Have you ever found yourself as part of a story and as you read it you realize the news has it all wrong? Well, welcome to our world. In a story widely reported by Buzzfeed, the allegation is made that Democratic Members of the Unity commission and others sought the ouster of black women from the at large slate proposed by Chairman Perez.
The discussion may be framed from a meeting we believe was overheard, occurring over a lunch in which many of the members named were present. Jane Kleeb, James Zogby and others amongst them. Considering one of those “others” includes myself, I’m astonished at the fact that apparently snippets of overheard discussion were manufactured into almost exactly the reverse of the discussion held at that table.
Within the DNC, many members and even old members are unclear as to how the rules and procedures work in regards to at large appointments. At a lunch meeting held at Nosh, members of a progressive coalition met and ate and discussed several concerns with the slate as proposed, options to discuss with Chairman Perez specific concerns related to the current gender imbalance of the Officers, (8 men, 4 women at the moment) as well as proposal changes for committees. On Wednesday night, the ASDC had caught a few small errors in positioning and were able to call on Chairman Perez to address them, which he promptly did, a sign of us working together.
Over a lunch session, members discussed with others how exactly at large appointments were handled, how they worked, whether they could or couldn’t vocally support individuals, and so on. In other words, these were members who were familiar with the system explaining the rules and guidelines to new members as well as walking through the procedures that were used to talk to the Chair and others.
As I was sitting down to eat a chili dog and drink an orange juice, one of the sites which we all traffic began forwarding what I would call “fake news” stories implying that Donna Brazille should be targeted because of issues in the 2016 campaign.
Not one person at the table, not one person in any meeting here, involved with the Unity commission or otherwise, at any point — at exactly no point — called for or indicated Donna Brazille should not serve or any statement should be made. In fact, two of the members at the table, once aware that such online rumors were starting, immediately reached out to Donna to note that they were not behind such plans and would not endorse them if they came up. The concerns that were being had were discussions of gender balance, committee assignments, and a few members in the appointment list — as well as timeliness to give members time to review and vote.
It is difficult — in fact, beyond difficult — when I see meeting such as this turned into wild eyed rumor online designed to tear the party apart and put us at each other’s throats. It is an imperative that members of the DNC be able to have conversations with each other about how procedures work, how rules work, how hypothetical situations work, resolutions, proposals and concerns. If we cannot have those kind of discussions, then we lose transparency.
The online rumor mill, however, puts everyone on edge, afraid to talk to each other for fear it will immediately appear online in a blog or other source with absolutely no source citations and just blind drops.
These kind of articles not only fail to get across the truth of the kind of conversations a party must have, but they seek to divide us by providing information often in 100% conflict with reality.
James Zogby, Jane Kleeb, and others in that meeting behaved as they should, as state chairs and leaders discussing with members of all standings the procedures of running for party offices, running for council position, and even running for executive committee slots.
There are moments I have strongly disagreed with some of the individuals in those meetings, on different issues, but we are all part of a family and the discussions can be strong but good. At no point in these meetings were the alleged comments ever brought up, outside of discussing why such ridiculous claims were appearing in online Facebook groups and what if anything should be done to make it clear there was no support for any such measure to specifically target any members.
If we allow clear rumor from overheard, out of context conversations to divide us, we lose a lot and we begin to resent and treat each other suspiciously. Our party must be built on a debate of ideas and a discussion with all members of procedures in a full and transparent way. And while maybe discussing with a large set of members over chili dogs and sandwiches wasn’t wise in retrospect, the article which appears in Buzzfeed isn’t just wrong in regards to Donna Brazille and others, it comes across as a nearly malicious reading of a conversation designed to debate real issues — like gender balance and the way in which committees are formed — which should be part of a clean, open conversation without recriminations or sideshows that can be left at the door.
We are all here to elect Democratic members, period. Using gossip to hyperventilate is not part of any solution.