The Democratic Party of Delaware just held its 2013 statewide party meeting in Dover. I was a delegate from the 20th Representative District. This was my introduction to the state party and the meeting was highly informative of the difficulties of party processes for decision making. It was, to put it plainly, a mess.
The morning began with a bit of smoozing as we registered. There were roughly 250 folk in the house, split into four sub-groups - one each for New Castle, Kent and Sussex Counties and one for the city of Wilmington. After convening and the pledge of allegiance we heard the secretary's report and then split into the four groups for a bit of caucus time. We came back to elect officers and a slate was put forward which was voted in with ease. The really good news there is that Lisa Goodman, who just headed up the Equality Delaware effort to put into effect new marriage legislation, was elected co vice-chair of the Democratic State Party.
Then the troubles began.
The State Party chairperson could not stay ahead of the debate on whether or not to accept the report of the Platform Committee, what to do with a Platform proposed by one of the Wilmington delegates, and how to deal with the reality that the work of producing a Platform still had to be done. And, on top of this was the thread running through of criticism of the process proposed as well as the make up of the Platform Committee. I was a member of that committee, one of the shortest lived assignments I've ever had.
Watching the way in which the Convention managed to pile these many issues into one confusing heap was frustrating and not pretty at all. Still, at the end of the morning a resolution to replace the Platform Committee with a new membership list that would more adequately address issues of inclusion passed. As to the Platform, one presumes that the platform of the past continues until replaced, and that the new Committee and the officers will work to find a way to both develop a platform and have it ratified by the party. This may require a special convention, it may not. It will necessitate a broader committee.
By-law matters were then taken up, with much the same level of confusion from the chair.
By two o'clock it was clear that everyone was fed up, tired, and a bit crabby. (No lunch break will do that to you.) So the Convention was over without much clarity about just how the Executive Committee plans to receive and act on accepting the platform.
I've been a deputy six times to one of the largest legislative bodies in the world - the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. In 10 or fewer days General Convention considers hundreds of resolutions, has hearings and recommends consideration to the General Convention for consideration. It too is a very complex way of governing. But at least there are well thought out ideas of how to proceed.
Here at the Democratic Party state convention there was less a sense of how to get things working.
The thing is, I'm going to stay with the Party and its work in spite of discouragement with the processes as they were experienced on Saturday. Here in Sussex County we hope to see a stronger Democratic Party presence. If that means going to state conventions, so be it. But the action is here on the ground and local.
I have to say the highlight of the day was Senator Chris Coons. He speaks with great clarity and solid political sense. He is very good indeed. I hope the National Democratic Party helps him have national exposure.
So... the Party met, and excepting Goodman's being elected, not much happened that was useful. Nothing much useful happened. It reminds me of some Diocesan conventions where much the same could be said.