DNCwatch: Introduction and general considerations
Updated: May 3, 2022
May 1, 2022
Introduction and general considerations:
Hello. I am Selina Vickers, a Democrat who has lived all of my life in West Virginia. You could consider my political involvement a bit more active than the average voter, however, I knew nothing about inner party workings prior to 2015. My first foray into Party politics began then, when I learned, and subsequently trained hundreds of West Virginians to become delegates to the WV Democratic State Convention. I was elected a national delegate and attended my first Democratic National Convention in 2016. Following that experience, I came to understand the importance of the rules and processes of the Party and that most of the consequential business of the Party takes place in the standing committees of the national convention and between conventions, in the standing committees of the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”), particularly in its Rules and Bylaws Committee (“RBC”). I began attending the meetings, but I found it extremely difficult to find out when the committees met, or what happened in those meetings if I wasn’t there. I learned that there are others that felt the same. I began livestreaming the meetings that I attended and #DNCwatch began. Keep in mind that prior to the pandemic, the DNC did not livestream meetings and has not solidified a process for livestreaming meetings since they have begun having some meetings in person again. For example, the DNC livestreamed the March 28, 2022 RBC meeting, but not the ones (over 3 days, March 10-12 two weeks earlier) that coincided with the Winter DNC meeting, nor the most recent RBC meeting (over 2 days, April 13-14), even though DNC members have requested that all committee meetings be livestreamed. There are Democrats, including DNC members, that want to follow the committees. For those, my low tech and unofficial livestream is the only access for learning what is happening on the committee level of the DNC. And, while the national press receives notice of the meetings, they typically only report on one very narrow topic if they show up at all.
Additionally, minutes are not provided following committee meetings, even to committee members. The only document of a committee’s work that most DNC members or the public see is a short report of official action or recommendation submitted to DNC members prior to each DNC meeting for approval.
The Benefit of learning Party rules:
From 2017 until the pandemic hit, I attended (and livestreamed) almost every DNC committee meeting, beginning with the Unity Reform Commission meetings that followed the 2016 national convention. I followed credential challenges such as Puerto Rico (2017-2018) and Alabama (2018-2019). I learned enough about the Party rules that I recognized that my state Party blatantly ignored many of them. Starting in 2019, I filed challenges to my own Democratic State Executive Committee (“SDEC”) of West Virginia which has led to significant changes in adding diversity and inclusion to our State Committee. For example: there had never been a Black person on the SDEC, now there are 5 Black women. There had never been an Asian American woman on the SDEC, now there are 2. There were 9 more men than women on the SDEC in 2019, almost all in officer positions, now the SDEC is equally divided. There are lots of other significant changes that happened, but the point of sharing this information is to make people aware of the power of learning the rules of the Party and how that information can be used to hold Party leaders accountable and fundamentally change the Party for the better, for the people it seeks to serve.
At the most recent RBC meeting, during a very intricate discussion about delegate selection rules and the difficulties that some state parties have implementing them, Donna Brazile, who has been the acting Chair of the DNC twice and who some (including me) would call a quintessential Party insider, very bluntly explained what I strongly believe. Brazile said,
“...there's so many Americans out there who are eager to participate, but they don't know how to become a delegate [to the national convention]. They don't even know how to get involved. And, some of the basic questions that I get… is that, ‘How do I do it? How do I find my seat at the table?’ And, as Party leaders, and activists, and organizers, you're the gatekeepers. You're the ones that have to open this process up. I just want to remind people that our democracy thrives on the active participation of ordinary citizens.” (you can listen to her comment here)
While there are things in which Ms. Brazile and I likely do not agree on, she is absolutely right on this point. And, while she is speaking specifically about delegate selection rules, the sentiment could easily be expanded to understanding the national Charter and DNC Bylaws, one’s state Party bylaws, official policy of the Democratic Party, etc. Because our Party has unique inclusivity rules, the more we all do to expand the knowledge of ordinary citizens about the Party rules, the more active participation will occur and, if Ms. Brazile’s theory is correct (and I believe it is), our democracy will thrive. And, lastly, while she was addressing her comments to the other RBC members, I suggest that we all heed her message. I intend to.
About DNCwatch blog:
The videos that I livestream live in perpetuity on Facebook @selinavickerswv along with other political content and I upload certain ones on YouTube. I communicate with a small, but growing, group of Democrats following committee meetings through virtual video platforms, Facebook messenger, text, etc. Over time I’ve been encouraged to formalize a summary of the meetings, especially RBC meetings, to share with interested parties. I also see the value of archiving the meetings in a searchable manner and having official Party documents available for those interested.
DNCwatch is not an official rendering of Party proceedings. Obviously only the conventions, the DNC and their respective standing committees and their officials and other members can speak officially on their behalf, but what I include is based on official Party documents and statements of the committees, officials, members, videos and transcripts of meetings. Although I do not include quote marks in connection with most of the content, the statements, descriptions and other materials accurately reflect Party documents, discussions and actions to the best of my ability. I also include some background or additional information that a person new to these processes may find helpful in light yellow boxes. I do include quotes that I find interesting, relevant or instructional. The information is organized with time links inside parentheses that will take the user to the approximate location in the YouTube video of the meeting which will hopefully make it easier to watch the parts that the individual is interested in viewing.
The DNCwatch blog will be sent to those who signup to receive it and the website www.dncwatch.org will archive the videos and documents, including historical documents that are quite difficult to find, a calendar of upcoming DNC events, and other information that some may find useful.
I welcome your comments and suggestions about how to make this effort more useful to you in the future, so I look forward to hearing from you. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304.663.3037 or, perhaps, I’ll see you at the next meeting.