A Message from Aaron Kruse, Democrats Abroad China Chair
After three debates it is clear that the eventual Democratic Party nominee will have their hands full cleaning up the mess that President Trump has created. From healthcare to student loans, gun control to foreign policy, our party has a lot of work to do.
As the primaries draw nearer and the Democratic Party chooses a candidate to take on Trump in 2020 it can feel like we’re very far away from the action, but the reality is that our Leadership Board is working hard to build a post-Trump world.
Recently, all 11 members of DA China’s elected Leadership Board met in Shanghai to strategize how we can contribute and how we can organize to make sure that the White House has a new occupant come 2021.
Among the work that we did during the retreat was to discuss issues that should be part of the Democratic Party platform. The world looks different for Americans living abroad, and part of the mission of Democrats Abroad is to make sure that our issues are addressed. For example, President Trump’s trade policy will make it harder for millions of Americans living overseas to vote – directly jeopardizing our voting rights.
In order to ensure that the Democratic Party hears our voices on the issues, DA’s global team has launched the 2020 Platform Committee. And, to ensure that DA’s global team hears the voices of its members, the committee is rolling out an initiative to allow members to share their voices through “Kitchen Table” conversations.
Over the next few months we will be encouraging our members to take part in these conversations and share feedback with the Platform Committee. Interested members can get involved by first reviewing the 2016 Democrats Abroad Platform and then getting in touch with any of our 11 elected DA China leaders.
Each month we take a moment to highlight a volunteer in Democrats Abroad China. This month's star: Brittni Young in Shanghai!
INTERVIEW BY: ALEXANDER LEE
Brittni Young was born and raised in Texas, where she is registered to vote. She now resides in Shanghai as a full-time English teacher while working with an art collective on the side.
Brittni is leading up the efforts of China’s newly formed Black Caucus. If you are interested in issues of diversity and racial equality, join us for our Inaugural Black Caucus Brunch on September 15 in Shanghai and follow the Global Black Caucus on its social media streams!
The rule “you should never discuss politics, and religion at the dinner table” never held any weight in her home. When Brittni was a child she used to campaign with her family and neighbors asking them to vote for her as the first Black female president. “That particular slot has yet to be filled so a girl can still dream,” she said. In college, she worked with the College Democrats’ organization to keep classmates involved and registering them to vote, and has since kept up a litany of volunteer actions at food donation centers, beach clean ups, donations to women’s shelters and educating people.
Brittni first got involved with Democrats Abroad through a Women’s Caucus Event for Women’s Day. “I was unaware there was this organization abroad so I was very excited when I met Sarah and Kim at this event, and learned more about the Democrats Abroad.” After this event she found how simple it was to get involved with the organization, stay engaged with the political process, and help our country while living abroad.
She is interested in women’s rights, black rights, climate change, and “just being kind to each other, and caring for our planet.”
In her opinion, the Democrats’ greatest challenges are single issue voters and voter suppression. In Texas, communicating social policies to conservative voters is also a challenge. Texans have a very strong mindset about working hard and not receiving handouts. “I think it’s great that they have a mindset about working hard, but I think we need to re-educate people about our social policies that they are calling handouts. People feel ashamed for receiving something they already paid into, and they should naturally receive as American citizens, and human beings. We need to be more effective at reaching out to these communities.”
If Brittni was President for a Day, "I would allocate resources to release the children and families locked up in cages at our southern border, and provide them with resources to sustain them as we create a pathway to citizenship. I would also take necessary actions needed to protect the DACA program the current administration is attempting to end. "
“Next, I would focus on climate change, because no one will be around to debate or enjoy anything if we continue at the destructive rate we are going. I would rejoin the Paris Agreement, and pass the Green New Deal. I would also allocate resources to cleaning up the water of cities such as Flint, Michigan, where residents are unable to access drinkable water in the “richest” nation of the world.
“Also, I would focus on making access to medication affordable for all Americans, and pushing forward with Universal Healthcare.
“I would also have the United States sign the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Join Brittni and other Democrats Abroad members working to ensure change in 2020! Check us out on Facebook or WeChat.
Today we take a moment to highlight the man who’s been behind the interviews of our Democrats Abroad China board members and star volunteers, Alexander Lee, who also serves as General Counsel for our board.
Alexander currently works at an international program in one of Guangzhou’s top public schools. He votes in Barre, Vermont, which is named after the Member of Parliament who coined the term “Sons of Liberty.”
Participating in a rally was actually what led to Alexander moving to China. At the Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert ‘Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear’ in 2010, he met the director of Perfect English and, some months later, moved to Changchun to become the Director of Studies. Additionally, he has lived in Beijing as well.
He has been to 95 cities and towns in China, many of which are documented on his blog Waking Green Dragon. He is particularly interested in tea, and now runs the Guangzhou Internations Coffee & Tea group.
One reason he pursued an adventure outside of America was because he needed a change after running a nonprofit. His organization, Project Laundry List, worked on “right to dry” legislation encouraging Americans to use nature to dry laundry instead of energy-sucking machines. Under his watch, it had a slew of media coverage, including having a film crew follow them around for a year to produce a prize-winning documentary called Drying for Freedom.
Even before being elected to DA China’s leadership board, Alexander has had a history of being involved in politics. He was the former chair of the Concord City Democrats and Merrimack County Democrats in New Hampshire, and was an early field office director for Howard Dean and a 2004 DNC delegate for him in Boston. He served as campaign manager for McKim Mitchell’s almost successful attempt to unseat the State Senate President in 2004.
He has many issues important to him, including protecting the environment, abolishing the death penalty and fair and progressive tax. Additionally, “I am former board member of Otter Creek Audubon and Peace & Justice Center of Burlington, VT so I care about birds and peace,” he said.
As general counsel, his role at Democrats Abroad is to ensure all initiatives follow American legal proceedings so that our organization can identify Americans, register them to vote and help them request absentee ballots as smoothly as possible.
Join us as a Democrats Abroad member! Check us out on Facebook or WeChat.
We are excited to announce the Democrats Abroad China has officially launched the Black Caucus, and we’d like to invite you to join us! Please join us for our Inaugural Brunch on Sunday, September 15 in Shanghai and be sure to scan our WeChat Group code to join the WeChat Group before the end of the week!
What is the Black Caucus?
The Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus (GBC) is made up of DA members of all ethnicities from around the world who are willing and able to advocate on issues important to Black Americans within the United States of America and those living abroad. All DA members are eligible to join the GBC. We advocate for laws, policies, and programs that improve the lives of Black Americans and educate all people on the humanity of Black people.
What issues are we advocating for?
● Voting Rights
● Criminal Justice
● Police Brutality
● Police Militarization
● Mass Incarceration
● Prisoner Rights
● Economic Inequality
● Government Participation
● Human Rights and Anti-Racism
● Unconscious and Conscious Bias
● Black Lives Matter
● Environmental Racism
● Human trafficking
● Technology Industry Diversity & Inclusion
● Environmental Justice and Climate Change
The DACN Black Caucus will host events, call to actions, discussions and more to uplift the Black American community while living abroad. We may be an ocean away from home, but the fight for our rights doesn’t stop.
So how can you get involved?
First, you can officially register with the DA Global Black Caucus https://www.democratsabroad.org/join Once you have registered with the Global Black Caucus make sure you scan the QR Code to join our official WeChat group. The WeChat Group is a place for you to join or start a constructive conversation about the issues relevant to our community.
We are excited to have the Black Caucus up and running. We hope you will join us in making a better future for all of us!
DA China is taking a moment to highlight members of our community and board.
Interview of Luc Bronder-Giroux by Alexander Lee
His political awakening was a process of rejecting American-style “liberalism,” which he saw repeatedly betraying “progressive” values. He has increasingly looked for solutions in leftist politics and theory.
He first encountered DA while attempting to get involved with the Bernie Sanders campaign. Since then, he has done some basic campaign canvassing at bars and festivals, met a ton of politically active Americans, and volunteered to register voters. In the last few months, he has also organized a few get-togethers to discuss progressive issues, started a small book club, and launched an ongoing series of “debate watch parties” for the Democratic National Primaries.
“Learning what issues people truly care about—and why—has been extremely rewarding. When we talk in those terms, the compassion and fundamental goodness that shines through is incredibly energizing and hope-inspiring,” says Luc.
He believes that our lack of power to force systemic change is the root of what he calls our “decaying democracy and the betrayal of the poor and working class.” So, building this political power—through radical labor organizing and social movements—is the necessary first step toward progress on any issue.
He believes that the Democrats are faced with an existential challenge: will they stand for the interests of the poor and working people, or will they continue to be a party of big business? This question must be answered at every level.
In its ideology and interests, our party is currently indistinguishable from the Republicans in his view, except in the most egregious acts of inhumanity (which suck up the majority of media attention). So, our task is to force the party to radically transform, both in its ideology (to some kind of eco-socialism) and in the group of people whose interests it represents (which should be those who primarily earn a living by working for a wage).
“I would encourage anyone who suspects there’s something wrong with our political and economic systems (and therefore society) to join a leftist reading group with an open mind,” says Luc, who volunteers with the Progressive Caucus for Democrats Abroad. “Getting involved offline and in real life is the key.”
DA China is taking a moment to highlight members of our community and board.
Interview of Faith Gary, Member-at-Large, by Alexander Lee
She has seen most of China’s major landmarks, and has lived in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu. While she has traveled a bit, China is the only country outside of the United States where she has lived. She has taught the lower primary grades in international schools throughout China over the past ten years.
She grew up watching television alongside her dad. From the nightly news broadcasts of the late 1960s, wherein they tallied the daily death toll of American soldiers in Vietnam, to the Watergate coverage in the early ’70s, to the numerous Olympic and professional sports events in between. Her dad would pontificate on his liberal Democratic ideals and she came to adopt those same ideals — Truth, Liberty and Justice for all, racial equality, and a belief in science (her dad was a biologist with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), based in Atlanta).
She watched as her dad sang the national anthem with all his heart before each sporting event and during the Olympic medal ceremonies, and she learned to do the same. When she was in her high school marching band, she played the anthem more times than she can recount…and she never tired of it!
That patriotic strain has always been present in her life. Even on the morning of September 11, 2001, she was dressed in a red, white, and blue souvenir T-shirt from Washington, DC, and American flag earrings at a Mothers in Prayer meeting at her daughter’s Christian school when the first news of the attack came in. That moment, when several moms’ phones went off simultaneously, she will never forget.
In the ensuing days and months, she found it laughable when Republicans decried any wish to improve America as “hating” America. Any desire to improve the country for all Americans became, in their rhetoric, a desire to change America into something unrecognizable... a socialist state! These partisans swore that Obama “hated” America, even as he won re-election.
So in 2016 when her Dad, by then blind with age, warned her that 45 was going to win, she, like so many of us, could not take that possibility seriously. “Noooo, we’re better than that, aren’t we?” thought Faith, but her Dad warned, “He’s telling [xenophobic, homophobic, anti-choice, and racist voters] exactly what they want to hear.” Her Dad’s prediction was right.
After looking at statistics, it became apparent to Faith that Steve Bannon had helped 45 play the Electoral College game. By appealing to enough racists in three key states, 45 won the majority of Electoral College votes by less than 78,000 votes.
78,000 votes. The entire direction of our great nation turned on that paltry number, because millions of eligible voters passed up on the election, or cast so-called “protest votes.” Faith got involved in DACN because she wanted to play a role in recapturing those lost votes.
Her primary interest is in voter education and registration. She is passionate about helping expats vote absentee from abroad.
“It’s my heart’s desire to see a Blue Tsunami sweep over the nation in November 2020,” she told me. “If the other 98% voted, the top 2% would lose power.”
She truly believes that if we voted the Democratic Party into power in both houses of Congress and the Oval Office, following up the election with a steady stream of pressure for progressive reforms, we could see the changes our country so desperately needs.
Interested in becoming a Democrats Abroad member? Join us on our Facebook or WeChat.
DA China is taking a moment to highlight members of our community and board.
Interview of Brian Kloosterman, volunteer in Kunming, by Alexander Lee
Brian Kloosterman is actively building a group of Democrats Abroad China in Kunming so we picked him as our first volunteer to profile. If you are based in Kunming and interested in working with him, please add WeChat ID: DemocratsAbroad to be connected into the DA China Kunming WeChat group.
Brian has lived in three states—Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Massachusetts, and Michigan—and now resides in China. He is registered to vote in Michigan.
He was born in the New England region, where his father was serving in the Navy. Afterwards, the family returned to their hometown of Detroit. Brian has lived all over Michigan, a state that he loves. But sadly, he feels the difficulties that region faces make it hard for him to see a good future there. In fact, Brian believes Presidential candidates are consistently failing to recognize and present substantial solutions to the problems faced by the working classes in the USA, where systemic lack of opportunity and low quality of life is eroding society from within.
Besides visiting Canada, Brian had never been to another country before coming to China. Originally here for a short term programming project, he has extended his stay to five years now, working as a teacher in AP computer science, chemistry, physical education, music and physics, as well as a student manager at a high school in Kunming. He completed his MEd while in China, and hopes to continue either computer science teaching or programming when he goes back to the USA.
Brian also participates in a local maker group, where he has done some fun robotics projects and carpentry. If you need data visual coding, electronic art projects or games, he is your guy. In addition, he is working on an educational project in cultural evolution theory and a first-person ESL video game for web browsers.
Brian got involved in DA after the 2016 election because he felt it was his responsibility to participate in the democratic process.
He was a teenager when the wars in the Middle East began and he felt disillusioned by the US to see so much money being spent there instead of being utilized to help people back home. At that time, his family and friends were going through major financial hardships. They had to rely on government aid programs, but he says, “those programs have oppressive architectures.”
Additionally, Brian was becoming more aware of the threat of global warming. “I see poverty, low quality of life, poor education, and lack of opportunity as primary drivers in feedback cycles such as violence and racism in the US,” he observed.
If he were President for a day, he would drop most tariffs, pardon or reduce sentences of all non-violent criminals, commute all those on death row to life in prison, loosen the barriers to entry into the US, and deploy the US military in a more productive resource and alliance building manner.
DA China is taking a moment to highlight members of our community and board.
Interview of Eileen Walsh, Member-at-Large, by Alexander Lee
Eileen Walsh was born and brought up in Ohio, where she is registered to vote. She is now a LEAP (Learning English for Academic Proficiency) teacher at Daystar Academy in the Sanlitun area of Beijing. She helps her students develop their abilities in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing in English, in the context of what they are studying in their classrooms.
Ada Shen (currently the National Chair of DA France) helped Eileen get involved with the Democrats Abroad organization.
Her top issues of importance are racial equality and gun control.
She says, “I have no idea what it means to be discriminated against for any reason, and I dislike the idea that there are people who have to always be on their guard. I feel it is my responsibility as a white person to fight for a time when no one has to allow for the possibility that they will be discriminated against, for any reason.”
Regarding gun control, she believes there is no reason for any private citizens to own AK-47s. The Second Amendment refers to a militia, not private citizens, and she feels that the Supreme Court’s activist interpretation of that amendment endangers lives.
I asked her what she would do if she was President for a day and she responded, “Bring to a screeching halt the way migrants are treated. No more detention, no more separating children from their families and no more concentration camps, which is exactly what those facilities are.”
She believes that the challenge Democrats face in 2020 in general is educating people. She is perplexed and baffled by the anti-vaxers, but also by people who justify poor treatment of immigrants. “Whether it’s Donald Trump or someone else, we need to ask questions and find the information we need to make informed decisions instead of accepting what someone else tells us. It is our responsibility, and we need to stop giving that responsibility to other people.”
Eileen is frustrated by a coterie of Americans who are not tolerant of differing opinions.
“I defend the rights of those who disagree with me, as well as the rights of those with whom I have more in common. Those of us who espouse an inclusive view of what it means to be an American and want a society where differences are celebrated and everyone is encouraged to be an active member of society have the responsibility to work toward making that the reality. We need to make our voices heard as we work to create an American society where everyone is welcome.”
While it sometimes feels, as the proverb goes, that heaven is high and the President is far away, Democrats Abroad is a vital part of the Democratic Party. We may be the only one of the 57 “state parties” spread across over 50 countries, but we still meet regularly annually.
This year’s Democrats Abroad country committee leadership global meeting took place in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., in May. Our focus: how local leaders can empower volunteers in preparation for 2020. Through our actions and learnings at the global meeting, DA China is better positioned than ever to fight Trump and the Republican agenda.
This was the third global meeting I attended in person to represent DA China. Sam Wong, our former Vice Chair, was also present in DC, and Elizabeth Jenkins, our current Vice Chair, attended (and voted) virtually.
As a volunteer on the Nominations and Elections Committee, and as Chair of the Bylaws Committee, the meetings felt especially productive this year. I want to share three personal highlights I feel are powerful strengths for our party heading into the 2020 election:
Medicare-for-All Resolution: Each year, DA considers and passes resolutions that stake out our position on key issues, ensuring that they are being communicated directly to DNC leadership. This year we passed a resolution advocating support for a Medicare-for-All plan and expressing a strong view of healthcare as a right for Americans, regardless of their bank account balance. I was proud to vote in support of this resolution, and healthcare is shaping up to be a focal point of Democratic election efforts around the country.
Communication Plans and Training: Amanda Mohar, the global communications lead, delivered a comprehensive overview of DA’s strategy from now through to the primary season and also conducted training on how to activate new volunteers and members. In addition, country committee leaders shared ideas on GOTV and voter registration efforts, with a special focus on reaching students and other overlooked groups. DA China, with support from some amazing volunteers, is working hard to identify opportunities to engage with more study abroad programs.
Democratis Galore: Democrats Abroad is front-of-mind as a key part of the primary and election process. We had the opportunity to host many Presidential hopefuls and other guest speakers to share their ideas on the future of the country. Senator Doug Jones spoke passionately about the importance of defending voter rights, including those of Americans living abroad, leaving a huge impression on all attendees. As you know, voting from overseas can be daunting and confusing. DA has formed global voting rights task forces to identify, track and challenge instances of overseas American voter disenfranchisement.
After the meeting a group of volunteers spent two days on the Hill door-knocking on issues that affect Americans overseas. One topic that resonated with many we met was HR1 and voting rights. HR1 currently includes language that refers to “paper ballots,” which may be used to exclude electronically returned ballots by Americans overseas.
In many parts of the world the postal service is simply not reliable enough for receiving and returning paper ballots. Fax or scanning is a much more optimal solution that does not increase risk of fraud. We found a receptive audience and generated interest for easier overseas voting in California, New York, and Iowa.
These next 18 months are going to be some of the most important in our country's history. We need your help!
Please get in touch to learn more about DA China's work - we are always looking for more volunteers, and we very much appreciate donations to help fuel our efforts. On behalf of the DA China Leadership Board, thank you.
Chair, DA China
The NEC is pleased to announce the new Leadership Board from 2019-2021! With 54 voters, the new board members are:
- Aaron Kruse
- Elizabeth Jenkins
- Elaine Chow
- Kim Wong
- Faith Gary
- Alexander Lee
- Sarah Kimmet
- Eileen Walsh
- Justin Fischer
- Patrick Cranley
- Devika Koppikar
We’d also like to announce the new Executive Committee, who consist of:
- Chair - Aaron Kruse
- Vice Chair - Elizabeth Jenkins
- Legal Counsel - Alexander Lee
- Treasurer - Patrick Cranley
- Secretary - Kimberley Wong
- Communications Director - Elaine Chow
We’d also like to thank Samantha Wong and Johanna Yueh for volunteering their time at the AGM to assist in running the election.