Want to get more involved with the party, and know that the deadline for California Assembly District Delegates is December 8? Or, want to get involved but didn’t even know that this Thursday is the deadline?
First, why be a party insider? Officially, you’ll be a delegate to the California Democratic Party convention, meaning that you get to go to Sacramento May 17-19 and mingle, drink, schmooze, network, and — importantly — vote on resolutions. If you want to change the party from the inside, you need to become a party insider — by getting elected. Apply here! The cost is $20. Elections are January 7 and 8, one in each of the state’s 80 Assembly districts. Seven men and seven women will be elected from each district — that’s 1120 people — and they are commonly known as ADEMs.
If you’ve ever tried to win an ADEM election and lost, the experience goes something like this. You apply online, you write a dynamite speech, you show up in a church hall and immediately observe that most of the people voting seem to know each other, you see handouts out that say “Vote for the Experienced Insiders Slate!,” no one listens to your dynamite speech, and the clique of the Experienced insiders Slate gets reelected while you get four votes.
You can change that, and change the party. I have changed the party here and here and here. You can do this too.
All elections involve the same elements — identifying your base, persuading the persuadables, and turning out your voters. So, here’s some hard truths.
1. Your dynamite speech isn’t going to persuade anyone. ADEM elections are largely won before the day of the election. Work your race in December.
2. Calculate your win number, if possible. If you can, find out how many people voted in the ADEM elections held in January 2015 and January 2013 in your district, and how many votes the top vote-getters got. Also find how many people showed up to be Bernie/Hillary delegates to the DNC convention (elections were held in May 2016), and how many votes the top vote-getters got. Some ADEM elections are very sleepy affairs in which 13 people vote for 14 slots; others, especially in deep blue areas, are hotly contested. Last cycle in Ventura County’s 44th Assembly District, the winners got between 60 and 110 votes; so using that as an example, your win number — the minimum number of votes you need to come in 7th, which counts as a win — is 61. Last cycle in Alameda County, 1000 people showed up to vote and the win number was around 300. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find prior years’ win numbers — you will need to ask locally. And we are seeing an uptick in volunteers post-Trump, so add something to your win number. For purposes of this diary, I’m going to guestimate that 81 is your win number. In 2013, the win number in deep blue AD50 was 127:
3. Turn out your base to win. Your base means your friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, fellow Sierra Club hikers, and fellow union members who will trek to the church hall, stand around for an hour, and vote for you. (The 81 friends must be registered Democrats in your assembly district.) And they vote for you because you called and nagged them last night, squeezed eight of them in your van this morning, and will buy beers afterward — that’s called “turning out.”
4. You don’t know 81 friends? You will win if you get on a winning slate (or if you put together a winning slate) and turn out your portion of the base. This is the secret. Because if you are on a slate with 6 other women and 7 men, you now need to find only 1/14 of your win number, as long as the rest of the people on the slate do the same. In Ventura County, that means finding only 8 friends to vote for you and the rest of your slate; and if every friend votes for each of the slate members, you’ve brought 112 votes for each, and you all win. ADEM elections are won and lost on slates. Here is a 2015 slate example.
5. A hint on putting together slates: you probably begin by choosing people who are ideologically similar, but diversity matters a lot — racial, ethnic, geographic, and cultural diversity. If you count on 20 friends from your White Westside Yoga Moms 4 Bernie facebook group, but the other 6 white women on your slate are also bringing the same Westside yoga moms for Bernie, you will only turn out 20 votes for the entire slate, and you will lose. So form coalitions with the Asian American Eastside Millennial Chicks 4 Bernie, and the African American Northside Kickboxing Grannies 4 Bernie, and — yes, the Latino Southside Yoga Moms 4 Hillary. (You have more in common with them than you think.) Put together a slate that looks like America. You will be stronger together.
The ability to form a coalition is a key test of your ability to win ADEM elections and navigate politics. You may be in the People’s Bernie Front facebook group (unofficial motto: Bernin’ People’s Front facebook group sux), but if you and the Bernin’ People’s Front people can’t patch over your differences, the Pantsuits in Togas will prevail.
6. Show up and do the work in December. That Old Guard party insider doesn’t really care about your withering 14 point critique of the Trans Pacific Partnership, but she cares a lot that someone is making up name tags for the holiday party, someone is sitting at the welcome desk to check in guests, and someone is perking and pouring from the old-school coffee percolator at the Dem club meeting. And the Old Guard insider really does want to welcome new people into the party to help run the local club and put on events, and she likes your enthusiasm — she’s a “persuadable.” Show her that you’re committed to building the party, and she might vote for you.
This is only a corollary to the important rule: show up and do the work last October. If you phonebanked for Democratic candidates, you will have a far better shot at winning an ADEM election than if all you did was post lengthy facebook rants critiquing corporate Democrats and urging people to DemExit. But it’s not too late; show that you’re willing to take on the work of improving the party, and you will be forgiven.
7. Post your slate on facebook in whatever form you desire, talk up your campaign in person as you desire, call your base the night before the election, but also bring paper copies of the slate to the ADEM meeting. Each slate flyer should include the name of the slate, the name of each candidate, a picture (so that people can connect face to name), and a brief description of qualifications, either a short paragraph or three bullet points. And your paper flyer is going to either be printed in house by a volunteer, or it’s going to be printed by a union printer with a union bug, because otherwise you’re going to lose union votes. And you’re going to clean up the mess and recycle the leftover flyers, because otherwise you’re going to lose my vote.
8. After you win, congratulations! you are now a member of the state party. Your win MAY also entitle you to join (and vote in, and shape) a county party in addition to the state party — for example, Ventura County lets ADEMs vote on most matters, Fresno County considers ADEMs to be associate (non-voting) members, but winning an ADEM election confers nothing whatsoever on you in Alameda County.
9. After you win, join caucuses in January — don’t wait for long lines on the day of the convention. Most especially, join the environmental caucus. I chair it.
10. The TL;DR version of this: show up, and be a decent human being, and everything else that Chris Reeves says, and you will go far in politics.
True story: my first ADEM election in 2011, I wrote a dynamite speech and I baked a pie, and I practiced that speech over and over, and I brought my mom and a lovely pecan pie, but I forgot the speech at home. So I stood up and mumbled half the speech, but ended up saying: “And I brought the pie!” Luckily, I was on a well organized slate (organized not by me!) and people were impressed that I was a DailyKos blogger. Y’all know the rest of the story, so far. Now go write your own story, beginning with getting the online application completed by 5 PM December 8.