Personal Thoughts to Consider Writing About (PUBLISH?)
6 Years Ago
Reflecting where I am now and where I was six years ago I wonder if I could send back information to myself, how would I react as to where I am today. I recall being in New York City conversing with fellow activists on how to address wealth inequality, how to release the corporate grip over our government, one that the two major parties were failing at addressing as they were helping to maintain this status quo as we spent the day surrounded by a very large amount of New York police officers. We of course were complying with the rules on the metal sign in the park that allowed us to be there 24/7 to peacefully assemble as we were. And I remember as the night came so did the assault from NYPD. Locking arms with anyone around me I watched police violently beat and throw out everyone in the park. It was St. Patrick’s Day and NYPD were not enforcing the drunken city, they were attempting to crush dissent.
It of course did not work. Today we see a much more massive grassroots effort, people getting involved in all the areas that are needed to create systemic change in our nation. It brought me into the Democratic Party. Others are running for office, engaging in and growing activist groups, speaking in organized efforts with legislators to pass or block legislation and in so many areas too numerous to capture them all. I won’t forget times like that in New York and I wonder how much I should be conveying to everyone out there, who know the struggle is real.
Surprise Second 2017 FDP Chair Election
I wrote previously about my hopes and concerns for the future of our party before an upcoming state chair election. After the election was over I was going to write about the vote. I was going to write that the vote numbers did not tell the full story of the election. That people loved the vision from a candidate of what could be, that captured the energy of where grassroots power is going with or without parties. That at the same time our current party leaders also found comfort in a proven-in-the-party candidate as we were heading into a critical mid-term election year that could provide seamlessly what was needed and could be counted on right now. It was interesting how many people with a vote, albeit weighted, wanted to take the best of these two leaders and combine it into their vote.
For the next few months I was going to write about the progress of the party reform efforts of our state while both observing and then participating in the Ad Hoc Charter and Bylaws Committee process. And how I was then appointed to the Rules Committee by our new state chair and write about my experience reviewing the suggested reformed bylaw document with the new committee. As I get more familiar with the inner workings of our party structure, I considered writing about flaws I have been observing in the core of the organization that claims to be grassroots and bottom up, and how it appears potentially unattainable from my perspective based on my new discoveries. I wondered if this was intentional, or a mistake that just needed to be addressed and then corrected.
I wondered if I should write about my attempt to bring this before the rules committee, not because I thought they would agree or understand it, but because it would open up a conversation to consider and see if there was any validity to my observations. I wondered if I should write about the fact that I was not even able to convey this because the people did not want to allow the respect of even hearing the points because they interrupted the process and the chair did not bring it back on track until I was too angry to speak.read more
I probably should not write about that, because it may distract from the great work the committee did accomplish that weekend which was an enormous undertaking in just two days. It may take away from so much progress that was made on a draft set of bylaws that offered real reform and vital updates to a framework in which our state and county parties need. And I thought the hard work of so many people would be put into a shadow of more controversy that really was simply a result of weary people working many hours for an effort that everyone there believed in, and so many great parts of themselves were put into the language, that represents so many people we care about and we hope it would help us all fight for.
DNC/ FDP reform
And this past weekend, what story do I write about for my trip to DC for the DNC’s review and support for the Unity Reform Commission’s suggestions? Do I write about the ultimate reason I went up when I thought I did not need to go? That I wanted to be there to support someone who has presented a challenge to the DNC in an effort to bring our bylaws into a more democratic and fair process, a battle that been ongoing unsuccessfully for almost a decade?
How do I write about that event itself? Do I write that he was not treated with the same respect he laid out in his opening statement? One that clearly showed his support and respect for the people that were affected by this challenge if we fail as a state party to bring our bylaws into compliance with simply core democratic values? Do I talk about how people whose positions were at stake decided to spend less time on the issues and instead made this personal, called the challenger out by name, were extremely disrespectful, distorted information to a committee that was new to this challenge and did not know the history of it? Or do I ignore talking about all this because we want to try to pass the Florida reforms that are centered around this challenge, and talking about the emotional aspects may not allow us to bring each other together and find the common ground that can solve the concerns everyone has to ensure we can pass reforms that work?
Presentation to the DNC Credentials Committee
by Rick Boylan, March 9, 2018
Thank you for this opportunity to speak. I want to reassure each of you that I am a loyal and true-blue Democrat who believes in the Democratic Party and believes we should always aspire to be the best.
I had the privilege to serve on the staff of the Democratic National Committee for 20 years. As part of the staff, I learned about Fannie Lou Hammer and her fight for voting rights and a voice in the Democratic Party. In 1964, she helped us understand the need for change. Democrats instituted major reforms in the 1970s & 1980s to open up our Party and our processes. That spirit continues to be a driving principle today as seen by the recommendations from the Unity Reform Commission.
After leaving the DNC staff, I eventually found myself in Florida. Inevitably, I got involved in the Democratic Party. In 2008, I watched as the State Party fought with the DNC about whether Florida could hold its presidential primary ahead of other states. That was also when I witnessed a small group of members from the largest counties deciding who would serve as the state’s at-large delegates. At the time, I didn’t understand how they could do this. I didn’t realize that handful of members carried enough votes to make those decisions. To me, this seemed completely contrary to the way the Democratic Party conducts its business.
That was the reason why I decided I wanted to become my county’s male representative to the state committee. When I was elected, I discovered I carried 28 votes! Then, the state committee elected me to serve as state party secretary — a position I held for four years.
Serving as Secretary was mind-opening. Imagine a meeting where a vote must be nearly unanimous or it has to be done by written ballot. With weighted votes, you cannot distinguish the voice of one member who casts 60 votes from a member who casts only one. We can’t do a show of hands because we only have two hands.
Florida’s system of weighted votes was instituted in the 1970s as a way to proportionately reflect each county’s registration and Democratic voting strength. At the time, Florida had 15 Congressional Districts and Democrats controlled most elected offices in state government along with congressional seats. The goal was to keep things small and under control. Almost 50 year later, Florida is the fifth largest state with 27 Congressional Districts and Republicans now control the state government and a majority of our congressional seats.
Each county elects one male and female to serve on the state committee. Those representatives cast votes weighted to reflect their county’s registration and performance. With 67 counties, we have 134 representatives who cast just over 1,000 votes. Under Florida’s weighted voting system, the 14 representatives from the seven largest counties control over 50% of those votes.
When we cast our weighted votes, we cast a block of votes. While we may intend for these votes to reflect a majority of our Democratic Party constituents, there is no way to truly reflect the diversity of opinion within our Party. In other words, our votes essentially conflict with the Party’s prohibition of the Unit Rule, under which all votes are cast in accordance with the will of a majority.
And frankly, with only two members from each county, our state committee is pretty old and pretty white. African Americans, Hispanics and youth are very under-represented.
Florida Democrats can do better. But, changing our bylaws requires a 2/3 vote. With over half the votes held by a handful of members, we haven’t yet been able to make this change.
In 2015, our previous State Chair, along with the co-chairs of the party’s rules committee and the chair of a select committee on bylaws [Nancy] asked for a rules clarification about whether it is appropriate for a state party to use weighted votes to conduct party business — including the election of DNC members.
On October 28, 2015, the Co-Chairs of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, Jim Roosevelt and Lorraine Miller, told Florida that our weighted voting system conflicts with the Party’s guiding principle of “one person, one vote.”
The RBC Co-Chairs told Florida to change its rules and implement a new “one person, one vote” structure before selecting our new DNC members for this cycle.
In spite of that clear directive, nothing happened. When Florida elected its DNC members in January 2017, it was business as usual.
Of the 10 DNC members elected by the state committee, nine were from among the seven counties that control a majority of the votes. And in fact, those nine members represent just five of Florida’s 67 counties.
I want to be clear. Florida’s DNC members are all good people. This challenge is not a personal criticism of them or their commitment to this Party; it is a criticism of our state’s process. It was very difficult for me to decide to file this challenge, but I’m doing so because I believe it will help my state party to become a better state party.
Using weighted votes looks wrong and is wrong. As Democrats, we talk about having more people involved. We talk about more having more diversity and more diverse opinions. We talk about the status quo being unacceptable.
But, when Florida’s state committee held its election for officers and DNC members in January 2017, the party chose to do things the old way.
Both the Credentials Committee and the Rules and Bylaws Committee have taken strong stands to make state parties and Democratic organizations use one person, one vote systems rather than weighted votes.
A year ago, after I filed this challenge, State Chair Stephen Bittel and I agreed to ask the Credentials Committee to delay its consideration of this challenge for one year — until this meeting. In their March 16, 2017 letter granting the delay, the Credentials Committee Co-Chairs Karen Carter Peterson and Andres Lopez said “the decision to postpone consideration … does not alter the significance of the central issue raised in the Challenge [Florida’s use of weighted votes].” They added that given the ruling by the RBC, “the Credentials Committee takes this Challenge very seriously” and that the Committee has the “authority to revoke members’ credentials if this issue is not adequately resolved.”
State Chair Bittel appointed a committee to develop new bylaws that incorporated a new voting structure that proportionately allocates members, rather than votes. The ad hoc committee has finished its work and those new bylaws were reviewed last month by the state’s Rules Committee. At this point, the plan is to present those new bylaws to the State Committee for a vote next month.
Today, I am requesting two things:
- To allow consideration of my challenge to be postponed until the 2018 Summer DNC meeting. The “heavy lifting” on new bylaws has already been done. This matter will not be the focus of the Florida Democratic Party and will not impact our time, attention and work on electing Democrats in November.
- A strong message from this committee condemning the use of weighted voting. As I’ve said, adopting new bylaws will take a 2/3 vote. The members controlling those votes need to hear a clear message that Florida needs to get rid of weighted votes. I am asking that your message strongly reiterate that in accordance with the guidance this committee has previously given to Florida and other state parties and Democratic groups, the use of weighted votes is not how the Democratic Party conducts its business and must be corrected.
At the next meeting of the Credentials Committee, I hope to announce that the Florida Democratic Party has resolved this matter and that my challenge is withdrawn.
However, if the state party fails to take action on weighted votes, I’ll be back at the next meeting. I will be asking this committee to unseat Florida’s DNC members and require us to hold a new election for DNC members under a process that does not use weighted votes.
Thank you for your consideration. I would be happy to answer any questions.
Engagement, Dialogue and Finding Solutions
Do I then talk about the 3 hours I spent after the meeting with a DNC member, who brainstormed with me ways we can solve the divide we find ourselves in after that credentials meeting? Do I talk about that later night conversation I had with our state chair who I shared my concerns of what a failed vote on reform in April would do to us, and how she expressed the desire to find a way to make this all work, while sharing other efforts she is working on that were inspiring, that would bring in powerful new aspects to our election year, who was positive we would find a way forward that worked?
Do I talk about the mistrust between what has become sides in a reform battle, that has waged on for longer than newer members have been involved, for different reasons than people have today for the reforms? Do I talk about the intentional games and interference in a solution being conducted by some, and genuine misunderstandings by others?
Do I talk about how an all volunteer operation, that has gone through organizational changes on top of the enormous work being done on a daily basis, is trying to get information out to everyone to be able to work from the same baseline documents? Do I talk about the shear confusion of which level of organization is referenced when discussing topics when reform efforts are being worked on at three different levels, which results in people walking away thinking they have each discussed something rationally only to find out they were each talking about different things and agreeing on misunderstood points?
I wonder if I write about the discussion I had before I left to get on my plane, that left me more hopeful that the DNC actually is trying to reform the party and find ways to implement the Unity Commission Report, while in Florida we seem to find more obstacles to evolving our state party and how I expected this to be the other way around?
DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison to DNC that applies to FDP reform
Proposed Bylaws broken into separate discussions
Do I mention the ideas from both of these “sides” to explore breaking the bylaw reforms into phases for approval? Some of whom want a total up or down vote, and some who want it broken into parts, who differ on what parts should go first?
I wonder if I should convey my observations over the year of Ad Hoc meetings where I saw literally snail’s pace progress made UNTIL the weighted vote topic was discussed and resolved, regardless of whether to the satisfaction of all present. That was a barrier to all other reforms and I wonder if I should convey how strongly I feel that if it makes sense to break the vote into parts, that we MUST start with the topic of solving how we allocate votes into one person one vote. And with so many reforms outlined, it makes so much sense to spend time on items separately or several smaller ones together, so people can really understand what is being proposed, and work out solutions that everyone can find together.
If I write about these ideas, do I write them to all Democrats, or do I write this to progressives? Do I write this to reformers, who encompass the full range of our big tent party, who inspire me greatly about simply restoring a democratic process? Do I write this to appeal to those in which I want to make sure dialogue is open so we can bridge the divide that may not be so vast as it may appear? Or do I write it to help get my trip covered that I could not afford to go on, to give them hope that we are making progress, or paint a shiny picture that things are rosy, or that I make great strides in our efforts?
Do I write about how this all reminds me of a dysfunctional family, that have the full range of those we want to see, and those who make us cringe, but will inevitable make it home for the holidays and realize how much we really care about them, before we reach our limit and have to leave and then complain about them for days to everyone we see?
What I want to write
I don’t know. I want to write about the time where we pass reform at the national level, how on our state level we found solutions that worked for everyone, and how we came together in each county and rocked a midterm election cycle that has the potential to push our country back on the rails. That will be the story I will write, and I look forward to doing it. Either way, I should not mention all those other things, it’s too inter family stuff, and should be more focused on the progress. I don’t want to write how a failed vote to reform the party could send us down a path that hurts our elections in ways that we cannot imagine.
So I should wait and see how our next 4 weeks play out with the massive efforts underway and see if I can write about the success of the work without talking about all the blood sweat and tears. There is a lot of work to do between now and then. And this is way too long to publish.