Victory in Virginia - A Revolutionary Debriefing

On Saturday, June 18th, the Democratic Party of Virginia held its State Convention in the heart of Richmond. On paper, the conditions of the Convention were daunting to the Sanders Delegation: Clinton defeated Sanders in the March 1st primary 64% to 35% and, as a result, was allotted 1295 Delegates to the State Convention; Sanders was allotted 705. Even more, our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Commonwealth, and both Senators all openly support Hillary Clinton.

An uphill battle, for sure. Now let's examine the political reality: out of 1295 allotted Clinton Delegate seats, only 856 were filled. That's a whopping 66% in a state in which Clinton loyalists permeate the Party. In sharp contrast, out of 705 allotted Sanders Delegate seats, 618 were filled - 88%. The composition of the Delegation on Saturday therefore shifted to 58% Clinton, 42% Sanders.

We could describe this euphemistically in terms of an "enthusiasm gap." But let's be blunt: only one candidate energizes voters to come out and vote, particularly the coveted "independent" voters that tend to comprise between 35% and 50% of the general electorate, depending on your source.

We were only able to achieve such a feat because of the hard work, technical prowess, and extraordinary passion of Sanders volunteers, organizers, Caucus Chairs, Delegates, Alternates, and all of our families. Despite the logistical obstacles erected (not necessarily intentionally) by the Party and the Campaign, our last-minute push ensured not only the higher participation rate, but our ability to confidently secure a progressive platform.

Bernie has made clear the immediate importance of fighting for a progressive Party platform at the local, state, and national levels. On Saturday, the Democratic Delegation at the Convention passed the most progressive resolutions package in modern Virginia history by an overwhelming majority.

The Resolutions Committee was comprised of 22 members - only 3 were Sanders Delegates. Yet the intrepid Alex Cloud and Sandra J Klassen fought tirelessly on behalf of the rest of the Sanders Delegation. Without covering all 30 resolutions (find them here), consider the following resolution topics:

(1) In Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty. I cannot stress how important this is, as both of our Senators (Kaine & Warner) voted for TPP fast-track. Doris Crouse-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO, was instrumental in this particular victory. Although neutral during the presidential primary, she unapologetically fought to advance the rights and interests of workers in Virginia. Anyone present for her speech at the Convention understands why she was reelected as a DNC member this weekend.

(2) In Support of Legislation to Remove the Pernicious Influence of Money on Government.

(3) In Opposition to the Death Penalty. Sadly, Virginia still executes its citizens.

(4) In Support of Non-Partisan Redistricting. OneVirginia2021 has been making incredible strides on this front.

(5) Calling for Medicare For All. Calling for Medicaid Expansion.

(6) Endorsing Raising the Minimum Wage to $15 per Hour.

(7) Supporting Equality for the LGBT Community. Primary politics aside, Governor McAuliffe should be commended for wielding his veto and saving Virginians from sliding into the shame and disgrace North Carolinians must now live with. The fight for LGBT equality is without a doubt the civil rights movement of my generation.

Please take the time to read them all. The language isn't always as strong as we'd like. And it's true that the resolutions are non-binding and very much symbolic. Still, I believe the overwhelming support for this package represents a clear progressive victory in Virginia.

These resolutions are meant to establish the guiding principles and parameters of the DPVA for the next four years. If our Party is to claim any democratic legitimacy in process and decision-making, it needs to take these resolutions seriously. As always, it'll be up to us to remind our elected Democrats of the now-explicit values and positions of our State Party.

Let's talk about Trump. Aside from the constant fawning over Hillary from the podium, there was a palpable push for Tump-based fear. We even had to endure a short film on the big screens - minutes after minutes of the Best of Trump, an unbelievable spectacle at a Democratic Party Convention.

But how many of our Delegates showed up because they were afraid of Trump? Why couldn't the Clinton Delegation fill their seats with citizens concerned about the prospect of a Trump Administration? These questions needn't be specifically answered for us to understand why this strategy may very well fail. If you want to defeat Donald Trump, you need to offer a positive alternative that explicitly refutes his most vile, half-witted claims.

On Saturday, we showed Virginia how you fight Trump. We were tasked with electing five members to the Democratic National Committee, and the "establishment" presented a four-member slate (I've heard one of those members elegantly described as "villainous"). We broke that slate, and the only Sanders supporter running - Yasmine Taeb - earned the most votes of all the candidates.

Yasmine is a passionate lawyer in the Arlington area who advocates for human rights and civil liberties. As an Iranian-American Muslim who, during childhood, lived in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant, she provides an intimate knowledge of the conditions of life for the millions who rarely have a political voice.

When confronted by the spectre of Trump and his misogynistic, xenophobic, intellectually bankrupt ideas, the Delegation responded by electing a strong, female, Muslim immigrant into a position of influence, thus giving power to the under-represented communities he's attacking. Fear is not a sufficient motivation. Empowerment, participation, representation - these are the ideals that should animate our strategy.

Finally, I want to congratulate our newly elected National Delegates and PLEOs: Daphne Charette, Ayman Eldarwish, Sonia Klein, Pritidhara Jini Mohanty, Jason RylanderStephen SpitzAnne TuckerChristopher Fury, Cyliene Montgomery, Marcia Price, Supervisor Koran Saines, and Hugh Auld. Our team is infinitely stronger with you on board.

It's now time for us to harden ourselves and focus our minds. Even though the Sunday National Delegate presentation dealt with exclusive parties, "A-list" attendees, and Dionysian changes to Philly liquor law for the week, we have work to do. The Virginia Delegation shares a hotel with the New York Delegation, and there's much we can learn from our New York brothers and sisters.

As National Delegates, our responsibility is to fight tooth and nail at the Convention in order to secure the nomination for Bernie Sanders and force the Democratic Party to adopt a platform that advances progressive change to better the lives of average Americans.

Nobody expects this to be easy. But as we work the Convention from the inside, we need to remember who we're working for: the millions (why not?!) of everyday citizens standing in solidarity in the streets of Philly.

We left Richmond feelin' the Bern. And as Virginia goes, so goes Philadelphia.