The DNC Visits Spain for a Listen & Learn Tour
For the third such event in a busy week, 30 members of the Democrats Abroad Barcelona chapter hosted a brunch on Aug 20 for a star lineup of Democratic global leadership. Heading the list was Ken Martin, Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and President of the Association of State Democratic Committees. The latter group includes Democrats Abroad as the equivalent of a 52nd state. (The District of Columbia qualifies as 51st for Presidential elections, with three electoral votes.) He was accompanied by Candice Kerestan, Munich-based Chair of Democrats Abroad Global, and Jarryd Rauch, who coordinates from New York City as Eastern Regional Director of the Association of State Democratic Committees, covering New England and the Middle Atlantic states, as well as DA Spain Chair Kathy Tullos.
With only 11 weeks left until the crucial mid-term Congressional elections and many important state and local elections, Ken Martin had a hard-hitting, positive-energy message for the crowd in Barcelona. He highlighted the recent successful break in the Capitol Hill legislative logjam, with the largest economic recovery act since Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal; the biggest infrastructure program since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society; and unprecedented legislation on fighting climate change.
"Inside the Beltway" often functions as a Buckminster Fuller-style giant geodesic dome, echoing the day-to-day views of its political inhabitants. Journalists interview and influence one another over lunch or on Twitter, K Street lobbyists sketch out new tax dodges for their clients, and all the players try to wangle tidbits of useful information from staffers on the Hill and across town. Until very recently, this echo chamber has resonated with forecasts of doom and gloom for Democrats on November 8.
Ken Martin provided a powerful corrective to all the hand-wringing on our side and gleeful chatter from the Prisoners of Trumpland Fantasy Island, otherwise known as today's Republican Party, eager to take our country backward. He stressed that we have a great story to tell, as outlined above. He emphasized that elections are about obtaining power, the power to move forward on racial justice, voting rights, women's control of their reproduction -- in short, the power to change people's lives for the better.
During a Q&A session, Martin pointed out the importance of changing the way elections are funded, in contrast to the money flow unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010, which opened the floodgates for untraceable money flows to election campaigns.He noted the steady GOP policy of legislative deadlock, which fuels their mantra that "government does not work," until they take power and impose their policies in lockstep. Per the latest Supreme Court decision regarding abortion rights, he said “there are now fewer rights for young women than their mothers and grandmothers enjoyed."
Quoting Will Rogers, who famously said, "I belong to no organized party -- I'm a Democrat," Martin described our party as a "broad tent," embracing widely differing views. (He did not specify, but Senators Manchin and Synema on the one hand, with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other, come to mind as good examples.)
In conclusion, his message was: "Lead with values, lead with issues, rather than party discipline." Martin has had long experience to underpin his views. He cut his teeth as an organizer in Southern states for Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign, and has been active on our side ever since. Based in Minneapolis, he divides his time about 50-50 between there and Washington.
Global DA Chair Candice Kerestan pointed out that there are some nine million Americans living overseas, but that only about 8% of them voted during the last election. Accordingly, constant outreach by all DA members is essential, especially given the narrow, but decisive, margins provided in key 2020 races by votes from overseas. She pointed to constant efforts to exchange ideas and best practices among DA chapters to address these and other key issues.
In a closely related vein, Jarryd Rausch described emerging programs to locate unregistered voters across the region for which he is responsible. Again, US citizens living abroad and entitled to vote in those states can provide critical margins for victory.
DA members who attended the events in Madrid, Alicante and Barcelona were enthusiastic in appreciating the presence of the visitors and the messages which they delivered.
- Dan Solon, member, DA Barcelona