Name: Joshua Van der Ploeg
Candidate: International Counsel
Member since: 2010
Country/Countries: United Kingdom
I have lived and breathed Democratic values for as long as I can remember. I volunteered on my first U.S. Senate campaign at age 17, founded a Young Democrats club in high school, and co-founded a College Democrats club at my university.
My parents – both of whom were the first in their families to go to college – strongly valued my education and proudly supported my dream of going to law school. At the University of Michigan, I was an editor of the Law Review and graduated with honors. After a few years in the private sector, I sought to apply my skills to pursuing social and economic justice around the world, which led me to my current career at a major multilateral development bank. In addition to my day job, I also serve as Vice Chair of our Staff Council (i.e. our employee union).
Describe your volunteer work with DA and cite your greatest DA accomplishment
Having served in various legal and financial capacities across the organization – including four years as DAUK Treasurer, a member of the Global Bylaws Committee and 2020 Global Presidential Primary Committee, and Chair of the Credentials and Rules Committees for both the EMEA and Global Conventions in 2020 – I have developed the experience and institutional knowledge to see areas where Democrats Abroad operates very well, and where we can “Build Back Better.”
My most cherished memory in Democrats Abroad was serving as one of the Pages to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Over four days of meeting fascinating people, hearing inspiring speeches and getting very little sleep, I shared an experience with many of you that we will never forget. I was already hooked on the power and potential of Democrats Abroad before Philadelphia – but after that life-changing experience, I became wholly committed to this work.
Why are you running for this office?
As an international development lawyer, I know how to use my professional legal skills to advance progressive values and positive change. This is my passion and reason for running for Global Counsel. The role requires not only technical expertise and fair-mindedness, but also long-term strategy and blue-sky thinking for how our internal governance can make us more effective at our mission: mobilizing the overseas vote to elect Democratic candidates.
In my view, our governance structures – which were designed to support a small organization – are in need of some updates as we approach 200,000 verified members. We should explore ways to decentralize and empower leaders to make decisions locally, while continuing to provide global assistance to ensure successful implementation.
As an all-volunteer organization, our culture can impact our effectiveness at carrying out our mission. We as Democrats hold ourselves to the highest standards of mutual respect – failure to live up to these standards can discourage people from continuing to volunteer, thereby reducing our ability to get out the vote! I will maintain a cooperative and collegial attitude to establish a culture of respect, both in tone and through policies that set the standards that we expect of ourselves.
How will your skill sets and experience contribute to DA's success?
By day, I am an in-house lawyer for a major international organization – just as the Global Counsel is the in-house lawyer for Democrats Abroad. In-house lawyers have one client: the institution for which they work. As Global Counsel, I will not see my client as the ExCom or any one person within the organization, but rather Democrats Abroad itself.
The role of Global Counsel is multifaceted: the Counsel is responsible for establishing the bylaws of new country committees; drafting the Delegate Selection Plan; maintaining compliance with FEC rules, GDPR, etc.; and exercising a quasi-judicial role in mediating disputes. In addition to utilizing my own areas of expertise, I will build a team of lawyers to leverage different skills and not be afraid to hire outside counsel on occasion, particularly in situations that would boost the visibility of Democrats Abroad and have a significant impact on Americans living overseas.
Are there any DA organizational or practical issues (not political goals) that you would like to address should you be elected?
One of the key projects I will develop will be a knowledge management system on the Democrats Abroad Wiki. This will include guidance on common compliance issues that country committees face, as well as trainings and key compliance forms (e.g. GDPR, FEC contribution limits, and guidance for communications). We have significant institutional knowledge as an organization, but we rely too heavily on a few key individuals. We need to make resources more user-friendly and accessible both to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.
As Counsel, I will also work with the RVCs to determine what have been the biggest hurdles to compliance by country committees in their nascent stage, and to develop best practices to mitigate risks. What have been the common threads among new country committees that have been successful in establishing roots and building out both their membership and leadership? Conversely, when country committees have failed to establish roots and/or fallen out of compliance, what are the most common reasons? Bylaws should not be seen as an impediment, but rather as a tool for a country committee to institutionalize and grow. Well-established country committees may provide helpful models of best practices in each of these areas.
How can Democrats Abroad best raise our profile among American voters abroad and better work to elect Democrats?
As the Global ExCom works to empower leaders at all levels of the organization, we must also be more outward-looking and present the public face of Democrats Abroad, both with American voters abroad and within the Democratic Party as a whole. The recent amicus curiae brief that we filed in the Trump v. Pennsylvania case following the election is a prime example.
Particularly in areas where expats have a distinct perspective to offer our representatives back home, we should also seek ways to boost DA’s profile and influence. This might include joining court cases with implications on Americans overseas, but also working with members of Congress and state legislators on voting rights issues (and absentee voting in particular). As HR1/S1 makes its way through Congress, Democrats Abroad has a unique voice to represent Americans living overseas who have personal experience with the trials and tribulations of our electoral system.
Endorsement from John Eastwood, former representative to the DNC (2012- 2020), former International Counsel (2011-2013), Chair Democrats Abroad, Taiwan
Within Democrats Abroad, Josh has taken on roles that utilize his skill set, whether serving as DAUK Treasurer these past four years, or at the global level on the Global Bylaws Committee, the 2020 Global Presidential Primary Committee, and as Chair of the Credentials and Rules Committees for both the EMEA and Global Conventions.
Josh has developed concrete plans for the role of Global Counsel to better equip the organization as we approach nearly 200,000 verified members across more than 50 country committees. Josh sees that role as one requiring not only technical expertise, but also a vision for how Democrats Abroad can best use our internal governance as a tool to fulfill our mission of electing Democrats. With Josh Van der Ploeg as our next Global Counsel, I am confident that Democrats Abroad will be in safe hands and I enthusiastically endorse him.
Endorsement from Stephanie Perry, Co-Chair, Global Call Hub Team, GOTV Coordinator, Democrats Abroad Canada
I have enjoyed every task or meeting we’ve ever had together, and he's gotten SO much done, contributing far more than his share, on every aspect of each project. He’s highly effective on a team, and supremely gracious and generous as a team leader. I highly respect him, as, I am sure, does anyone who has worked directly with him.
His lawyerly chops, whether diving into the arcana of the 2020 conventions regulations and re-surfacing with the one relevant and controlling pearl, or drafting clear and usable advice to national leaders and voting center managers on implementing our Delegate Selection Plan, are excellent. He has analytical and methodical intelligence, but he also has good sense, high ethical standards, and great humanity, only one of which is taught in law school, and not very well at that.
I worked closely with Josh on two global teams, first collaborating on the GPP Team for the 2020 delegate selection process, and later serving under his chairing of the Credentials and Rules Committee for the Global Convention. I also know, as one myself, the added value a lawyer can bring to objective, fact-based discussions, to impartial decision-making processes, and to problem-solving well beyond what we think of as “lawyering.” Josh will bring all that to the global leadership, as Counsel and as a member of the ExCom.
Co-Chair, Global Call Hub Team
GOTV Co-ordinator, Democrats Abroad Canada