The purpose of this post is not to relitigate the events of the Nevada convention or figure out who insulted whom first or whose outrage is the most righteous. It’s not even to parse the subtle nuances of speeches given extemporaneously before large crowds.
No, the purpose is to point out something Bernie Sanders said Tuesday night that’s just plan nonsense. Here it is.
“The Democratic Party is going to have to make a very, very, profound and important decision. It can do the right thing and open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change. That is the Democratic Party I want to see.” Sanders said.
“I say to the leadership of the Democratic Party: Open the doors, let the people in! Or the other option for the Democratic Party, which I see as a very sad and tragic option is to choose and maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy,” he said.
Now, I am not a party person. I have never been a member of any political party. Sitting through party meetings, which I sometimes do for the sake of this gig, makes me itchy. Also, I’m not a mingler and I’m uncomfortable in rooms full of people. So there’s that.
But I have witnessed party proceedings, and here’s one thing you can take to the bank: The doors of every political party are wide open, all the time, to all comers.
They will welcome anyone who’s willing to come in, sit down, and do some work. Operating a political party takes an incredible amount of time and energy, almost all of it unpaid: sitting through meetings, making phone calls, writing emails and press releases, stuffing envelopes, going door-to-door, and — always, constantly — searching for anybody who wants to help you with all that stuff.
Even if you’re kind of a nut. There are people in every party, including some in surprisingly responsible positions, who are barely tethered to this planet. There are a lot of card-carrying, office-holding Democrats who are hard-core, Hillary-hatin’ Bernieacs.
Perhaps Bernie doesn’t realize this because he has lived a political life blessedly free of party affiliation. He’s managed the singular accomplishment of gaining the regular support of not one but two parties without having to exercise himself in the drudgery of party maintenance. It’s a charmed life.
But here’s the thing. If you walk in the door and demand a seat at the table, be prepared to stay for a while and do some chores. Don’t think you can wander in and out whenever it strikes your fancy, and expect your views to be given weight. That ain’t gonna happen, nor should it.
The Democratic Party’s process of building a structure and conducting a campaign is an endless affair. The rules and processes were set up before Bernie started holding his famous rallies. Yeah, they’re complicated and don’t always perfectly reflect the will of the people. But that’s what happens when you get a diverse bunch of people together and hammer out a system born of constant compromise and the fervent picking of nits.
So here’s the deal, I can assure you that if you knock on the Democrats’ door, you will be welcomed with open arms. Here’s what you can expect:
You will sit through long meetings that bog down on the most irrelevant of details.
You will listen to politicians give the same speech over and over again.
You will stuff envelopes, staff phone banks, and pound the pavement.
You will be given the chance to speak your piece. And you will be expected to listen respectfully and patiently while others do the same.
You will interact with like-minded people brimming with energy and ideas, and you will be inspired by them.
You will have to deal with people you don’t like, don’t agree with, and think the world would be a better place without. Some of them will smell funny.
You will have the opportunity to influence the party’s direction and internal processes.
You will lose at least as often as you win, and you will have to swallow your disappointment, resist the urge to stomp out the door, dust yourself off, and try again.
The more work you do, the greater your influence will be. You will have every opportunity to climb the party hierarchy. But it won’t be handed to you on a silver platter.
That’s the deal with joining or influencing a political party, just as it is with any organization involving multiple human beings. If you can accept that deal, the door is always open. Believe me.