“I have lived inside the belly of the Monster and know him from within.”Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti
I only spent a brief time inside the Democratic Party as an elected delegate for Bernie Sanders in 2020, but it was enough to determine that the monster is indeed irreformable. My delegate journey exposed me to the gross incompetence and corruption within the party. The following reflects my personal experience as a delegate from Colorado’s Congressional District 2. My conclusion from these few months is there is no path forward inside the Democratic Party. This should be no surprise at all, as this is the same party that rigged two primaries to make sure Bernie Sanders would never be president.
In order to become a delegate, it was necessary for me to go through the state caucus system. The Colorado caucuses were held statewide at 2:00 PM on Saturday, March 7 – a time, which was certainly not ideal for everyone, especially resort communities such as my home county, Summit County. In a resort community, the ski resorts are the busiest on a Saturday, meaning the working class are most likely to be working at this time. While Saturday may have made sense to city folk whose work week is a more traditional Monday-Friday, in Summit County it immediately disenfranchised a huge part of the working class. Summit County lies in a house district (HD61) where 23.41% of the workforce works in entertainment and recreation. Only 88 people showed up to caucus in Summit County. My personal observation was that the majority of those who showed up to caucus were over 45. I also do not recall seeing a single minority. The attendees of the caucus already were not representative of the actual population of Summit County. Considering at least 6,110 people voted in the Democratic primary in Summit County, the 88 people who showed up to caucus represented less than 1.5% of those who voted. At the caucus in 2016, which was held on a Tuesday night, 698 people showed up to caucus. Such high numbers could not be expected with the presidential primary not being a part of the process but having it in the evening certainly allowed for broader participation than two o’clock in the afternoon on a Saturday. The process was already off to a bad start and would only get worse.
While the presidential candidate had already been selected in the primary on Super Tuesday, the caucus served to choose senatorial candidates as well as proposed amendments to the state platform, all of which would be finalized at the state convention. In order to advance from the county caucus
, to the county convention, I was required to become a delegate for a senatorial candidate. My choice, Lorena Garcia, was not viable, therefore I had to back Andrew Romanoff in order to continue my journey to become a delegate. My preference was to simply be a Bernie delegate, but this was not an option, I had to become a Romanoff delegate. This was a minor inconvenience but illustrates how convoluted and broken the process truly was. At the caucus, I introduced an amendment to the platform to ban fracking. This would be voted on at the county convention.
The county convention was held via Zoom due to the pandemic. My ban fracking amendment passed with a slim majority at the county convention. It was also at this time that delegate presidential preferences were established so I was able to become a Bernie delegate to the congressional district and state conventions. However, this process did not follow the state guidelines and the delegate allocation was completely wrong.
As part of my campaign to become a Congressional District Delegate, I was given a list of the delegates and their presidential preferences for each county in my congressional district (CD). This was my first insight into how horribly wrong everything was with the process. For example, my county sent the following delegates to the CD convention: 6 for Sanders, 16 for Biden, and 6 for Warren. The correct allocation should have been: 7 for Biden, 5 for Bloomberg, 10 for Bernie, and 6 for Warren. Other counties were not as far off as Summit, but there were discrepancies throughout the entire district. All my attempts to address these issues were for naught. In the case of Broomfield county I was told, “I’m not sure there’s any way to hold them accountable to the math.” Out of all the errors, only one was corrected – an incorrectly assigned delegate was switched back to Bloomberg in Grand County.
This was a clear violation of the Colorado Democratic Party rules, Article III, Part 1, Section E – “Delegates and, if applicable, alternates to all Party assemblies and conventions shall be chosen in a manner which fairly reflects the division of candidate preference, including uncommitted, expressed by those participating in the nominating process including the representation of minority and divergent views. Delegates to conventions shall be allocated to presidential candidate preferences in a fashion that fairly reflects the proportion of votes each candidate received in the Colorado Presidential Primary.” There is a further rule to address this, Part 3, Article II, F (1) – “Candidate preferences which are represented by more than their countywide allotment shall have the voting power of some or all of their precinct delegates diminished to 1⁄2 votes.” This rule was never implemented.
In an election involving a potential total of 769 delegates in CD2, such errors may seem negligible, but as things turned out they certainly could have had an enormous impact on the outcome. The second female Bernie delegate was decided by one vote (Bernie was shorted at least four delegates at the CD level). The Biden female delegate was decided by seven votes (Biden got nine extra delegates in Summit county alone). And there were five votes between first place and last place in the Bloomberg delegate election (Bloomberg was shorted five delegates). As Warren was the only candidate with the correct number of delegates from Summit County, only that race was not potentially changed. One small county incorrectly awarding delegates may have changed 3/4 of the delegate races in CD2.
It should be noted that delegates are pledged, not bound, so they can choose to vote whichever preference. This is not an excuse for incorrectly assigning delegates. While Biden delegates were certainly welcome to vote for Sanders delegates, as a Sanders delegate candidate, I was instructed to only contact delegates in their preference group. According to the Colorado Democratic Platform of 2018, one of the key values of the CDP is: “We believe our votes are our voice. The people of Colorado must be assured that all elections are fair and transparent.” There was absolutely nothing transparent or fair about this process.
I managed to win my delegate election by a significant amount, so decided not to challenge the process. In hindsight, I should have done so, though I still doubt anything significant would have come from this. I now moved on to the state convention, which was also rife with errors. Once again, due to COVID, the convention had been transformed to a digital affair using a Survey Monkey ballot.
Just days before the convention, the news broke that the Sanders and Biden campaigns were negotiating for the return of Bernie’s PLEO (party leaders and elected officials) and at large delegates which had been stolen due to the DNC’s interpretation of Rule 11C. This meant that Bernie delegates were now back on the ballot. Somewhere in this process, the difference between PLEO and at large was blurred – 69 names were put on the PLEO ballot and 72 on the at large ballot. Candidates who had only applied to be on the at large ballot were on the PLEO and vice versa. And it was decided to use ranked choice voting – so the top 9 PLEO’s and top 14 at larges would be ranked by each voter. Two names on both ballots had already been elected as Congressional District delegates. One at large candidate was on the PLEO ballot but not on the at large ballot. At least two names that were on the PLEO ballot in the morning, were not on the at large, then put back on the at large, then removed from the at large ballot in the afternoon.
One issue (of many) with the ranking system through SurveyMonkey was if a voter dragged a candidate’s name to put them in order, the rest of the list was automatically ranked by whatever order they were in – which was alphabetically from the start. So, if a voter did this and only chose their top several, the rest would be organized alphabetically. When the results were finally released, they made no sense at all. Only 28 names were on the PLEO results, 69 on the at large. What happened to the other candidates? Candidates with zero votes were recorded on the results, while candidates who definitely received votes were left off. It took well over a month of discussions and negotiations with the Democratic Party leadership to determine what exactly happened here. The CDP finally admitted there was not any sort of ranked voting used. They only counted first place votes. This meant eight of the choices on the PLEO ballot and 13 on the at large ballot were not counted. Voters did not know this beforehand and have still never been informed this was the case. It was only through the due diligence of myself and other Bernie delegates that we were able to determine what happened.
This is what the actual results looked like – never released to the public before now. The crossed-out names were all spoiled ballots, as were anyone who did not vote for a winner as ranked choice voting was not actually used. This was a true travesty of democracy and the Colorado Democratic Party did nothing to correct it.
At the state convention, the state platform was voted on. The process through which this platform had been created was not open or transparent at all. Those who attend the caucus can introduce resolutions to modify the platform which are voted on within their precinct. These are then voted on at the county assembly by the delegates there. If they pass at the county convention, they are passed onto the platform committee – where no further input from the voters is taken. The overall platform is voted on at state convention, but there is no process whereby it can be modified by anyone outside the platform committee. This is why there was no fracking ban plank inserted into the platform – the platform committee chose to leave it out even though it had passed at my county level and several other counties had passed similar amendments.
This is how the platform committee is chosen – “The chair of the platform committee shall be appointed by the state party chair. Each state representative district central committee and each congressional district central committee at its organizational meeting shall designate and certify to the state chair one member to serve on the platform committee of the state assembly, such designation to be subject to change or ratification at any subsequent central committee meeting or assembly of the particular representative or congressional district held prior to deliberations of the platform committee of the state assembly. Each Initiative may appoint one member to the state Platform Committee. In addition, the incumbent Democratic statewide elected officials, state and federal senators and representatives, together with the chair, 1st vice chair, 2nd vice chair, secretary and treasurer of the state central committee, and the national committee persons shall be members of the platform committee.” (Colorado Democracy Rules and Bylaws, Article V, C 1a.) In other words, the platform committee is full of establishment elites like John Hickenlooper, who do not support a fracking ban. This makes the platform far less progressive than if the people directly voted on it.
After the entire state delegation had been selected, the first order of business was to elect a chair. Unfortunately, the CDP chair was the only person running so the election was just a formality. However, several delegates including I chose to vote against her because of the mishandling of the PLEO/At Large delegate election at the state convention. For some unexplained reason, only the names of those who had voted “no” were announced during the meeting. We were strangely singled out for our opposition. This was a minor thing, but I found it noteworthy that our names were called out as opposed to simply reporting on the number of yes and no votes.
At some point it was announced we would be getting ‘swag bags’ as delegates. In response to this news, I gave the following speech at one of our all-state delegate meetings: “I am concerned with the amount of money being spent on this convention. We are supposed to represent the people – we’re in the middle of a pandemic. People are suffering, I do not want a swag bag or brochure. I want PPE for our front-line workers. I don’t want a huge ordeal wasting money – I want us to help the homeless and those being evicted during this crisis. This waste of money on the convention makes us look insensitive to the reality of this pandemic.” The response to this speech was that a charity working group was formed to determine which charities would be suitable to donate to. I was put in charge of this group and spent a lot of time working on it – speaking with other delegates, researching local and national charities, giving updates to the state delegation, and such. I took this responsibility very seriously as I felt it would do much better than electing Joe Biden would. All this work was for naught – as when I had delivered my final report and was expecting action from the Democratic Party, I was told that the FCC did not allow us to actually donate to a charity. I had been sent on a fool’s errand, doing work that would never be acted on. I spent two months working on this just to be dismissed with a few sentences at one of our morning meetings during the national convention. While the party would have happily spent $100,000 on having a physical location in state for the delegates to meet during the convention (which ended up being scrapped for COVID, but it was definitely under consideration), they did not even bother to find a way to divert some funds to the working class who were dying in a pandemic. I also consider it noteworthy that Bernie was able to raise money for Meals on Wheels, and AOC and the People’s Party both raised money for disaster relief in Texas – so it seems these FCC guidelines are not as strict as I was told. This treatment further reinforced my understanding that the Democratic Party does not care about the working class and only serves to defend capitalism and oligarchy.
The crafting of the Democratic Platform is a major part of the convention. With other delegates, I spent hours poring over state platforms to help make the case that a majority of state democratic platforms supported much of Bernie’s agenda. The results were that 100% of state platforms that mentioned healthcare supported it as a human right. And 63% of these were in favor of a Medicare for All style single payer healthcare system. Of those mentioning climate, a total of 58% supported retooling the economy to address climate change in a method similar to the Green New Deal. Every single one pointed out that climate change is a dire threat. And 60% of state platforms contained reference to free public college for all. A whopping 86% mentioned specific electoral reforms and 97% supported getting money out of politics. State platforms were much more progressive than the Democratic national platform. And not only were these in favor of these reforms, so were many of the delegates from all candidates. The following were the results from a survey of other delegates:
“On the issue of healthcare, when the data was weighted across all of the pledged delegates (based on the current proportions of delegates), 75.1% of the delegates support Medicare for All, and 75.3% support Single-Payer.
On the Climate Crisis, 84.7% of the delegation supports a 10-year mobilization, and 78.9% support the Green New Deal.
On education access, 87.0% of the delegation supports cancellation of student debt, and 77.6% support tuition free college.
When it comes to elections, 71.9% of the delegation support Rank Choice voting, 90.3% support election audits, and 73.2% oppose party interference in primary elections.”
Yet in the end, when the platform was created, the voices of the people were not heard. There was no Medicare for all, no Green New Deal, no free college, no getting money out of politics. The platform committee did not accept any amendments on these matters.
I submitted a suggestion to the credentials committee that the Iowa delegation not be seated because the delegates were inappropriately allocated as the caucus errors were never corrected. The Iowa delegation was seated, and we frequently heard throughout the process that Pete Buttigieg was the first gay man to win a caucus. Due to the issues with delegate selection at the state level in Colorado overviewed above, I also suggested that the Colorado delegation not be seated. This was a tough decision as it would have likely negated my position as delegate, but I felt it was the right action to take. Nothing came of this.
Delegates truly had no real power. When it came to the actual convention, all delegate business was done beforehand in an email where we voted on the platform and put down our presidential selection. The only option to take part in the virtual convention was by submitting a video waving, screaming, and clapping because we had a known racist and alleged rapist with eight women accusing him of sexual harassment and assault as the Democratic nominee. I refused to take part in such pathetic actions. A heroic effort was headed up by Nina Turner to hold the line and vote No on the platform. Over 25% of the delegates voted no. However, the vote totals were never announced on the livestream of the convention. This was against convention rules – but was never corrected. After sufficient harassment, Tom Perez released the totals on a Zoom call with our delegation, but they were not released to the public.
Live Zoom calls every morning were the substitute for the traditional delegate breakfast meetings. During two of these calls, I attended solidarity actions with other Bernie delegates at homeless sweeps that were taking place in Denver at the time. I had the dubious pleasure of live-streaming to the delegation from the sweeps while two of the men responsible, Governor Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock of Denver, were on a call. Our pleas for them to have compassion on the homeless in the middle of a pandemic were completely ignored. The homeless sweeps continue today, despite the winter cold and the continuing pandemic.
Amy Klobuchar spent one of these calls complimenting Biden delegates on their hats and saying she loved the Bernie delegations “issue masks.” The delegation had chosen to wear masks proclaiming our support for Bernie’s policies on each day of the convention as what was often our only form of protest, as chats were often turned off during council meetings at the convention. We had a mask for each day – Medicare for All, Green New Deal, Black Lives Matter, and Native Lives Matter. Even though Klobuchar proclaimed they were great, her actions showed she supported none of the issues.
Other than the ability to attend morning breakfast calls and caucuses and councils, which were not interactive once the chat rooms were turned off after those running them tired of hearing calls for ‘Medicare for All’ and ‘I Believe Tara Reade’ in the chat, the role of a delegate at the convention was the same as anyone watching from home. There were no progressive voices highlighted outside of Bernie’s nomination, which was cut incredibly short. More Republicans spoke at the convention than did progressives. Considering Biden’s hawkish cabinet, it was only fitting that his friendship with “Bomb Iran” McCain was highlighted at the “Democratic” National Convention. After this uninspiring display, I was proud to drop my affiliation with the Democratic Party and register as independent. I will not be going back.
I was only a delegate for a few months, but it was enough to see just how corrupt the party was. Peter Daou was a democratic operative for years and one of the worst critics of the Bernie movement in 2016. Today he is one of the loudest voices against the corruption of the Democratic Party. He has seen far more than I have and understands there is no reforming the party. Do not just listen to me, listen to Peter Daou and others who have seen just how deep the corruption goes. His story is one of redemption from establishment shill to a strong leftist. We can all learn from his journey.
While Biden is known for his lying, it was not a lie when he said, “I am the Democratic Party.” The Democratic Party is the party of the 1994 crime bill, NAFTA, and the Iraq War. They are the party that will not give us Medicare for all or forgive student loan debt. They are the party of fracking. They are a corrupt corporate party that will go to bat for insurance companies but will negotiate with themselves to make sure the working class get less relief money. There is no progress in supporting this bourgeois party. If we believe in an eco-socialist future, we must go forward outside of the Democratic Party. There is no victory in incremental reformism – socialist revolution is only the way forward.