My Life as a Delegate
My involvement in politics comes from my mother. Anne Wexler’s life story as a candidate and delegate would teach some great lessons about politics in grassroots organizing, campaign management and the workings of government and lobbying.
The highlight of this summer’s campaigns will be the two national conventions that officially name the nominees. Delegates, elected or chosen by their state parties, cast their votes based on primary and caucus results throughout the year. The process is not simple and varies from state to state and often changes between conventions. The document describing the Democratic Party rules on delegate selection is 165 pages long. I was a candidate for delegate in 2008 in the 19th Congressional District. There was not a lot of campaigning and only one polling place in the entire congressional district. There were less than 200 votes cast and I won the honor of being a Florida delegate and attending the national convention in Denver. Florida holds a primary to select a candidate. Two months later we hold another election where any registered Democrat in the district can run for delegate [I was not chosen in 2016].
The production of national conventions has become quite elabo-
BUT I THINK REGARDLESS OF PARTY, THEY ALL WANT THE SAME THING IN THE END.
rate. Now held in sports arenas, they involve Hollywood producers and designers. Of course communications technology has played a big role. I remember [in 1972] being told to keep a roll of dimes in my pockets to call back to the office if I heard anything interesting as I sat through the Rules Committee meetings. I remember the hottest party of the convention in 1976 in New York was hosted by Rolling Stone magazine and organized by my mother, who was then the associate publisher.
The official convention is four days, the first two consisting of speeches from party leaders, local, state and federal elected officials, the First Lady and, in some cases, former presidents. The third day is the calling of the role and the official nomination of the candidate for president. The fourth day is capped by the acceptance speech of the nominee. At the 2008 convention in Denver, it was the first time the acceptance speech was moved from the arena to a football stadium. They made the same plan in Charlotte in 2012, but it was moved back to the arena due to weather.
During those four days there are a lot of committee meetings, where decisions are made regarding party rules and platform. In previous years these might have been referred to as the “smoke-filled back rooms.” There is no smoking these days and the process is a lot more transparent, especially with the available technology. It is an exciting time and a great experience to see democracy in action.
Right now, though, we are clearly at a crossroads in American politics. There is lots of talk about a broken system, dysfunction and the general inability of our government to produce results. Polls show that a majority of Americans feel this way. The often debated question is the cause. While there is great diversity of thought and the subject of many partisan disagreements, one of the more common themes is control by the so-called “insiders.” So candidates use their lack of experience in Washington as a positive attribute. I won’t debate that here, but will offer that public service is a tremendous challenge. Anyone willing to put themselves out there to do a job in this day and age is accepting a difficult task. But I think regardless of party, they all want the same thing in the end. The issues have not changed. Everyone talks about jobs, health care, a strong economy, a secure country and the opportunity for all Americans to reach their potential. They differ on how we get there. Our elected representatives from the president on down are people just like us. They make decisions based on what they believe is the best choice for their constituents. We can agree or disagree with them, and it’s our job to evaluate theirs and either let them continue or vote them out.
Makes the convention a very interesting place every four years. A Sanibel Realtor, Daniel Wexler is a former White House staffer. The 2016 Republican National Convention is July 18-21 in Cleveland; the Democratic National Convention is July 25-28 in Philadelphia.