Sunday, February 9, 2014

Voting Done Before the Candidate Speeches?

No one really wants to show up at a Pre- Endorsement Conference, whatever that is. My great field trip idea seems to have fallen flat and I'm disappointed. A few are interested but it is too last minute. Anxiety grew as I tried to decide if I should just show up or not, and at least learn about it. How can we teach something and preach something when we have no idea how it works, and I've just finished the first season of House of Cards? Clearly that isn't the only way things are done. Apparently the "rules" for running are only that you have to be an American Citizen for a certain number of years and be at least 25 years old.
So I go. I am very familiar with Hollywood and seeing people from small and big screen when out and about, but politically- it's like I don't have access to media. I don't know who anyone is. Not completely true- I knew that Garcetti was the mayor, and had been to city council meetings but probably couldn't name anyone that is currently on it. Thank God for my smartphone. I sat outside the event and Googled who was running so far. Not to fear, Ted Lieu and Wendy Greul were stationed outside the event with pizza and water. I had just read that Ted Lieu was instrumental in the reparative therapy law, so I thanked him for his work on it.
Clueless, I went in and spoke with the "convener" of the event, who was kind. A few pages of forms, and I was in. Not really. I couldn't fill most of it out and I wasn't sure what I had registered at over my lifetime of voting. One thing I was sure of- I was adamant about voting (especially in the "big" elections") but I was the college student who would sign up with whatever table was on campus and tended to bounce around on the ballot without much regard for party designation. Political mailers haven't made it inside our house in more years than I can count. It always felt creepy to read the nasty, accusing messages in bright colors and obnoxious fonts, so those just go to the recycle bin next to the mailbox without being read.
I'd assumed that I had registered the last few rounds with independent or no party designation as it seemed to be the best idea being in a teaching position and it's best practice to provide balanced views and at least introduce the "other" side of whatever personal views may be held. Being a social worker, it's part of our training to understand and empathize with the position of all.
Last night I pulled up the platforms for the Republican and Democratic parties, which in truth I don't think I have looked at since I turned 18- at least not with personal interest (perhaps a class assignment). To be fair, I agreed and disagreed with statements from both. I decided that I couldn't designate myself as a Republican. It wouldn't be true. Most of my views align Democratic (after all, I'm a social worker). Continuing to state "independent" is largely symbolic here, and isn't terribly helpful unless you are famous in another way. I'm a fine print reader when I am focused on something so I prefer to read for myself, rather than answer questions or make statements based on something I saw posted online or God Forbid, one of the political shows where talking heads are yelling over each other.
Back to the form filling out time at the pre-endorsement conference. First$$$ticker shock. $350. Oh! What is that for? I don't recall exactly the answer but from what I understood, it gave you the opportunity to 1. stand up in front of everyone and give a two minute speech. Then 2. they vote on whom to endorse. This was turning into an expensive field trip. But I'm here I thought- and when will I ever do something as ridiculous as this again? So I wrote the check.
I went immediately to the back of the room and began observing. Most everyone knew each other it seemed, and I was offered many friendly smiles. Two kind men sitting next to me asked who I was and what I was doing there, and drew me out. I think I was suffering buyer’s remorse at the moment and wondering what I was thinking (this clearly wouldn't be the only time I'd have these thoughts). Someone clearly knowledgeable and known in the group introduced me around and given a pep talk. He told me to own "own it". I'd shown up. I appreciated his encouragement and coaching. I wanted to keep him. However, he sent me on my way to meet others and learn more about the process.
So the speeches began. I sat on a folding table in the back with Zein Obagi Junior and Barbara Mulvaney reminiscent of a high school gym auditorium setup. They too were running for the same position. Both are attorneys, as was Barbara's daughter who was also sitting with us. I liked them both and we had many ideas in common. So far I was impressed with who I'd met. After sitting in more too-long meetings over the years, the efficiency of the convener was breathtaking. Two minutes and that was it! Other positions were also being voted on. Sandra Fluke was there. A name I knew! Well not quite. She, along with many others showed more personality than we see in sound bites on the television that make politicians almost faceless. I will now always know that her last name rhymes with "hook" rather than the way everyone says her name if they say it. She's also an attorney and does much more than family planning activism. But I guess that is what happens when Rush Limbaugh gets a hold of you on one of his shows. Even I heard that the day it happened and was flummoxed. I'm going off topic.
Now this is when things start to get a bit strange. Speeches are happening but no one is voting. The ballots were paper (letter size) and every vote has the name of the voter attached to it. So and so voting for so and so (or no so and so- called NO ENDORSEMENT). "No endorsement" seemed to be a slap in the face but I could be missing something. Example, "Sally Smith, No endorsement" signaled to me that Sally doesn't like either of the candidates. Votes were tracked by large post it type papers held up on the wall by blue painters tape with candidate names in markers with old school slash slash cross counting system.
Zein Obagi was the one who spoke up from our group in the back andasked the convener why we were doing speeches if no one votes after them? Clearly the votes were done before the event began. And there were only two candidates involved in the voting, Ted and Wendy. The other three names, including mine were there but it was clearly symbolic as no votes were cast after all of us were done speaking. The already collected votes were the ones being counted. There seemed to be much drama in the counting for party endorsement. I'll speak for myself, only although I know others agreed including an LA Times reporter- what was the point of this? There was clearly one pick before anyone entered the room or met candidates from party that were not clearly "already in the system" or predesignated.
There were only a few days between Henry Waxman announcing his seat would be open and this event, so this was some fast movement in picking a new representative. There wasn't even a pause to see if there may be other candidates that may be better qualified (nothing at all against Ted Lieu, I'm only speaking to fairness). I could be wrong about this, but I had the distinct feeling that this was "normal" process and I doubt that the political party matters.
There was some victory noise- making and it was over. I spoke to many who were kind to me and thanked me for what I had to say. And my helpful coach from earlier paused on his way out to give me a few tips if I carried on with this adenvture, which I took to heart. Overall, it was a fun expereince and I was surprised how many people I was impressed with and truly liked.
A theme in conversation that day that surprised me- many want to get rid of the money in campaigns and have the belief that it is truly awful.

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