Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#208 / Convention Commentary #2

Here is my second day of Convention commentary, a report from the 2016 Democratic National Convention, being held this week in Philadelphia (the "City of Brotherly Love," as at least one Convention speaker said last night). I may have more about "love," later.

I predict that I will be putting these comments online at about one o'clock in the afternoon, Philadelphia time - or at about 10:00 o'clock in the morning in California. Delegates have to board busses at about 2:00 p.m., to get to the Wells Fargo Center, and then to get through security, to be in the Convention Hall for the 4:00 p.m. opening gavel. That means my "coverage" of the Convention will always be coming out with about a day's delay. Today, Tuesday, I'll be reporting on this morning's California Democratic Party Breakfast, and what happened yesterday evening at the Convention. For a report on today's Convention events (which will include a scheduled roll call of all the Delegates, on a state by state basis) you will have to tune in tomorrow - or tune in to your television.

Bernie Sanders made an unscheduled appearance at the California Breakfast this morning. The California Delegation (the nation's largest, of course) is housed at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott. Speaking today at the breakfast were lots of impressive people. Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken spoke. Both were great. Franken also spoke to the entire Convention last night, along with comedian Sarah Silverman, a Bernie backer who told chanting Bernie Delegates, who were objecting to positive references to Hillary Clinton, that they were being "ridiculous." California Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris spoke this morning, and so did Tom Steyer, the billionaire backer of NextGen Climate Action. Congress Member Keith Ellison, a Bernie backer, was also a speaker at the breakfast, and since he is from Minnesota, too, we had quite a "Minnesota Morning," with a little of the Old South thrown in with the appearance of civil rights hero John Lewis, a Congress Member from Georgia.

Most of the remarks of these breakfast speakers focused on the need for Democrats to get behind Hillary Clinton, so the Party could be "Stronger Together," one of the official slogans decided upon, clearly, by the Party's inside leadership, since that phrase appeared not only on signs waved by the delegates for the camera, but in the speeches of almost every speaker at the Convention last night.

As I will explain a bit later, it appeared at the Convention last night that California Delegates for Bernie Sanders were at the epicenter of anti-Hillary objections. Bernie came to the California breakfast (again, on an unscheduled basis) to try to calm the roiling waters. As he had at the Convention, he gave a wonderful speech, and ended up with a call for a unified anti-Trump effort under the banner of Hillary Clinton. It's not clear how successful he was in convincing his California delegates. As at the meeting Bernie called of all his 1,900 delegates yesterday (a meeting held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, right next door to the Marriott, and a meeting which I attended), Bernie got booed by his own delegates when he said we should all support Hillary. Same thing, on a smaller scale, this morning. They are not exactly high-definition, but above, and immediately below, are photos which give you at least a sense of the scene at the "California Democratic Breakfast Club."

Just to let you know, I am running across people I have known from my past political involvements, here at the Convention. Zach Friend, for instance, a Santa Cruz County Supervisor, was on the Convention Floor as a "whip." Congress Members John Garamendi and Anna Eshoo passed by and chatted. I briefly shook the hand of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who has been the object of much scorn from Bernie supporters in California, because of voting irregularities; I know Alex from my days as an environmental lobbyist in Sacramento, when he was an outstanding member of the State Legislature from Los Angeles. Mike Honda, Congress Member from San Jose, was at the breakfast this morning. So was former Santa Cruz Mayor Christopher Krohn, who is acting like a reporter, and interviewing everyone within sight. I have already reported that I am rooming with Monterey City Council Member Alan Hoffa, who is running for reelection this November. One of the joys of the Convention, for me, has been an opportunity to get to know Alan, another Bernie Sanders' Delegate. I am ready to make an endorsement. If you can vote for Alan Haffa this November, do it! That's my very strong recommendation. I have found him to be a hardworking, thoughtful, respectful, and generous person, and a very smart guy, besides! Finally, I am seeing a lot of former colleague Jane Dolan, who served on the Butte County Board of Supervisors for thirty-two years, dwarfing my twenty years as an elected official. Jane's husband, Bob Mulholland, whom I first met as a Tom Hayden compatriot, is a long-time worker for the Democratic Party. He is ever present here in Philadelphia.

I am an Alternate Delegate, which means that I will normally sit in a different section from the official, non-alternate Delegates. However, yesterday, one of the official delegates didn't pick up his or her credentials, and that means that I got selected to sit with the California delegation on the Floor. Today, it's likely I'm going to be in the "binoculars only" section. At any rate, I found the Convention's first day emotionally draining. As a Bernie Sanders' Alternate Delegate, I am here to vote (given the chance) for Bernie Sanders for President, believing, as I truly do, that he would be the best candidate for the Democratic Party to put forward, and the best candidate to beat Donald Trump this November. As you can imagine, other California Delegates for Bernie feel exactly the same way.

As I noted yesterday, Hillary Clinton does not have enough "pledged delegates" to claim the nomination. While she has more than Bernie Sanders does, she doesn't have enough to claim the nomination on the basis of the "pledged delegates" who are legally bound to vote for her. To secure the nomination, Hillary has to rely on the so-called "Super Delegates," many of whom have said they will vote for her, but who don't legally have to vote for her, and who haven't, in fact, yet voted for her. In other words, Hillary has not (YET) been properly named as the Democratic Party nominee. It's almost a certainty that she will be, but Bernie Delegates believe that there needs to be a vote. 

Yesterday, every time someone in the Convention acted like Hillary Clinton was already the nominee (and EVERY speaker did that), the message to the Bernie Delegates was that "your vote doesn't matter; we already know who we want ("we" being the people on the inside, who are running the Convention), and this rather infuriated those who came to cast their vote for Bernie. Many Bernie delegates are new to the Democratic Party, and the message seems to be, "we don't want you here; go back to where you came from, and let us get on with God's work, electing the first female President and stopping Donald Trump." The Bernie Delegates thought that the Convention was about actually making that selection; once it's made, by a vote, the losers might be able to accept that they lost and move on forward. But to have "lost" before the vote is taken? That's an insult and it's offensive, and that is the way that this Convention has been run.

Why is that? I think it's because this situation is, actually, not usual. Generally, when the Convention is held, whether the official roll call has been held or not, it is clear that one candidate has received more than the requisite number of votes, from "pledged" delegates, to be nominated, and there really isn't any "question" about who the nominee will be. In that case, it makes sense to treat the whole event as a big celebration, orchestrated to promote the Party's already-selected candidate. 

That is not, though, the situation this year, at least not from the point of view of the Bernie Sanders' Delegates. They, like Bernie, may be "pretty good at arithmetic," but they aren't going to "concede," which is what the Party is, actually, trying to push them to do (though the Party doesn't seem to understand that this is the effect of the way they are running the Convention). In the face of this treatment, many (not all, but many) Bernie Delegates are protesting vociferously, and booing Hillary's name, and otherwise indicating their great displeasure. That "division" and "lack of unity," in fact, has become "the story," at least as some of the media are playing it. California is at ground zero of the "opposition." That is why Bernie made that special trip to the breakfast, today. The very last thing that the Party (or the nation) wants or needs is a political result that makes it more likely that Donald Trump will be elected. Hopefully, that won't, in the end, be the result. 

It's clear to me that the Convention (this Convention, in these circumstances) should have been run differently. Yesterday, the first day of the Convention, there should have been nomination speeches, and then the roll call. If Hillary won (we do know the arithmetic), then it would be hard to get mad when people got up on the stage and praised Hillary as "the candidate," after the official nomination was, in fact, secured. 

But that isn't the way it has been done, and I'm hoping that the Party (and Hillary Clinton) will get the point, and be reconciling, not reactionary, in the face of the anger of Sanders' Delegates who believe (1) that Bernie would be better and (2) that the Party worked from day one to undermine and defeat Bernie Sanders and his revolutionary ideas about transforming American politics, and that the whole Party and its candidate are, therefore, illegitimate. There is some real danger there. Once officially nominated, the successful candidate (Hillary Clinton if the arithmetic holds) needs to embrace the new, vital energy of the Bernie Sanders' revolution, and change the Democratic Party accordingly. If the election in November is between two personalities (neither of whom is much liked by the general voting public), the outcome is hard to predict, and no one should take it for granted that ugliness can't prevail. 

This posting is seeming pretty long, to me, and I need to eat. Food is not exactly easily available at the Convention, and so I am going to fill up before getting on that bus. I do, actually, have more to say. This Convention has been, in some ways, infuriating, but in others very much inspiring. Maybe I can provide some inspiration in my Convention commentary tomorrow. Like, let's hear it for Michelle Obama and Cory Booker (what great speeches - inapposite references to Hillary notwithstanding)!

In terms of pictures, here is one from Sunday. I got to take part in the March for a Clean Energy (anti-fracking) Revolution. I'd bet 10,000 or more people were marching in the Philadelphia streets, including yours truly. That's inspiring, too!

Image Credits:
Gary A. Patton, Personal Photos


  1. Thank you Gary, for the "inside" views of the chaos!

  2. Dear Gary, Thanks so much for your perspective and what you say makes a lot of sense. Surprised, with all of tosese breakfast speakers you were not already floating away. Thank you so much, and all those that have joined you, for marching against fracking as well.

  3. Great to hear all the inside details! I feel insulted by the way the California delegation was seated in some obscure corner of the convention center.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and insights about the Convention. This is really valuable work and much appreciated!

  5. I truly admire your ability to modulate your frustration and ire over the treatment of Bernie's delegates with your knowledge that going off half cocked rarely accomplishes what one is trying to accomplish...if only I could behave even similarly...sigh.
    I would ask that you think over the notion of continuing to support Bernie and our revolution by helping to elect a progressive senate with Bernie as the Majority Leader - he could accomplish so much more, and without the oligarchy chewing on his liver all the time.
    Cheers from Mexico,
    Karen K. Anderson - Director Emeritus, CFPD

  6. Thanks Gary! As always, your comments are cogent and insightful. Glad to hear you're "keeping the faith." my sister, Roberta Flashman is also an alternate bernie delegate – from Massachusetts. It looks like we are "stuck" with Hillary. at this point, I am going back to Ivins' rule. Don't decide your vote before looking at YOUR STATE's polling a week before election day. If the difference between the two leading candidates is more the 5%, vote your conscience. If it's <5%, hold your nose & vote for the better of the top two. I'm thinking that in CA, I'll get to vote my conscience.

  7. Just want to add that the California primary and its aftermath were a National embarrassment. Our elections are so fundamentally broken in much of the U.S. (no paper trail, reduced voting sites, poorly constructed ballots, conflicting and confusing rules from one polling place to another, clear evidence of electronic vote tampering - Gore "got" minus 16,000 votes in one Florida county in 2000........think about that for a moment and let it fully sink in.). As Secretary of State, Padilla needs to be held accountable as do ALL of our elected officials that allow this disgraceful charade to continue unfixed.


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