Democrats Abroad DNC members attended the Fall meeting of the Democratic National Committee in Las Vegas this October. International Chair Julia Bryan (Czech Republic) and the DNC delegates Connie Borde (France), John Eastwood (Taiwan), Adrianne George (Sweden), Martha McDevitt-Pugh (Netherlands), Ken Sherman (Canada), and Orlando Vidal (UAE) represented the organization.
"It was a fantastic few days - our agenda was packed with workshops, training sessions and meetings," said Julia Bryan. "When we were not in a meeting, we got to know other state party folk and DNC staff. Seeing first hand that the new DNC is focused on every zip code (even abroad) and is pushing into new technologies made the week for me. I left feeling extremely optimistic about the party's initiatives and path forward."
During the meeting in Vegas, the DA team spoke with every member of the DNC executive committee. The take away? The DNC is very eager to work closely with us in 2018 to get out the vote from abroad ... and in 2017 too! Tom Perez was particularly interested in our work in the Alabama Senate race, and our efforts for the New Jersey and Virginia elections, urging us to push as hard as we can to get out the vote in these three key races.
"The DNC recognizes the potential of our votes from abroad," said Bryan. "We know the margin of victory in 2018 lives overseas. Our goal is to activate it."
Pursuing that goal, the DA team spent the weekend forging alliances with other state parties and raising its profile within the DNC. Two of our DNC delegates helped advance the cause by winning election to two of the DNC's caucuses: Martha McDevitt-Pugh was elected to the executive committee of the Women's Caucus, and Orlando Vidal was elected to the executive committee of the Hispanic caucus.
"It's a great honor to be a voice for the international hispanic and latino community," said Vidal, "and it's important for DA to be present everywhere within the DNC--who knows what exciting new opportunities that will produce?"
For delegate Connie Borde, one of the most exciting sessions of the meeting was the report of the Unity Reform Commission.
"They've been doing some important work and it was exciting to hear about it. I haven't been this excited about what the DNC is doing since Howard Dean was chair," said Borde, adding that "we really are making progress, it's encouraging." When she found out that the co-chair of the Commission, Larry Cohen, would be in Paris the next week, Borde immediately invited him to give a talk to members of DA France and the local chapter of Our Revolution.
DA delegate Ken Sherman celebrated a birthday that weekend, but marking another trip around the sun was not the most memorable moment for him.
"I was particularly proud when DNC Vice-Chair Keith Ellison gave Democrats Abroad a huge shout out for our work during Resistance Summer at a meeting of all the State Chairs. We hosted the most number of events, training sessions, and activities for Resistance Summer of all the state parties. Getting a shout-out from Ellison was a great feather in DA's cap, and a great birthday present!"
Another session at the meeting that was of particular interest to International Chair Julia Bryan was by the new Chief Technology Officer Raffi Krikorian. "I'm an IT geek," said Bryan, "and Raffi really impressed me. Since he's been on board, the DNC has made gigantic leaps forward with regard to tech. There's still a lot to do, but he's done a tremendous amount in just a little bit of time." One of the most important things Krikorian has done is to beef up internet security. "He's changed both the technology and the culture, making it nearly impossible for emails and other data to be hacked."
Meetings make things happen quickly, and indeed, while DA's representatives were in Vegas they were able to accomplish a major goal: DA alerted the DNC to the fact that the Veteran's Suicide Prevention hotline was virtually non-functional for veterans calling from abroad. Given the large number of veterans who continue to reside abroad after their deployment, this is a very serious problem, and the DNC enthusiastically agreed to support a solution. South Carolina DNC member Clay Middleton has already approached Rep Jim Clyburn about the issue, and the Mississippi state vice chair has also vowed to work with the VA on the problem. The advocacy work of two of our DNC representatives, Adrianne George and John Eastwood, led the Veterans Council to pass a motion regarding the issue, so now the organization will undertake an effort to remediate the problem.
This was a very successful meeting for DA and an exciting time for the "new" DNC under Perez and Ellison, which has refreshed itself with many new faces and a revived focus on every state and every zip code. As we move in to the 2018 electoral period, Democrats Abroad looks forward to working with the DNC to reach out to the millions of Americans living abroad and helping them register to vote by absentee ballot.