On May 17,2018 members of Democrats Abroad Lyon Chapter met to discuss the topic “What would you like to change about the Democratic Party?” The session grew out of hearing frequent objections from liberals and progressives to the behavior of our party before, during and after the 2016 Presidential election.
Our intended agenda was to look at the Democratic Party Platform and evaluate whether it addressed and prioritized issues correctly, and then to look at the Unity Commission Report to see if it went far enough to right the wrongs identified since the election.
It quickly became apparent that our members were not interested in evaluating policy. Instead, they had enormous pent up disappointment and doubt that needed to be expressed. We were lucky to have a diverse group representing both the East and West coasts of the U.S., as well as a few folks from the heartland. We were also fortunate to have a millennial with us who was very eloquent about the disenchantment of his generation with the party’s process.
The discussion was emotional. There were two main themes: expressions of angst over broken problems and suggestions for reforms and solutions. Here are extracts from the evening’s conversation.
Broken Promises and other problems
“We need a candidate who embodies both parts of the party, mainstream and progressive.”
“The Democratic party needs to learn how to address the political, geographic and rural center of the country if it is to win a national election.”
“The most energetic voters are the far right and the far left.”
“The Democratic Party has become just another party of white men.”
“The Party underestimates how much disappointment exists over the performance of the Obama administration.”
“The Party spit in the face of young voters. They need to do something to restore opportunity if they want to keep young voters.”
“There has been a loss of faith that the party will do what they say they will do.”
“The Party uses black voters for their purpose (to get elected) and then ignores them when governing.”
“During the campaign, the Republicans had a wider field of candidates and therefore their process looked more transparent. It appeared that, on the Democratic side, the DNC put their fingers on the scales.”
Reforms and Solutions
“Voters don’t care about platform. Politics is an emotional game. We need to build a brand and create brand loyalty, revisiting the concept of Yellow Dog Democrats who would vote for a yellow dog rather than a Republican.”
“Build and strengthen our ties with universities, creating international connectivity among universities and a global movement.”
“Fix the electoral college system. Control the message by speaking of Trump as ‘the president elected by the electoral college, not by the people’.”
“Work towards a constitutional amendment on congressional term limits.”
“Radicalize the middle because the progressive agenda is best for them too.”
“Hold election day on a weekend to improve voter turnout.”
Democrats Abroad France organized rallies and candlelight vigils across the country with “Families Belong Together” events in Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, and Toulouse to protest Trump’s pointlessly cruel “Zero Tolerance” policy towards refugee and immigrant families, and a July 4th “Vive La Resistance” apero/picnic by the Seine in Paris with coalition partners to register voters and organize for the Fall. On June 30th we marched in the LGBTQ Gay Parade. With just four months ahead of us, we must continue to mobilize voters to speak out and defend our Democratic Party values.
Every year, Democrats Abroad France remembers the fallen soldiers who bravely died while serving in the US Armed Forces. Decorating graves to remember the dead is an ancient tradition that continues to this day. In America the tradition began with those who died in the Civil War. All are invited to attend. Since 1918 is the 100th Anniversary of WWI, the ceremonies will be grandissime. We will be laying wreaths in ceremonies throughout France on the graves of these heroes on the following dates:
Memorial Day Ceremonies Meuse-Argonne May 27th at 11am
Memorial Day Ceremonies May 27th at St. Mihiel 4pm
Memorial Day Ceremonies Lafayette Escadrille May 27th at 10am
Memorial Day Ceremonies Surennes May 27th at 2.30pm
Memorial Day Ceremonies May 27th Oise-Aisne at 3pm
Memorial Day Ceremonies Epinal May 27th at 10:30am
On April 5, we honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. The event was held in the sanctuary of the American Church in Paris where Dr. King himself spoke in October of 1965, and the Church was full. The program was organized by co-Chair of the Diversity Caucus, Reed Kennedy, and included a welcome from church clergy, excerpts from Martin Luther King's writings. music, and speeches as well as a panel discussion on the life and legacy of the civil rights icon. A key moment featured author Jake Lamar reading the moving Letter From Birmingham City Jail from the same pulpit where Dr. King spoke.
On January 28, 2018, the Executive Committee of Democrats Abroad France unanimously approved a resolution from its Bylaws Committee to adopt a set of significant reforms to its present Charter. This was done in order to conform to the Charters of Democrats Abroad and the Democratic National Committee, and to innovate in a manner that will make us a more effective and efficient organization in furthering Democratic goals and getting Democrats elected. Consequently, the Bylaws are now submitted to the general membership for final approval at the Annual General Meeting to be held on March 17, 2018.
You can see the proposed set of new Bylaws HERE.
What’s new? What’s different?
There are some boring technical minutiae, but there are also some large structural and operational changes. Notable changes include:
1. Paris will become its own Chapter. Until now, the Executive Committee has been doing the work of both a national organization and a local chapter. But thanks to extensive growth over the last 15 years outside of Paris—in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille, Aix, Avignon, Nice, Strasbourg, Normandy, and our newest Chapters in Lyon and Brittany—it makes sense that Paris should become a Chapter with its own Officers and Members at Large, so that the National Executive Committee can manage what has become a truly national organization—the fourth largest in all of Democrats Abroad.
2. Consequently, there are changes to the structure of the Executive Committee. As we reflected on our growth, our needs, our experience, and the lessons we’ve learned in the last few electoral cycles, and given that Paris would now have its own dedicated officers, we found a clear need to redefine and adapt the offices of the Executive Committee. Therefore:
· We have reduced the number of Vice Chairs from three to two, and given each of the Vice Chairs a clearly defined role. The First Vice Chair will assist the National Chair in relations to Democrats Abroad at the international level, other country committees, and the Democratic Party, while the Second Vice Chair will help coordinate the Chapters and supervise growth and outreach—a sort of “Foreign Office” and “Home Office” sharing of responsibility.
· We’ve also eliminated the seven “Members-at-Large” and replaced them with four well-defined elected positions: 1. Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Coordinator; 2. Membership Outreach Coordinator; 3. Issues, Events and Programs Coordinator; and 4. Communications Coordinator. Additionally, a Database/IT Manager will be an appointed position due to the technical specificity of that job.
· Chapter Chairs will remain voting members of the ExCom, as well Caucus Chairs, but only if the Caucus is active in more than one Chapter and has at least 100 members nationally.
· You can see the Organizational Chart HERE
3. The membership of Democrats Abroad France has grown extensively in the last decade, but our “old” Bylaws put a relatively high bar on becoming a Chapter, and we lacked a mechanism for enfranchising members in smaller cities and towns. Our proposed “new” Bylaws will remedy those issues with the introduction of “Subchapters”, which would function much like “precincts” or “wards” (we debated furiously on their name). A Subchapter can be formed when as few as ten (10) members petition to form one – so if you’re reading this in Lille, Besançon, Angers, or Tours, to name just a few, and you want to get a Subchapter started, we’d love to hear from you! A Subchapter could hold activities as simple as a monthly meet-up over drinks to talk about politics, or a book club, or a GOTV event to help local Americans register to vote by absentee ballot. And, once every four years, it could host its own Primary Voting Station.
4. Just as Democrats Abroad International has delegates to the DNC, DA-France has delegates to DA International. The number of delegates we have is a function of our proportional weight within DA International (currently, as the fourth “heaviest” country committee, we have 14). Up until now, these delegates were appointed by the Chair, and one person could carry up to four votes, including proxies; but if the Bylaws are passed, then two of the votes will be assigned to the Chair, one to each of the two Vice-Chairs, and the remaining votes (10 under the current allocation) will be directly elected by popular suffrage at the Annual General Meeting. This means that France’s “voice” at the Annual DA Global Convention could be more broadly representative of the diversity of DA France’s membership. And Voting Representatives will be gender-balanced.
5. Term limits on consecutive service in any one office, and lifetime service in any one office, have been clearly defined in a manner that places value on institutional memory while addressing institutional inertia.
6. On a purely administrative level, France will be divided into ten “regions” in which Chapters and Subchapters will work collaboratively to make sure all members receive communication and are enfranchised to vote in DAF elections, in State Party Primary elections, and in US State and Federal General Elections.
There are a few other technical points – such as what constitutes a “quorum” for a meeting and when a “proxy” is appropriate – and the lawyers sharpened up some language here and there, but those mentioned above are the most important changes. We believe that these proposed changes will help the organization grow, meet its responsibilities more efficiently, facilitate communication with its members, be more inclusive and be more democratic. They are also in keeping with the spirit of several of the proposals made by the Unity Reform Commission.
For these reasons, the Executive Committee will ask the membership to vote to accept the proposed reforms to its Bylaws at the Annual General Meeting to be held on March 17, 2018.
Donald Trump was elected on the promise to change the face of American politics and bring power back to the people. The nation is today divided and more polarized than ever before. While looking back on 2017, what can we predict for American politics in 2018? Hall Gardner, Christopher Dickey, Anne Deysine and Joe Smallhoover examined these issues on January 22 at the American University of Paris. You can watch the informative discussion of this memorable evening HERE.
Hundreds of people turned up at Place du Trocadero in the rain that had little effect on the happy, spirited, diverse crowd. There were speakers, witty creative signs, a sea of pussy hats, lots of press and many groups: Indivisibles, Our Revolution, Women’s March-Paris, Page-Paris, and more. Folks gathered to support women, Dreamers, Democrats, immigrants, people of color, transgender people, abortion rights and real news – in addition to fighting Trump and his entire agenda.
It felt good to know that the movement didn’t end last year, and au contraire, seems to be picking up more steam.
- You can watch this whole exciting debate at https://youtu.be/g63WF-upzxM
On November 20, Democrats Abroad France hosted an event entitled "From Droit de Seigneur to Harvey Weinstein, Might Hollywood Take Down an Age-Old Tradition?" The Panel was moderated by Annette Young, Journalist and Presenter at France 24 who also hosts and produces The 51 Percent, a show about women reshaping our world. The discussion was lively and informative with lots of audience participation. Anne Bagamery, journalist and former senior editor of the International New York Times in Paris, Michael Elias, award winning Hollywood writer, and Rebecca Amsellem, young feminist founder of "Les Glorieuses," shared their insights in a discussion with the audience about the tsunami flooding the age-old power play of men over women. Harvey, Kevin, Bill, Matt, Tom, Dick and Harry (and Tariq – not in the workplace and not from Hollywood) have long gone unfettered. The panel pondered the question of how much of an impact these revelations will have long-term and whether this will lead to real social change.
Larry Cohen, co-Chair of the Unity Reform Commission within the Democratic National Committee and founder and Chair of Our Revolution, spoke in Paris on Friday October 27. Cohen is also the former President of the Communications Workers of American, AFL-CIO. His message to the packed-in audience of Democrats Abroad and Our Revolution was an important one: how to build up a more inclusive Democratic Party that delivers a message to Democrats of all stripes. “Out of reform, comes unity,” says Larry. You can watch the evening's discussion HERE.
Among other issues, Larry Cohen stressed the need to enlist support for Medicare for All. See Democrats Abroad’s endorsement HERE
And if you have a story to tell yourself about your single payer experiences living abroad, please CLICK HERE
Democrats Abroad will be sharing our stories with Congress to help the fight for affordable healthcare for All Americans.
Democrats Abroad stands up for these and many other issues, and fights for your rights at home and away from home.
Liz Jaff came to Paris precisely to answer the question “What is the Democratic Party doing to win back the seats in the House and Senate?”
In the two days she was here, she engaged in conversations and dialogues about party politics. Liz works at the intersection of technology, political fundraising and grassroots campaigns. She’s part of the “new blood” that we keep hearing we need in the Party. In February 2017, she ran for Vice Chair of the DNC (Democratic Nation Committee) and lost, but stayed on with the transition team, specifically in technology.
People like Liz - and others from Silicon Valley - can bring a lot to the sphere of Democratic progressive politics. Thanks to Liz, the DNC has already recruited some of the best in the field under the leadership of Raffi Krikorian: Megan Smith, Mikey Dickerson, Lori Thomas, Brian Lefler….and more for a first-class clean-up of the Democratic Party IT infrastructure.
You can watch Liz’s terrific interview on France 24 here: Rebuilding The Democratic Party: Seeking a new direction in the Trump Era.
And to see her speech ("Can Technology Bring Back Democratic Voters?") given at the American University of Paris on Thursday, September 28, click HERE