Democratic Party re-organizations can be a spectacle to behold. During a Snohomish County Democratic Party re-org some years back, someone ran against the incumbent Chair, blaming him for the Iraq War. Four years ago, the King County Chair was elected by five votes - after not even running a campaign. This year, at the King County re-org, I was elected as Second Vice Chair with about 45 minutes’ notice about the nomination.
But nobody cares about that. Instead, the big drama this year involves a statement read on behalf of a state legislator about someone who was nominated for Chair.
Specifically, the statement expressed concern about the candidate due to an incident that occurred during the Democratic National Convention. Both folks were delegates for Bernie Sanders. And apparently a dispute occurred, leading to one - a male - being verbally aggressive, and grabbing at the phone in the hand of the other - a woman. Based on this, the legislator felt PCOs should be aware of this in advance of casting their vote for Chair. (an aside: the guy was never going to win. But that’s a different story altogether).
Throughout the Presidential campaign this year, Democrats (correctly) applauded women for having the courage to stand up and speak up about sexual assault and harassment from Donald Trump and Fox News executives. Considering that most sexual assaults and rapes go unreported, it is incumbent on us, as a society, to make women feel safe speaking out against sexual assault and rape, and sharing their stories. The same should be true for women who experience verbal and physical aggression that is not sexual in nature from men.
Our paternalistic society makes it uncomfortable enough for women to report assaults. Women are often asked “what did you do to prevent” the attack, and shamed and blamed. Hell, when I got my head kicked in for being a little too gay in high school, the sheriff responding asked if I thought I should “tone it down” to avoid future harassment. I can’t imagine what it is like for women, and am routinely disgusted by the stories we hear about how women are treated by law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges.
Following the KCDCC Re-Org, the legislator was both applauded and derided for having the statement read. She was told that the forum was not appropriate, and I even read someone say that since she didn’t call police in Philadelphia, it must not be an accurate representation of what happened. What many of them missed: following the remarks, the man proceeded to get into the personal space and yell at two other women at the meeting, with his finger all up in their faces. Point proven.
Some of the attacks on the legislator have focused on a line referring to the man as a “bomb thrower.” Being of Iraqi descent, this has been viewed as racist. Having been called a “bomb thrower” in the past (thanks a lot, Christian Sinderman!), I’ve always viewed the term to refer to rhetorical “bombs.” Considering the nationalism in our country, and in particular anti-Muslim rhetoric becoming more and more popular, I see how that was a poor choice of words, and the legislator has apologized for using that language.
However, I can say that the statement released in response by the KCDCC does not represent my values, and I am one of the dissenters among the elected officers. The correct forum to alert voters of misconduct from a candidate: wherever you can reach the voters. While the rules around a re-organization may be amended in the future to disallow someone to be nominated in order to just withdraw, those were not the rules in place during the re-organization. Should the man have been given an opportunity to rebut the statement from the legislator? Perhaps.
But at the end of the day, I believe we must trust women. As a Party, when we condemn women for speaking up, we send a message that I don’t want my daughter to hear. That process is more important than awareness. And absent any other forum by which a candidate nominated from the floor with no long-organized campaign exists, this is damn-well the correct forum.
I trust this will be a learning experience for our organization. I also hope it is a learning experience for all involved - directly or tertiarily - that how we treat women can (and should) have an impact on our political aspirations.