In May of this year, I was elected by local Democratic PCOs to represent us at the Democratic National Convention as a delegate for Joe Biden. It was my first time as a national delegate. I had been a state delegate for Bernie Sanders 4 years ago. I was humbled to be entrusted with such a responsibility. I did my best to do my part at all levels of the journey.
First was the state delegation, where I helped write the state platform. As a delegate, I reviewed it, made suggested edits, and then voted on it at our state convention in June. We got a lot of great things for the LGBTQ+ community and the Black Lives Matter movement and much more. I am proud to say that our state managed to do more work on our platform this year than any year before by a large margin. Most of this was because it was a virtual convention.
Many people were disappointed by the conventions being virtual. However, Washington’s state convention showed that it could still be highly productive, in fact, more so than previous live conventions, from my experience. In fact, I hope we keep elements of the virtual convention in the coming years, such as virtually reviewing the platform and turning in our suggestions, creating our minority reports before the convention. Also, that debate is limited in scope so that we can get through it all.
The national convention went well but could have learned from our state’s convention. For instance, delegates do not get to vote on sections of the national platform. It is strictly an up or down vote of yes or no. Many people I spoke to felt disenfranchised by this lack of participation in the process. Like me, many others voted yes as a show of unity while knowing that there were elements in it that could have been better. This part seemed to be the most significant controversy among delegates. Those who had never been through this process before seemed disappointed.
What they don’t tell you when you run for this position is how many meetings there are before the convention starts. There were Zoom meetings throughout June and July to learn how to vote, what events to plan for, and whether or not we should expect to travel to Milwaukee. Of course, we didn’t go to Milwaukee, but that decision took a long time for the DNC to make, and many were concerned about the outcome. I was relieved not to have to travel during this pandemic, not be on the bus with 116 other Washington delegates every morning and evening and spending my days in a convention hall surrounded by thousands of others. But many others were disappointed to miss this experience. I do hope to attend this event live someday, but it didn’t feel like we should now.
The week kicked off with a Zoom meeting on Sunday for Washington and Oregon delegates. We got to break out into separate rooms based on our interests. Later that night, AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) had a fun kickoff event with music and celebrities. Then we had convention break out sessions throughout the week. Every group imaginable held a Zoom meeting that you could participate in or observe. I went to a municipal government meeting for the LGBTQ+ caucus, the women’s caucus, the Human Rights Campaign, the Labor Council, and many others. You could have filled every moment from 9 am to 6 pm with Zoom events if you wanted to. I came close. Then each evening, the DNC had their broadcast. I have to say it was much more inclusive and meaningful than the conventions I have watched on TV in the past. If you didn’t get to watch, I recommend you go to YouTube and check it out. Talking to people in the debrief Thursday, I get the impression that some of these elements are here to stay.
Overall the convention was much more inclusive than in past years. Most meetings were open to the public and just a hyperlink away. People who could not afford to travel to Milwaukee or people with disabilities had an easier path to participation. And, as with anything new, there was room for improvement. The convention meetings had the awkward pauses when people didn’t know they were on camera. The trolls that caused public comments to get shut off all too often and networking with other delegates were more than a little challenging. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was an inspiring week that showed me we have reason to hope for a better future.