I am a Michigan Democratic Party member, serving on the State Central Committee and the State Party Rules Committee. Together with a coalition of many people from across the state, I am working to bring greater democracy, transparency, and inclusion to the Michigan Democratic Party.

The MDP Rules Committee met for the first time this year on November 7th. We were assembled to address the Proxy Problem, as I wrote about here. Another item was added to the agenda at the last minute. A proposal from Traci Kornac (CD3) to ban all recordings of MDP meetings. Here’s her specific language,

There shall be no audio or visual recording at any meeting of any MDP unit, without the prior approval of the MDP State Chairperson.

The establishment wants to close all MDP meetings – from local clubs to the State Convention – to every party member who can’t attend in person. They seem to want as few people as possible to see and hear what goes on at Party meetings. Why is that? What are they trying to hide? What are they afraid people will see? 

The establishment has an excuse for their authoritarianism. They say some members are “uncomfortable” being recorded, and some have felt “intimidated” by someone recording. We have a Code of Conduct. Anyone who feels aggrieved should file a complaint, not ram through a rule designed to hide how we conduct Party business. It makes us look like we’re trying to hide something. 

If we want to grow the Party, we have to think about the future of the Party. Who’s going to be voting for Democrats in the years to come, and how do we make them feel welcome in the Party?

The youth vote jumped from 13% in 2014, to around 28.2% in 2018, and youth voters prefer Democratic candidates to Republicans by a 35 point margin. That trend is going to continue in 2020, when Millennials and Gen Z will make up about 40% of the electorate. Just to be clear, the youth prefer progressive policies like Sanders is offering – among voters under 50 years old, he leads the field with 37% support, besting his nearest rival, Warren, by 15 points and Biden by 22 points, according to the latest Emerson poll.

Millennials and Gen Z grew up with video recorders in their pockets. Even if we passed this ridiculous rule, we’d never be able to enforce it. They’re not going to stop recording just because the Party said so. They’re going to whip out their phones and record. Then we’re going to what? Make them stop? Kick them out of the meeting? Kick them out of the Party? And that’s going to encourage young people to join? How’s that going to make the Party look in their videos? Or are we going to confiscate their phones? How much of a police state atmosphere can we expect under such a rule?

Millennials and Gen Z expect to find videos of open meetings on the web. In the digital age, that’s what an open meeting is. In the past, we didn’t have cameras, then they were bulky and expensive – it was impossible for an organization like the MDP to post video of its meetings. Now we expect cameras to come be built-in to our phones as a standard feature, basically for free. 

There is no technical reason we can’t record and share every meeting online. In our present technological environment, open to the public means recording it and making it available to the public online. Otherwise, it’s closed to everyone who can’t attend in person. When we didn’t have the technology, that was reasonable. Now, when a meeting is open to the public, there’s no reason it can’t be made available to the public whether they can attend or not.

The reason for this proposal at this time is obvious – they got caught on video (26:00 – 28:00) using their proxy farming system to rig the vote at the State Central meetings in St. Ignace, and they’re embarrassed about it. The majority of people in the room voted to urge the DNC to have a presidential debate on global warming – but there were more proxies in the room than people. Some establishment folks had 10 proxies or more. Proxies over people voted the resolution down. This is the kind of thing they desperately want to hide behind a recording ban. They also pack State Central, and by their own admission use the unit rule – which is explicitly banned under DNC and MDP rules. There are other ways they abuse or break the rules.

So here’s my first recommendation, amend the rules to add:

A free press being necessary to democracy, the right to record open meetings of MDP units shall not be infringed.

Personally, I think recording State Central meetings should be mandatory. State Central meetings are gatherings of elected representatives. Their constituents have a right to see and hear how their representatives are performing. So here’s my second recommendation, add to the rules:

The MDP shall record all meetings of the State Central Committee, and make them available to the public online within seven days. Portions of a meeting where “confidential considerations of party strategy” (see MDP Rule 2.7) are considered may be redacted, provided the unredacted recording is available to MDP members online through a password protected portal.

What You Can Do
Come to the State Central Committee meeting in Dearborn on December 7th and tell the establishment what you think of their plan to close meetings to the public – and to all Party members – who can’t attend in person. The meeting is at UAW Local 600, 10550 Dix Ave, Dearborn, MI 48120. Registration (delegates and alternates only) starts at 10:30am, but you’re welcome to lobby them as they’re registering. The meeting itself begins at 1pm. It is an open meeting, you are welcome to attend.

Call your State Central delegates and your local Party Chair. You can find contacts for your local Party here, though they don’t make the list of State Central delegates available. State Central delegates are elected representatives, their constituents should be able to reach them. Especially their constituents that can’t make it to meetings in person.

If you want the details of how the Party conducts business, I’ve simplified the often complex legalese into a series of graphics that makes the points clearly, and put them together into a presentation. I’m available to present to any group who want to know how the Party really works, and how we can fix it. Contact me at the email below if you’d like me to come talk to your group.

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