Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Democratic State Convention: A View From Within

Kellin Atherton represented Middletown Democrats at the State Democratic Convention on May 18 and 19. He sent us the following perspective on the convention.
The Eye would LOVE to get other perspectives on this important part of our democracy, from any political party, please contact us.
It’s been ten weeks since I wrote an introduction to Middletown, about six weeks since my last post for the Eye, and four weeks since the convention wrapped.  I’ve struggled with how to describe what ended up being an unexpected investment of time and intellectual and emotional energy.

On one side of this struggle is the conflicted yet confident belief in my opinion that the organization of the Democratic Party in Connecticut is weak, uninspired, and so terrified to push back against business and elite interests with a clear vision for the future of the working poor and working class that we very well may lose in November.

On the other side of this struggle is the story I started telling ten weeks ago; the story of a young father who cares about his community and believes that by trusting him with this civic responsibility he could make a meaningful difference. Ultimately, this side is where I will dwell.

And yet, by engaging this process so completely I experienced moments of discouragement. But you don’t want to hear the gossip, right Middletown? You don’t want to hear about the state party only having a staff of 2 ½ people – which means if you want to get involved don’t expect a reply to your calls or emails (no blame on the actual staff). You don’t want to hear about the party insider who told me “you new people don’t do anything except make signs and yell.” You don’t want to hear about the 2nd or 3rd or 4th time I had to reintroduce myself to a candidate. You don’t want to hear about the expectations and implications for giving money. You don’t want to hear about the texts and calls from out-of-state phone numbers for candidates that I could have sworn were running for office here. You don’t want to hear about all that because that is exactly why you and so many others avoid politics – a word I have come to resent for the fact that it carries no acceptable synonym.

And it takes meaningful effort to set aside these experiences of negativity. Early on I decided to get involved with the Platform Committee for the convention. The platform for a state party is quite simply their mission statement and rough outline of policy goals, and usually coming out of the convention it carries no value. This required a lot of time, research, and energy. It was in this process that I experienced both the lows and the highs. Perhaps one day I’ll take more time to tell the full story.

The scenes I will share: the quiet overnight into May 13th, Mother’s Day, when I pulled an all-nighter for the first time since college, reading and writing and thinking until a fresh draft emerged. The Monday before the convention strategizing with a new friend about how this platform could mean something for the first time. The afternoon before the convention kicked off, wearing my best suit, in a hot room full of lawyers and establishment folks. Going toe-to-toe with people over a document that myself and others believe demonstrates our shared values as Progressive Democrats for a new generation of citizens. The tears in my eyes with professional validation when the Platform passed on the floor. Finding my wife outside the convention center that Friday night – feeling like the luckiest guy on Earth with her by my side as we looked out over the Connecticut River.

I’d like to think you don’t need to be a Democrat to appreciate some of that story.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the story you want to hear hasn’t been written yet, and won’t be without an absolute realignment of our state’s values and priorities.

However, as we move forward through the primary on August 14th, and the general election on November 6th, I will set aside any struggles or disappointments from this experience. With my family and friends I will dwell on how we live and thrive together. And I will find inspiration in doubt from the haters, in the words and actions of allies, in the urgency of our time, and in the slow, sneaking grin of confidence when I remind myself that we are only just getting started.

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