Kellin Atherton is a delegate representing our city at the State Democratic Convention, which will vote on candidates for state-wide office in a week. He introduced himself to Eye readers last month (An Introduction To Democratic State Delegate Kellin Atherton). The Eye asked him to chronicle the process, to provide one perspective on an important part of path to elections. Here, he provides an account of his experiences and reactions during the last month.
The Eye would LOVE to get other perspectives on this important part of our democracy, from any political party, please contact us.
Hello again from Middletown’s newest delegate.
After becoming a delegate to the Democratic state convention and engaging the process in a number of ways I thought it would be productive to give an update.
For the last few weeks I have spoken to over a dozen Democratic candidates for a variety of statewide offices. In this same period I’ve asked for the advice and opinion of many local activists, business leaders, and even disengaged residents in Middletown and across the state as a part of my due diligence and to best understand what issues ring out in the minds of our people.
The act of being a delegate has been mostly harmless. The flurry of calls anywhere from 9am to 10pm only lasted about two weeks and has since relaxed as the field thins and endorsements are made. Rather than resent this outreach I chose early on to embrace it and engage candidates in constructive debate on the issues I care about for our community; early childhood education, economic relief for the working poor and working class, Paid Family Medical Leave, and how Connecticut can lead with other states on the path to Medicare for All.
Until now I had not followed the day to day actions of the legislature so closely. This has become a necessary daily chore in order to check accountability and see how, if at all, the platforms of candidates will evolve in response to these measures.
My efforts have even included following the progress on the Republican side for statewide offices. In this regard I do not believe my time is miss-spent – for if we, as delegates and as a party, do not maintain a long-term vision we will miss the reality that the Republicans are putting forward a number of experienced, dynamic, and energetic candidates and we should be ready to counter accordingly with selfless, genuine contenders who will advocate for progressive policy to the benefit of working families across the state.
This experience has been rewarding and insightful. It has been a great opportunity to meet new people in Middletown and across the state – some of whom I am already proud to call new friends. And it is in parallel to this that I have stumbled on my two primary concerns:
1. There is no “blue wave” in Connecticut.
2. Many Connecticut Democrats don’t know what the word Progressive means.
To the first point, across the country there is a great deal of confidence that resentment against the results of the 2016 election will carry the Democratic party to victories in the House and Senate this November. Due to the underfunding of public pensions and the burden it has placed on the Budget (overwhelmingly the most important issue I spoke to people about) many Connecticut residents are disinclined from entrusting this challenge to the Democrats – particularly when their language in reaching a resolution still revolves around coordinating with corporations and the wealthy, rather than identifying correctly that they have been a huge part of the problem.
To the second point, many delegates and incumbents across the state have coopted the term Progressive in an effort to mobilize the base in the run-up to the primary. I could take thousands of words and still fail to define this term. For now, I will say simply that I know it when I see it, and far too often in this cycle, folks, I just don’t see it. You can’t support the fight for $15 and not talk about the burden of high rent – that’s not progressive. You can’t talk about Paid Family Medical Leave and the benefit to young families without also highlighting the support this policy would provide to middle aged people, mostly working women, who could use it to care for elderly parents who deserve dignity and agency – that’s not progressive. You can’t talk about legalizing recreational Marijuana without talking about early release for non-violent drug offenders and overall sentencing reform – that’s not progressive. You can’t talk about Education reforms without including early childhood education and the benefit a high quality universal program would have on students once they reach primary school, and on working families where both the Mother and Father work full time – that’s not progressive.
In spite of these concerns I remain optimistic. It is the welcome burden that comes with being a young father to young children – leading a family is an effortless and constant state of joy. And it is through this lens I view the state of the race in 2018. My only question now is that with so many spirited and progressive delegates and volunteers ready to lead, is Connecticut’s Democratic party ready to follow?