And so I choose…

From the start, I knew that I would be part of history; that no matter what happened, for years to come this convention in Philadelphia would be talked about as a seminal moment in our nation’s history.  I brought home souvenirs for my boys and for my someday grandchildren and theirs as well.  I want them to do reports at school and bring in artifacts and tell their friends and teachers, “MY mother did this–she was there and she fought for me.”  I want them to read about it in their history books and to know that the world that they have inherited is a better place because I went to Philadelphia and I tried.  And I wasn’t alone.  For four days in a sweltering Philadelphia summer in 2016, 1,893 delegates elected to vote for Senator Bernie Sanders, entered the lion’s den of Democratic politics and fought for a better world and a better future.  And when it was over, we were exhausted, disappointed, angry, and sickened by a system so corrupt that it could not even acknowledge that it had been caught but instead demanded a lock-step unity that a scant few of us could embrace.  The history books will focus on the politics and the fight, but they will never be able to capture the fullness of my journey and what I experienced. It was so much more than political.  I want my children and grandchildren and theirs to know the truth of my experience in Philadelphia…

And so I choose to remember the love.

Ours is a movement driven by love, love for the planet, love for our fellow man, love for each other.  We embraced and celebrated truth, justice, mercy, and love, and we came together to push for a world that could live or might live closer to those ideals.   We are a nation that fetishizes youth, but it was the wisdom of a 74 year-old Senator with a thick Brooklyn accent who lead a campaign larger than all of us that was predicated on one simple command:  Love one another.

And so I choose to remember the love.

That love started poking into my consciousness with the first GoFundMe donations.  Motivated to make their voices heard and their votes count, people GAVE ME MONEY to help me get to Philadelphia.  It is easy to give money to a cause, it is much harder to receive it.  How can I not be humbled and nourished  and overwhelmed by comments like these:  

     “Make us proud!”

     “Don’t have much–but Bern, baby Bern!!!” (This, with a $5.00 donation–one that               brought tears to my eyes.)

     “Please go and vote for Bernie on my behalf.”

     “I thank you for your dedication and compassion to the human condition and the Bernie      Sanders people revolution. You were there for us that had to watch on the sidelines. You      are so appreciated.”

Friends gave, but so did total strangers motivated only by the hope that my vote would be their voice. The folks at Adopt-A-Bernie-Delegate validated and promoted this effort and I have no idea which of my contributions were a result of their effort, but strangers–fellow Berniecrats–gave.  Imagine clicking on Michigan and scrolling down to find ME and somehow deciding to send me money.  I am both grateful and gobsmacked that there are such generous people on this planet.  Feeling like Sally Field…they chose me.

And so I choose to remember the love.

(This is the thank you video sent out by the wonderful folks at Adopt A Bernie Delegate–I send my thanks to them!)

I knew just a few of my fellow Michigan delegates before arriving in Philadelphia.  More of us had conversed through posts on our private Facebook pages and Slack groups, but meeting them face to face felt less like a first encounter and more like a family reunion. There were hugs and pep talks and a camaraderie achieved only through ordeal by fire.  We took care of each other in the intense heat on the streets, as well as in the Wells Fargo Center.  We processed our emotions and plotted our plans, and in each other we found strength. These Michiganders will be coming home to continue the fight.  Some will continue as activists and some are already running for office.  Each of us will make a way in the new progressive organizations that are springing up out of Bernie’s campaign and in the Democratic Party.  The world already is a better place, for each of these beautiful souls is fighting for it to be so.  I am blessed to be in their company.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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With just a few of my Bernie delegate family. Love them all.

The streets of Philadelphia were filled with protesters and activists, with signs, speeches and songs.  The Olympics in Rio are on tv as I type, and I now can imagine what it feels like to be an Olympian, for walking through the streets of Philadelphia, that’s how the delegates were treated. People cheered for us and thanked us, and urged us to vote for them for Bernie.  They cleared the path as we walked through and celebrated the job we had been elected to do.  It was intoxicating, uplifting and healing.  And more than anything, it was hopeful.   The media covered the activists as if they were on the brink of burning down the city–and the media undoubtedly hoped that they were. NOTHING could be further from the truth.

And so I choose to remember the love.

The heat was unbearable, especially on the first day, and it was on that day that the buses ran late and many of us ended up waiting outside at midday waiting for transportation from the Philadelphia Convention Center to the Wells Fargo Center.  The next day, Bruce, my new friend and fellow delegate, and I decided to skip the buses and take the subway instead.  We were celebrated as we walked past the protests in front of City Hall, and when we asked directions to the subway we were engulfed in a kind of group hug that escorted us to the subway steps.  The subway was cooler than the street and we were grateful to sit down.  Thus began the most magical subway ride of my life.  We sat with Bernie supporters, two friends who had traveled from Illinois and Indiana to take part in the moment.  They were thrilled to be sitting next to actual delegates and told us how much our votes for Bernie meant to them.  Through us, their voices would be heard and they encouraged us to stay strong.  At that point, none of us realized that our votes had actually been cast that morning at breakfast, and we all still held out a glimmer of hope that the “vote” that evening would be in Bernie’s, in our, favor.  They were excited and proud and hopeful.  “Please vote for us: vote for Bernie!”  At the second to last stop anyone who wasn’t credentialed had to leave the subway.  As we stood to let our seatmates exit, both women hugged me and Bruce.  Imagine–total strangers, now friends, hugging on the subway.  Only a movement based on love can create that kind of moment.  Bruce likes to tell how the 2 young ladies with Clinton credentials stood in front of us during the ride and never so much as smiled.  When the seats became available next to us, these young ladies chose instead to remain standing.  Their loss. As the Bernie protesters left the train and the delegates behind on it, they started chanting “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” in the subway station.  We pulled away to face the roll call with the chants of the subway Berners echoing in our hearts.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Bruce and me

The convention was a no-holds barred star-studded spectacular, but the glamour still failed to impress.  It was such a display of excess and privilege that I literally felt sick by the final day.  There was, however, one exception, one politician who stole my heart:  Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint, Michigan. The first time I saw her was on the first day at the Philadelphia Convention Center.  I walked right up to her like a schoolgirl with a Tiger Beat crush, to tell her that my heart was broken by what had been done to her city, and to tell her that there were people all over Michigan who cared and wanted to help and would stand with her and her city for the long haul.  I regretted not taking a picture, but when I saw her again late night back at the hotel, I got not only a picture but a hug. This is a beautiful woman, a true warrior and inspiration.  A hero.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint, MI and me.

The moment of the actual convention that will stay with me long after the balloons have popped, was Bernie’s brother casting his vote.  I was sitting just below and to the left of the Delegates Abroad group.  I cried at the time and I cry every time see the video.  To have been so close to such love, grace, and humility…

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Larry Sanders from the Michigan Delegation–I still cry.

One of my favorite people on the planet is Joey Wilson of the Wayne-Westland for Bernie group.  He embraced this movement with a passion and wide-eyed wonder matched by few.  And he went to Philadelphia.  And he adopted me.  I felt like I was Joey’s personal delegate, and his enthusiasm and support brought me joy and kept me grounded on those hot and difficult days.  We had exchanged phone numbers and were able to keep in touch–me on the inside and him on the outside–throughout the week.  And he was on the outside in the brutal heat, protesting and participating in every march and rally.  I don’t know how he did it day after day, but when Bill and I caught up with him on Wednesday, he was as joyful and excited to be out in the midst of the protests as he had been back at the Westland Bowl the week before.  We joined him for a bit and he tried to get me up on the stage to speak as other delegates had been doing. There really wasn’t time but oh!–how his enthusiasm nourished me and gave me a shot of strength to go back to the face another night.  Joey asked me if the protesters were making a difference, if the delegates knew they were out there sending support and strength–YES!!!! And it made all the difference.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Bill and I caught up with Joey at one of the protests.

And then there’s Bill.  As honored as I was to be elected, as passionate as I feel about Bernie’s campaign, as excited as I was to go to the convention, I still was anxious, very anxious, about going.  I wanted Bill to come with me to share the experience, but also because I knew that he would take care of me–and so he did.  He made sure I got where I needed to be, had the information I needed to have, and he took care of me when I got back to the hotel.  There was no way I could have anticipated the physical and emotional toll this convention would take on me.  The outrage and anger we felt at the Wikileaks revelations, the unbelievable arrogance of the DNC and Clinton campaign putting on this extravaganza and demanding “unity” when all we felt was disgust, days that went from 7 a.m. to well after midnight, and the heat, my God, the heat–left me wrecked.  Walking miles and then sitting for hours cramped in too-small stadium seats left my knees, ankles and feet swollen beyond recognition, and I came back to the hotel near tears and exhausted to find that Bill had a bath drawn and waiting for me.  He rubbed my feet and made sure I was hydrated and fed, and he held me when I cried.  He drove us there and back 10 hours each way, and on the day after we got home, he put me to bed for a day of recovery.  I know that I could have made it without him, but I am so grateful that I didn’t have to.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Bill and me at the opening reception on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This movement isn’t over; in fact, it has just begun.  This convention is just a moment on the journey and make no mistake, it was a difficult moment.  Reams of paper, miles of film, and endless lines of code will dissect this 2016 Democratic National Convention for years to come, but none of them will capture the honesty and humility, the warmth and wonder of what it was like to participate as a delegate.  I want my children and grandchildren and theirs to know that their mother fought for them, for their future.  But I also want them to know that the fight wasn’t just about anger and disappointment and deceit.  It was so much bigger than that, so much more…

And so I choose to remember the love.  

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Philly bound…

We leave today and I vacillate between unbelievably excited and unbelievably anxious.  The excited part is easy: I am going to be living and breathing and participating in history.  No matter what happens, my children, their children and theirs beyond will be able to say that I was there and I was fighting for them.  Fighting–it ain’t over yet.

And that’s the anxiety part–it can’t be over yet.  The Wikileaks documents just came out and my God, there was collusion.  The process was rigged from the start.  No integrity, no transparency, just the court jesters deciding who will be the queen.  The joke, however, is on them.  There is no way Bernie supporters will support her, no way anyone with any kind of integrity will support her.  The best they’ve got cannot beat the orange goo the Republicans call their own.  Ha!

If I thought the Republican convention was a shitshow (true confession:  I couldn’t watch it was so disgusting), then the DNC is likely to rival it in it’s own sordid way.  There are plots and plans aplenty, people in every online delegate group laying out strategies for how to derail the coronation.  It’s overwhelming and exhausting.  Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Messenger, Reddit…I have to turn it off.

Yet I fear that I’ll be out of the loop or miss vital information or fail to do the one true thing that will ensure Bernie’s nomination, so I turn it off, then turn it on, then turn it off, then turn it on…  I’m tuning out the chatter and trying to listen to just a few trusted sources:  Bernie’s campaign, the MDP for logistics, official DNC communication–again about logistics, TYT, adoptaberniedelegate.com (great newsletters and support), Michelle and Lena.  There are just too many people making too much noise and worrying about minutiae and howling at the moon.

My strategy in Philly is to be inside the party and talk with people.  Yes, I’m going to the welcome receptions. Why do we hold marches and protests and submit petitions?  To be heard, to get a seat at the table.  Well, we have a seat at the table and I’ve been elected to sit there and that is what I’m going to do.  We can’t have change if we don’t talk to people and if there’s one thing I do well, it’s talk.  Others will have to march.

So there are clothes strewn all over my bed; I’m trying to figure out my tablet, phone and computer capabilities; I’ve got 3 yoga mats packed for the morning yoga and I am going to take advantage of it to try to keep sane, and I hope to God I’ve got the right shoes–because it’s all about having the right shoes.

Oh, and I’m running for the School Board and as a write-in candidate for precinct delegate and all of that paperwork has to be done TODAY to make the filing deadline.  When I get back, I get to run my own campaign and I am so excited because I am DOING what Bernie asked us to do–get involved. I’m also terrified of putting myself out there, but here’s the thing–it was the Canton Dems who reached out to me to ask me to run and they have been incredible. They are going to coach me and support me and they have made it safe for me to do this.  Good people and we have to come home and work together for the state–but I just cannot bring myself to support Hillary.  Lately on my Facebook Memories old posts–as early as 2012 have me posting about Bernie and wishing he would run for President.  I’m faithful, if nothing else.

Time now to print out the DNC Platform so that I’m ready for the conversation.

Bernie 2016! And we’re heading to Philly.

It’s a slow Bern…

Bernie just held a conference call with all of his delegates and here’s my takeaway:  The Revolution isn’t over; it’s a Slow Bern and we are only just beginning the fight.

There really wasn’t anything surprising in the beginning.  Bernie thanked all of his supporters and reminded us that we are part of a unique moment in history.  He listed some of the truly incredible accomplishments of this last year.  We won about 13 million votes, 22 states and 1,900 pledged delegates, and we did it after the mainstream media and talking heads wrote Bernie and his supporters off as fringe.  We forced a discussion in the media and political circles about issues that really matter such as income inequality, climate change, the criminal justice system, the lack of affordable health care, the cost of college tuition, and so much more.  We created the most progressive platform that the Democratic Party has ever created (though I still don’t think it went far enough!)…and we did it with grassroots efforts and contributions from every day working people.  We did that–WE DID THAT–and so much more.

Where do we go?  We keep moving forward.  We elect progressive candidates at every level of government from the school board to the Governor’s mansion and we keep on electing them.  We develop a 50 state strategy to support progressive candidates. Bernie is going to announce organizations that he is starting to keep this movement and momentum going.  

The delegates have a key role to play in Philadelphia.  Bernie will speak, there will be a roll call vote so that every one of the delegates’ voices is heard; the Rules will be challenged to create a more fair and open Democratic Party.  It’s time to challenge the superdelegate system, the closed primaries, and the politician’s dependence on billionaires and corporations. I remain committed to my job as a pledged delegate for Bernie and will be voting for Bernie in Philadelphia as planned!

The goal, the end game, my friends, is no less than the transformation of the Democratic Party and the entire nation!  We are transforming the way politics is done in this country and in so doing changing the world!  

Yesterday, last night, I was disheartened by the thought of Bernie endorsing HRC, but now I am filled with hope. Yes, I wish Bernie had won, and I have seen all the posts about lawsuits and strategies and I admit a part of me still hopes…until that happens I take heart in knowing that we are being inspired and guided by a visionary.  Bernie has said from the start that this election wasn’t about him; this election is about transforming US, ordinary citizens, into so much more than we have been.  We are alive and awake and energized to do the work that we must do to create the country we deserve. It’s not a violent revolution; it’s a Slow Berning one.

#Bernie2016  #SlowBern

Anxiety eve…

Yoga did not help.  Downward dog–is he going to endorse?  Up dog–no way. We’ve worked so hard and the convention is in 2 weeks.  Down dog–but what about this meeting tomorrow?  Cat and cow–yes and no.  What the hell is going on?  No, I am not feeling the namaste tonight.

Rumors are flying; speculation is rampant and all anybody knows for sure is that we know nothing for sure.  Over the weekend the platform committee met and the end was a disaster.  My fellow Michigander, Lena Thompson, posted a Facebook Live rant to the delegation late on Saturday night(Lena’s post).  She both confused and frightened me.  She was angry, confused, felt betrayed and exhausted.  What the hell happened?  I saw the full video (“Unity Amendment” video) the next day:  the HRC camp had substituted language into the final amendment that pretty much declared HRC not just the nominee but the president.  It went on to thank Senator Sanders and his supporters for their tremendous effort.  What. The…F?

Today rumors are flying and all we know is that Bernie and HRC will be appearing together tomorrow at a rally in New Hampshire.  Please God, let him not endorse.  If he does, what was all this for?

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I will be FURIOUS if Bernie endorses HRC and doesn’t take this all the way to the convention.  I–WE–have spent countless hours and countless dollars to take it this far and it better not be over now.  Why the hell should any of us waste our time and money going to Philadelphia if he endorses her?  I feel sick and anxious and angry and I am praying that it will not be true.

And what about the people who elected me?  As far as I’m concerned I’m still pledged and it still is my job to go to the convention and VOTE FOR BERNIE SANDERS and I have every intention of doing that.  If he does endorse, I still will do it, but it will be with a heavy heart.  How many more betrayals can we stand?

I stand with Bernie; please God, let him still stand with me.

Standing strong…

Post #3 has been swirling in my head for a week; three times I’ve started and three times I’ve failed to get my thoughts together.

It’s been a rough week.  I will not comment on HRC’s emails, or the two black men killed by police, or the 5 police officers killed by a sniper.  My heart is broken and the words from Hamilton are singing in my head.  The World Turned Upside Down, The World Turned Upside Down…what have we come to?

When I was elected a delegate for Bernie I really did not comprehend what an incredible honor this charge is.  All week, as the world turned upside down, I kept telling myself that there are good people in the world, that good will triumph over evil, and that Bernie’s campaign MATTERS.  Whether he wins the nomination or not (and I’m still praying that he will!), what we have accomplished over the last year MATTERS, and the ripple effects of this movement will carry on long after I exhaust my Bernie t-shirts and buttons.  We have campaigned for a man who advocates peace and justice and love and respect for all living beings as well as our precious mother Earth–and that MATTERS.  Issues that wouldn’t have seen the light of day and voices that wouldn’t have been given a platform, became part of our national dialogue and consciousness because of Bernie–and that MATTERS.

This week I received a telephone call from a fellow delegate from Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.  She is pledged to HRC and was calling to encourage me to attend a “unity” event.  She was warm and friendly and delightful to speak with, and I appreciated her outreach.

But then she asked me, “What do you think of the Bernie supporters who say they won’t support Hillary?”

Danger, Patty Mullen!.  As a pledged delegate I can be de-credentialed if I speak out against the Democratic Party or appear to support another candidate.  There are rumors–I repeat, rumors–that the HRC camp is trying to flip Bernie delegates.  I proceeded with caution.

“I don’t speak for other Bernie supporters, only for myself and, at the convention, for the people who elected me.  My job is to vote for Bernie and that is what I am going to do.  I am not projecting beyond July and will not comment on November.  I can tell you, however, that no matter what happens in Philadelphia, I will be coming home to work with other Democrats to get rid of our terrible governor and win the state legislature.”

“Oh my God! I am so tired of losing! I’ve been fighting for so long and we HAVE to win to fix Michigan.” She almost wept. Wow.

Three things happened there.   First, I responded to a charged question with an answer that is truthful and true to my position as a Bernie supporter and delegate.  Second, I realized that my HRC delegate counterpart is NOT the enemy.  

See what I did there?  I grew up a little. Good for me.

This woman and all of her friends who have been part of the Democratic Party for years and years have been in the trenches fighting for good schools, for women’s rights, for civil rights, for sane gun legislation, for the environment and for a host of other issues that I support–and they’ve been doing it all this time WITHOUT ME.  I will have a lot to learn from her.

The official invitation for a Unity cocktail party came from the Michigan Democratic Party later in the week and, but for a wedding that we have to attend, I would be there.  I’m ready to make some new friends and allies–there is work to be done back home in Michigan after Philadelphia.

The third thing that happened is more profound: the full weight of my election hit me.  I was ELECTED to represent Bernie’s supporters at the convention.  I am CHARGED to make their voices heard.  It is not MY vote that will be cast–it is THEIRS, and I cannot, I will not, betray that trust.  Asked if I would support HRC down the road, I felt a physical sensation as if the 45, 054 people of Michigan’s 11th Congressional District who voted for Bernie were holding me and I them.  We are standing strong for Bernie and voting for him in Philadelphia.

I have no doubt that I will be asked the “who are you going to support in November” question again, and delegates need to be prepared to answer it truthfully and smartly. I’m ready to answer AND I’m ready to vote.

 

The election of me…

The call went out in the early Spring:  Bernie needs people to register with the Democratic Party of Michigan and also to register to run for election as a delegate to the national convention this summer in Philadelphia.  It costs $10 to join the party and paperwork to run for delegate must be received by the MDP at least 30 days before the Congressional District meetings that would be held on May 21.  And that was it–that was all I knew about becoming a delegate to the Presidential convention.  My ignorance, however, did not stop me from sending in my $10 and my delegate application.  For good measure, I had Bill fill out the same and sent his in as well.  I didn’t think too much more about it…

…until the week before May 21.  Sometime that week, I got a phone call from Michelle, who has been magnificent in her efforts to coordinate Southeast Michigan for Bernie.  (More about how Michelle and I met in another post).  A very rough transcript of our conversation goes like this:

“Patty, Labor is putting together a slate for the upcoming delegate election, and for the first time in history, the UAW is going to put someone who is not a union member on the slate. There are some Bernie supporters high up in Labor as well as the MDP and they want to be sure they have strong a Bernie delegates on their slate, someone they can count on to stay strong for Bernie at the convention.”

“Huh?” Because I’m so articulate in these situations.

“They don’t have a union member for the female Bernie slot in the 11th District and they asked the campaign for a recommendation.  We recommended you.”

“Huh?” Again, so articulate.

“Are you willing to be on the Labor slate for the delegate election next Saturday?”

“Oh-kay?”

“I’m so glad you said yes–because we already told them that you would do it and you’re on the Labor slate.”  

And there you have it.  For the first time in history, Labor in Michigan is going to run non-union members on their slates for pledged delegate positions for the Democratic Presidential Primary–and that person in the 11th district is me.  I do support Labor’s positions and when I had the brief opportunity joined the American Federation of Teachers, but what had I gotten into?

Michelle coached me to be prepared to hand out some sort of flyer introducing myself to the district members.  She told us to get there early and spend time “campaigning” during the meet and greet.  I had no idea how I would pull this off or what was appropriate, but the morning of the election I got up early and prepared a flyer to hand out at the District meeting:

Bill did not prepare a flyer as he was less invested in this than I, and on the morning of May 21, 2016, we headed up to Commerce Township for the Michigan Democratic Party Eleventh Congressional District meeting.

The meeting was held at the Michigan Education Association offices and thank goodness they had a sign out front as it is located just off of one of those terrible roundabouts and tricky to find.  We arrived as the staff and meeting volunteers were still setting up.  I know that everybody has seen the videos of the anger and disruption at the Nevada and New York meetings, but I want to be very clear that we have experienced nothing like that with the Michigan Democratic Party.  Everyone has been helpful and welcoming and enthusiastic about our participation.  Of course, Bernie won Michigan, and I think that was due in large part to how well Michigan ran their primary.  

The meeting was set to begin at 11:00 and we arrived around 9:30, so for a good hour and a half Bill and I circulated and introduced ourselves to the soon-to-be-voting members of the 11th District. Our friend Kelly–she of the glorious purple hair–also was a delegate candidate, but she hadn’t been briefed and was angry that there was a slate and that she didn’t know about the flyers.  I felt guilty and realized that it really does help to be supported by people on the inside.  Why I was the beneficiary of that, I didn’t know.  But Kelly is very cool and she hung out with us through the morning.  I can say, unequivocally, that I would have wholeheartedly supported her as the delegate.  She worked hard for Bernie all year and deserved to be a delegate as much as anyone. Unfortunately, there was only one female slot.

As I circulated around the room, I introduced myself as a candidate for the Bernie delegate position; Hillary supporters would just reply, “I’m for Hillary” which created an awkward moment, but I just decided to reply with, “Great.  Have a good morning then” and off I’d go to the next person, taking back my flyer from the HRC supporters who clearly had no use for it.

I was about ¾ of the way through the meet and greet when a man in a suit walked up to me and introduced himself:

“I’m Bill Black with Labor and I want to thank you for being on our slate.” Bill Black was on the slate along with a gentleman named Mike Whitty, and me.

“Thank you.  I’m honored to be chosen.  And which union are you with?”

“I work for Jimmy Hoffa.”  At which point my head exploded because, my God, Jimmy Hoffa. This man is a Teamster, and of course I know that today’s Jimmy Hoffa is James Hoffa, Jr., THE Jimmy Hoffa’s son, but he said “Jimmy Hoffa” and all I could think was, “Brendan, did you hear that?  He said Jimmy Hoffa?”  Brendan is my dear departed former husband who loved nothing more than a good conspiracy theory and was a student of Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance.  He was also a student of the Kennedy Assassination, Area 51 and televangelists.  I prayed he was watching from his perch somewhere in the galaxy where I am sure he has learned the answers to all of the aforementioned mysteries.

Then Teamster Bill turned and pointed his finger at my Bill and said, “I know you.”

“I used to be a hardcore Teamster,” says my Bill about a past that happened long before I met him.

“What local?”

“I was with Greg Nowak.”

“Local 1038? You were part of the strike.”

“Yes.”

And Teamster Bill turns, takes out his phone, and hands it to me. “Take our picture.” Then Teamster Bill puts his arm around my Bill and there I am–the Labor slate candidate, remember me?–taking their picture.  What in the world?

Teamster Bill takes back his phone and sends a quick text message with photo to Greg saying something along the lines of  “Look who I found after all these years at the 11th Congressional District Convention this fine Saturday morning,” and moments later, Greg, now the Teamster’s Detroit Council President, texts back something like, “I’ll be damned; tell Bill hello.”  Jesus–who is this man, my Bill?  “I’ll tell you later” says he.  Great.

At 11:00 the meeting was called to order and Pam Jackson was elected chair.  She’s a funny woman who lead with purpose as well as warmth.  She went over the rules and it was decided that the slates would be abolished; votes would be cast for individuals only.  I didn’t know what that would mean for me, but I wasn’t given much time to worry about it. The Hillary camp had more people there and so the Berners were invited to move into the smaller room next door for the election of delegates.  That was fine and fair, except that our room had no chairs or air and was too small.  One person called for our meeting to move out to the parking lot, but that didn’t go anywhere.  Teamster Bill stepped up as a volunteer chair, and the group voted him in to run the Bernie caucus.

The candidates’ names were listed on a poster on an easel and the names of the candidates who were not present were struck through. (James Hoffa was one of those not present and removed from the running).  My Bill took himself out of the running as he felt there were others more involved and qualified than he.  One gentleman demanded that all of the candidates declare their allegiance to the Democratic nominee–whoever that turned out to be–in November before votes were cast.  He was shouted down and I spoke out, “You had the opportunity to speak to all of the candidates before the vote; this is not the place for that and nobody here is obligated to make promises about November here in May. Our job is to elect delegates for July.”  He shrunk back against the wall.  The group decided that there would be no campaigning before the vote, but each candidate would be called on to identify himself or herself before the votes were cast.

In Michigan, delegates are apportioned according to the proportion of votes won by each candidate in the primary.  The delegates are further designated by gender and the MDP has an affirmative action plan to encourage minority and youth participation.  Michigan’s 11th Congressional District is as gerrymandered Republican as they come, so even though this was the Democratic Party convention, it was a pretty white meeting.  But the gender breakdown was interesting:  the 11th District would elect 6 delegates total, Hillary got 3, and Bernie got 3.  Hillary’s delegates would be 2 female and 1 male.  Bernie would get 2 male and 1 female.  I have no idea how this was determined, but there I was in the running for the 1 female Bernie slot.

Here’s where it gets confusing.  When we arrived and registered, each person was given a small paper-clipped set of 3 pre-cut pieces of colored index cards:  2 of a color, and one of another.  The 11th encompasses parts of 2 counties, Wayne and Oakland; Wayne County residents were given a colored set of cards of yellow and green; Oakland County residents were given a set of 2 different colors.  These colored cards were to allow for 2 votes for male delegates, and 1 vote for the female delegate for the Bernie caucus, and the opposite for the Hillary caucus..  In addition, the different counties had different color sets to allow for proportional voting.  Wayne County had 69 people present at the meeting; Oakland County had 59 people present.  If my notes are correct, that meant that the weighted votes would be Wayne County at 2.01%, and Oakland County votes counted as 1.93%. I have no idea who figured that out, but God bless ‘em for it.

The men went first.  After each man introduced himself–no campaigning!–we lined up to cast our votes.  Someone asked if we could cast both of our male ballots for one candidate and the answer–from whomever knew the answers–was yes.  There was a long table against the wall on the far side, and on it were small mesh baskets.  Each candidate had a basket and his name on an index card clothespined to it.  And so we filed by, each voter circling around the room dropping the ballots into the appropriate baskets as we passed.  If felt like a children’s game:  Ring around the Rosy  meets some kind of basket toss.  Is this how presidential politics is decided?  45 people in a room dropping pieces of colored notecards into wire mesh baskets?  Somehow I imagined something more dignified.

The votes were counted and the results were in:  Mike Whitty, a Bernie organizer from Oakland County was the first winner.  The second winner was Ethan Petzold–an 18 year old senior in high school from our very own Canton, Michigan!  Mike had been on the Labor slate with me and Teamster Bill, but Ethan, in addition to support from his Canton group, had brought his mother, his father, his grandmother and his aunt who clearly all had dumped their 2 male votes each into Ethan’s basket!  An 18 year old kid had bumped the Teamsters–and Bill Black was angry.  Ethan is a great kid and very deserving of the honor; he told me that he heard Teamster Bill swearing on the way out.  Good for Ethan and Mike!

Next up was the female vote and we went through the whole parade again.  I had a moment of thinking I’d give my vote to Kelly–she really deserves to go–but then decided to have faith in myself and vote my own way.  The wait was nerve-wracking and not because I was so invested in being a delegate.  It was nerve wracking because it really did feel like some kind of high school popularity contest and my God, shouldn’t it all be more IMPORTANT than that?  They called out the result:  there was a tie for first place.  Patricia Mullen and Ethel (whose last name I do not know) were tied with 13 votes each.  It was time to use the proportional weights and see if that broke the tie.  

The vote counters huddled together and we waited while they did their math magic.  Then the votes were announced and I had won by .2.  I’m from Wayne County; Ethel is from Oakland.  Wayne is weighted more heavily than Oakland and I had gotten more Wayne votes. I had just been elected the female delegate pledged for Senator Bernie Sanders to the National Democratic Party convention.  Wow.

But wait!  Someone challenged the result.  Hold on everybody, these results are not final.  The number huddlers re-huddled over the paper ballots, re-crunched the numbers and FINALLY turned back to the group to announce that yes, there had been an error, BUT, it only changed the final vote points of the 3rd place candidate.  Patricia Mullen remained the winner.  WOW!

There were hugs and congratulations and I-can’t-believe-its all around. Somebody took pictures of Mike, Ethan and me, and if I ever find out who I’ll be sure to get a copy.  The Hillary vote was still going on as there had been 17 candidates for the 2 female slots in that group.  We waited around thinking there might be some kind of information shared, but there wasn’t.  By the time the HRC delegates were declared, most of the Bernie folks had been long gone.  I congratulated my counterparts and Bill and I left.

Even though we didn’t vote slates, I told Bill that I thought being on the Labor slate helped me.  “Maybe a vote or two, but no, you did the work.  You worked for Bernie and were known; you had your flyer ready and got here and worked the room.  You deserve this.”  

“Thanks.  Now, tell me why that Teamster knows you.”

“I told you about the strike in the 80s; when the lawsuit finally settled, it was the largest single settlement in Teamster history.”

“And you were part of the strike and the union bosses knew who you were?”

“Yes.” And that was that.

So Labor for the first time in history chooses some random woman to be on their slate to be elected a delegate to the presidential convention; the actual Teamster gets bumped by a high school senior, but the random woman’s partner happens to be a hardcore Teamster that they actually know.  Life is strange–so is presidential politics..