My Life as a Del­e­gate

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY DANIEL WEXLER

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-


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.

Daniel Wexler

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