keep getting passed to make it harder to vote, not easier.

I think elections should be a holiday, where voter turnout is as close to 100% as it can get.  Students from high schools should take part, by helping at polling places, so they can learn the process and see democracy in action.  It should be part of their curriculum in school, but we can iron that out with the educators teaching participation in government, or PIG as we called it.

So there you have it.  I want nothing more than for Bernie Sanders to shock the political world, and this country.  I want him to win the nomination and I probably haven’t expressed that as well as I would like, here.  But it’s true.  I am a #Berner and I love the movement.  I #FeelTheBern and will keep supporting his campaign all the way to convention.  It was the coolest feeling, canvassing for his campaign.  I didn’t do as much as I would have liked. I only completed 1 list, but I tried to do my part.  I donate to the campaign and I plan to make time for phone banking this weekend.  I loved getting to vote for him, and I am excited to see how the convention goes.  I have a positive view of how the debate in this primary can raise the level of what we can accomplish in this country.

I am in the absolute minority that I would love to see a Sanders/Clinton ticket.  She would be the presumptive nominee in 4-8 years and that would be perfect, to me.  If that can’t happen, I would also love to see a Sanders/Warren ticket, but I’ll hold off on dreaming too big, until we see how the remaining state primaries go, and how the convention unfolds.  I am a realist and I know there is a real probability that Clinton will get the nomination.

Down with the Hate, Let’s Come Together:
It’s not my first choice, but please don’t take that to mean that I don’t believe Clinton will make an excellent president.  She will, and the hateful attacks on her are so disrespectful.  A lot of them are inflamed by her true opposition, but it makes me sad to see Democrats, Independents and liberals attacking her, and saying #BernieOrBust.  She is not the enemy, and you are doing the bidding of the conservative republicans, when you bash her.  I can’t believe that people will be willing to stay home or vote for Trump, Cruz or Kaisch, just to stick it to Clinton.  I just can’t grasp the reasoning. Trying to write in a name, or vote for a 3rd party, will only ensure that the election is handed to a republican, and that is truly terrifying right now.

I hope those people come around and see what is truly at stake.  Our civil rights, the environment, health care, education and so much more.  Good luck to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.  Good luck to the citizens of the United States.  May we always pay attention to elections.  Learn the candidates. Respect them, but stand up for what you believe in.  Insist that the people elected to office represent you and all of us.

Revolution Now and Forever:
It’s time we vote out the officials who are clogging our system with pandering to lobbyists and conservative prejudices.  McConnell, Cruz, Cotton, Rubio, Paul, Graham.  The list goes on.  It’s time to vote these career politicians out of office, and be willing to vote out any elected official not doing their job.  Our vote is our way of hiring/re-hiring someone for a position, where we are the boss.  It is our right and our duty to pay attention to how people represent us, and to not reward them with votes or by not voting and allowing them to stay in office. Let’s not let this opportunity to wake up and pay attention, go to waste.  Let us move forward with a commitment to vote, not just in Presidential years. Let’s pay attention to the local officials too.  That’s where the power struggle starts.

So we as citizens must start there, if we want to change the way our government is run, from the bottom up.  I believe we can do it.  I believe our vote matters.  If 50% of the population believes their vote doesn’t matter, we have what we have today.  Low turnout and not a lot of participation in choosing who is in office at any level.  If those same 50% would just get involved enough to learn the candidates, and what elected officials are doing in office, we might just get some of the politician not serving the people, out of office and out of the way.  Imagine 90%+ turnout.  What a revolution for democracy, that would be.

Let the twitter attacks commence. (Please don’t be too mean!)