On Saturday, December 7th, the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) State Central Committee voted 122 to 36 to impose a ban on audio and video recording and still photography. The ban extends to all meetings of all clubs, caucuses, county parties, congressional district parties and the state party.
The vote was illegitimate.
There are procedures for amending party rules.
MDP leadership ignored them.
Rule 14.1 says, “Proposals for changes or amendments to these rules may be made by motion, without debate, at any meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee” No such motion was made. Amendments are required to start in the State Central Committee to ensure the people who will vote on the amendment are kept fully informed, know in advance what rules changes are being considered, and have adequate time to consider those changes carefully. There is no provision of MDP rules that even suggests any other starting point for amendments to the rules.
Rule 14.2 says amending the rules requires a 2/3rds majority vote of the State Central Committee, “provided that written notice setting forth the proposed amendment has been given to members at least two (2) weeks prior” to the vote. No such notice was provided to party members, or even to State Central delegates. The first time party members or State Central delegates saw the amendment was the day of the vote.
Check out the two rules here.
It’s important to remember that the recording ban was brought up to distract from the Proxy Problem (see here for a summary of arguments against). Activists recorded a video at the St. Ignace meeting of the State Central Committee. The video shows the majority of actual people in the room supported a resolution urging the DNC to hold a debate focused on climate change. A much smaller number of establishment folks, with many more paper proxies than people, voted it down. Many of the proxy votes were cast by people never elected to represent the congressional districts the proxy votes came from.
The establishment regularly allows people you never voted for to represent you on the State Central Committee. They allow delegates to give proxies across congressional district boundaries, so a delegate from CD3 can give their proxy to a delegate from CD5. The people of CD3 never voted for the delegate from CD5. Never elected the CD5 delegate to represent them. The establishment “farms” the state for proxies and their people come to State Central with 10, 20, 30 or more proxies in hand. They could never get that many proxies from within their own districts – there aren’t enough delegates from a single district. The establishment needed some way of diverting attention from the Proxy Problem because they know it’s a loser for them with party members. Everyone can see this practice is egregiously anti-democratic. People you never elected are “representing” you. There’s nothing democratic about that. So they put the recording ban on a fast track, the rules be damned.
Ignoring the rules is common practice in the Michigan Democratic Party – when it benefits the establishment. For example, there are rules requiring 30 days advanced notice of how elections will be run (see here). Earlier this year, the author informed the executive director and state party chair that CD8 intended to break those rules at the State Convention. The author pointed out that in 2017, the exact same rules were broken in CD3. As a result of CD3 leadership secretly shuffling eligibility requirements around, the progressive slate was robbed of a seat on the State Central Committee (here’s how). Party leadership acknowledged what CD8 was doing – and did nothing. I could give many other examples.
The establishment’s public face for the recording ban, Traci Kornak, was CD3 chair in 2017. For members of the establishment, leadership regularly breaks the rules. Her hand-picked successor, current CD3 chair Jeff Winston, was recently caught on video egregiously harassing a Sanders supporter. He’s the big guy dancing around to block her sign from the media. Party leadership from the CD3 executive board up to the state party chair have chosen to take no action. The establishment doesn’t care to enforce civil behavior among their own – while we’re told that harassment is one “reason” for the recording ban. If the establishment were concerned about harassment, they’d take action against Winston. They don’t care about harassment – at least not when progressives are targeted.
The recording ban was rammed through State Central without following the rules. It was not brought up as a motion at State Central (14.1), it was not forwarded by State Central to the rules committee (14.1), and two weeks notice to members was not provided (14.2). On their way to passing the recording ban, the establishment broke every rule designed to ensure transparency – every rule designed to ensure party members are fully aware of proposed changes to the rules. With the recording ban in place, the establishment doesn’t have to worry about being caught on video with more proxies than people, or packing state central, or using the unit rule, or any number of other egregiously anti-democratic practices common in the party.
At the same time, the recording ban is something they know progressives have to stand up against. They’d rather have us making noise about the recording ban than about the proxy problem. A push to fix the proxy problem is a direct challenge to their power over the party. A push against the recording ban is not.
We can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Appeals are being filed. As anyone can see from the above, the case is open and shut, but don’t hold your breath for action from the appeals committee. The chair of the appeals committee doesn’t believe in enforcing party rules. Speaking of the unit rule, a practice that’s been banned in the Democratic Party from the DNC on down since 1968, he said, “I don’t think it’s the role of the party,” to enforce the rules.
It is precisely the role of the party to enforce our rules. When leadership doesn’t do its job, members need to step up and hold our leaders accountable.
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