At the December 7th MDP State Central Committee meeting, the establishment pushed through an amendment to the bylaws banning recording any meeting, of any party organization, without prior written permission of the state party chair. On December 20th two appeals were filed, one on the grounds that the rules for amending the bylaws were not followed, and another on the grounds that the new rule discriminated against poor and working class people, disproportionately women and minorities, and against disabled people. Five groups who are explicitly protected against discrimination by MDP rules 2.8 and 2.10.
The MDP appeals committee agreed with the first appeal, that the rules for amendments were not followed. As a result, the committee voided the recording ban entirely. They did not rule on the discrimination appeal, stating that since the rule is void, the discrimination question is “moot”. That means the establishment can try to ban recordings again.
There are several points I want to touch on here. First, the appeals committee did not follow the rules in rendering its decisions. The appeals committee is required to meet within 30 days of receiving the appeal, and all parties to the appeal are required to be given 72 “hours notice of any meeting of the Appeals Committee and any public hearing, which notice shall be confirmed by certified mail” (12.5.3). No notice was given. No certified mail was received.
The appeals committee is required to make their decisions at a public meeting, “decisions shall be made at a public meeting of the Appeals Committee” (12.5.5). No public meeting was held.
I’ve been pointing this out for years, “decisions shall be made at a public meeting” (emphasis added). The appeals committee relied on the legal distinction between “shall” and “may” to reject another point of appeal, so they’re aware of the distinction. We went over this in detail in the rules committee when we did the comprehensive line by line review of the rules in 2017/18. The chair of the appeals committee and some members of the committee were on the rules committee at the time. They know the rules require them to make decisions only at a public meeting.
They’re deliberately breaking the rules because they don’t want a public meeting. They certainly don’t want a public meeting recorded and broadcast, they expect to look bad on video and they don’t want that. What do we do when the appeals committee refuses to follow the rules? Tim Hughes, chair of the appeals committee has made it absolutely clear that he doesn’t believe in following all the rules, especially the ones that reduce the establishment’s illegitimate power. See his statement quoted here, for example (scroll to second page).
Second, they chose not to rule on the appeal citing discrimination. Since they will likely bring up the recording ban again, they’re going to have to rule on it. Here’s my argument against the recording ban on grounds of discrimination.
A recording ban – or any rule – must have some enforcement mechanism. In this case, they establishment relies on the various clubs, caucuses, county, and congressional district parties to enforce their rules. The officers of each unit of the party are required to acquiesce in, condone, support, and enforce the party’s rules, including a recording ban if it were to be enacted. MDP Rule 2.8 says
No tests for membership in, nor any oaths of loyalty to, the MDP shall be required or used, including those which have the effect of requiring prospective or current members of the MDP to acquiesce in, condone or support discrimination on the grounds of actual or perceived race, color, creed, sex, age, national origin, economic status, religion, ethnic identity, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical appearance or disability.
Enforcing a recording ban is condoning and supporting discrimination. If we outlaw tests of membership and oaths of loyalty that “have the effect of requiring … members of the MDP to acquiesce in, condone or support discrimination,” but have rules that specifically discriminate against the disable, the working class, and the poor, we’re not serious about anti-discrimination. We’re just trying to make it look like we care about discrimination.
Banning recordings erects multiple barrier to poor, working class, and disable people that don’t exist for the wealthier or the able bodied. That’s exactly the kind of discrimination 2.8 (and 2.10) is designed to eliminate. Working people don’t have as much control over their schedules as the managerial or upper classes do. They can’t take a day off work on short notice, often can’t get the exact date they want off at all, often can’t afford to take a day of work. A recording ban often forces them to make a decision to keep up with what’s going on in the party, or buy food, or pay rent – they’re going to buy food or pay rent, and forget the Democratic Party. And they’re right to do so. If they can get a day off and they can afford to take it, they’re less likely to have a reliable car, and less likely to have gas money. Those are barriers that don’t exist for wealthier people. They are very real barriers to the disabled, working class, and poor people – the very people the Democratic Party claims to represent.
A recording ban doesn’t help represent them – it singles them out for exclusion.
Working class and poor people are disproportionately women, black, Hispanic, native peoples, and other minorities. Discrimination against the poor and working class is discrimination against these groups specifically listed under rules 2.8 and 2.10 for protection. Democrats make exactly these arguments against voter ID laws, for example. The poor and working class can’t afford the documents necessary for voter ID, or don’t have transportation to the voter ID office, or can’t afford to take the day off to get their voter ID. Imposing a recording ban is hypocritical in the extreme. If some people in the Democratic Party bent on discrimination bring it up again, it must be voted down.
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