Catching Up

Many readers may not know that I’ve been overwhelmed with paid work in addition to my convention preparations, so it’s been a little hard to keep up with letting you all know what’s happening. So as I sit in an apartment two blocks from where we once lived in Philadelphia, I’m gonna try to quickly get this blog caught up with current events.

The late part of May involved spending a lot of money. We got our train tickets ordered to get us from La Crosse to Philadelphia, with a 24-hour stop in Harrisburg to visit a friend. Fortunately, we have lots of points from our Amtrak credit card that were available to cover that expense.

We decided to spend a weekend in our old neighborhood in Philadelphia (where we are now) before the convention, and we reserved a room thru a home-sharing site. It wasn’t until mid-June that we were able to reserve a room in our “official” hotel, but that got done.

We had to handle some logistical issues. We are late-comers to the mobile phone world, but we’ve had one for a couple of years now. One phone has so far been enough when we’re on the road, but on this trip we will be separated a LOT, so we needed another phone. RoZ HATES the phone we have, but we found a good deal on a refurbished iPhone 5C that we paired up with a pay-as-you-go plan. So now we can (theoretically, at least) contact each other when (for instance) I’m on the convention floor and she’s at Reading Terminal Market.

Typing a blog is a time-consuming process, so I want to try dictating what’s going on into our iPod Touch and posting the audio on this blog. I bought a stereo microphone to record with much better quality than the iPod does on its own, but it sucks up electrons very quickly. On one of the conference calls with the State delegation, there was talk about the long amounts of time that we would be without access to charging stations, so we were advised to get a back-up battery. Since the battery in my iPod Touch is lame as it is, that was another necessary minor investment.

Once travel and lodging arrangements were made and we had the “stuff” we needed to embark on this mission, I got an email from goFundMe that almost felt like extortion. They said that if I did not get a Facebook account, then my campaign would not show up in search results. I don’t know if there is collusion between GFM and FB, but this (along with the 8% bite that GFM takes from my donations) is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. So to help my fundraising campaign and to stay in the loop of goings-on among my fellow delegates, I bit the bullet and opened a Facebook account.

Now I truly understand another good reason to avoid Facebook for as long as I have: it’s a HYUGE time-suck. There are (and have been) some valuable exchanges in that venue, but it has also taken time away from other things.

I did get some one-on-one contact from the Bernie campaign representative and from the chairperson of the state party. They were each checking that I had travel arrangements and room reservations in place and that I was doing all of the other things a delegate must do to prepare for the convention.

Tomorrow we move from this rented apartment to a room in the Home2 Suites next door to the convention center. As I type, my inbox is getting bombarded with invitations to “receptions” for the “Jewish Roundtable” (I’m an agnostic atheist and recovering Catholic), the “Faith caucus” (see previous parens), and – in quick succession just now – “Women for Hillary”, “Latinos for Hillary” and “Hillary for America” (I’m a Bernie delegate, male and Slavic/Germanic). On the other hand, someone had to form a Facebook group to get any kind of environmental caucus going (we finally have a Climate Caucus), which is where my interests are centered.

There is a lot happening in the political world this week in my party and in the other party that merits discussion, such as the revelation that the “neutral” party committee was not neutral at all, Hillary’s unfortunate choice for VP, and the fascism of the RNC. This will have to wait for another post, or you can read some of my fire-breathing reactions over on my Facebook feed.

I know, I never expected the word “my” to be in front of the words “Facebook feed”, but we all must make sacrifices to move the revolution forward.

The World of Conference Calls

Cassi is our contact with the Wisconsin Democratic Party, and she’s been sending emails out to the delegation from time to time. Her latest dispatch assured us that every delegate elected on May 1 has been certified. So I guess I’m officially a delegate now if I wasn’t before.

The state convention was last weekend, and the remainder of the delegation (at large delegates, and pledged elected officials) was elected there. Now that the full delegation has been elected, the state party will be hosting conference calls to orient us and answer questions.

Meanwhile I’ve been hearing from Tyler, a representative from the Bernie campaign in charge of wrangling delegates. He sent us an email last week to announce a conference call on Friday June 3 at 5:30 Mountain time. That was quickly followed by a correction to make that 5:30 Central time (“I’m still in Wyoming…”). Finally, the call was rescheduled for Thursday June 2 to avoid conflicting with the state convention.

That wasn’t the only place where our campaign people were confused. During the call, Tyler told us that we’d be staying at a hotel in King of Prussia, while according to Cassi we’d be right downtown. A follow-up email with Tyler got the response, “I’ll check on that and get back to you,” and emails to Cassi got the reply, “I can guarantee we are in the downtown hotel.. He’s mistaken.”

West Virginia is staying in King of Prussia, and they are immediately before Wisconsin in alphabetical order. Perhaps Tyler misaligned the lines on the list he was looking at. I don’t know, but I’m glad we’re downtown (where everything is happening) and not in King of Prussia (where nothing is happening).

In my first conference call as a delegate, Tyler introduced himself to the Wisconsin Bernie delegation. He said that his job is to make sure we each “get to Philadelphia, stay in Philadelphia, and are credentialed and on the floor for the entire convention.” He has a very high-level “get out the vote” job, and he emphasized the burden of responsibility we share.

Each delegate represents tens of thousands of votes and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours that have been dedicated to this campaign. Each morning we must pick up our credentials at our delegation’s breakfast at our hotel, and if we don’t get our credentials on time, then we are disenfranchised for the day, along with all of the voters we were elected to represent. For this reason, we are being required to stay in our state’s designated hotel.

This adamant requirement was followed by re-assuring talk about fundraising, that if we fall short of what we need, then the campaign will try to help out as best it can. After all, it is in the campaign’s interest that we all stay in the designated hotel, so they want to do what they can to help us afford it.

The other interesting thing to come out of this call was some strategic advice: If you’re “Bernie or Bust”, don’t say so publicly before the convention is over. To say “Bernie or Bust” can be considered disloyalty to the Democratic Party, and Hillary people could use that as grounds to challenge a delegate’s credentials. “We don’t want to take any chances of getting any delegates decertified, so if you are Bernie or Bust, zip it.”

Meeting Our Next Congressman and Opening Local Headquarters

Our congressional district is represented by Ron Kind. Kind is most charitably characterized as a corporate Democrat, the type who would’ve been a Republican if that party hadn’t become so crazy. He voted for the Iraq war, and he loves job-exporting trade deals like the TPP. This constantly frustrates several important party factions, especially progressives and organized labor. But we keep electing him anyway because the Republicans are so crazy.

This year, the Republicans are not fielding a challenger to Ron Kind. Myron Buchholz is a Bernie Democrat challenging Ron Kind in the Democratic primary. He and his campaign manager came to town today to do a meet-and-greet at a coffee shop downtown. We wanted to make sure that Myron was someone who could be an effective congressman, and we came away satisfied.

We spent a bit of time chatting with Myron and Jody, his campaign manager. Myron Buchholz was history teacher in Eau Claire when Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republicans demeaned and defunded his profession so badly it pushed him (and many other teachers in his age group) into retirement. When Ron Kind endorsed the TPP, that pushed Myron to challenge Kind for his seat.

We had to leave for another event, but suggested that they may want to come also. The county party was opening its new headquarters just a few blocks away.

The new Democratic Party headquarters is in a storefront that used to be a stylish vintage clothing shop. It began as half of the first floor of a JC Penny’s back when those kinds of stores used to be downtown. But it’s in a good central location to gather and deploy volunteers, do phone banking, hold small meetings, and do all of the other things a local campaign headquarters does.

We were greeted at the door by a lady asking us to sign in, and she also offered us a chance to sign nomination petitions for some Democratic candidates. We told them we could not sign Ron Kind’s petition, as we had already signed the Myron Buchholz’ petition. They should have Myron’s petition there for people to sign as well.

We ran into our old friend “the mayor” (it’s been over ten years since he was mayor, but we still like to call him that). He wished me well as he recounted being a Ted Kennedy delegate in 1980. We schmoozed our way over to the snack table, which is where I crossed paths with Vicky.

Vicky and I greeted each other courteously and acknowledged that we are both representing our district at the DNC. I took this opportunity to try politely engaging with a Hillary delegate. “Since Hillary is going to need the enthusiastic support of the Bernie people in order to win the general election, what can Hillary do to make the Bernie people happy?”

Vicky was having none of it. “She’s the nominee, she doesn’t need to do anything. We’re all Democrats, we should support the nominee.”

I pointed out that if the situation were reversed, we would have to find a way to make the Hillary people happy. “I want to find a way for every delegate to go home happy.”

She muttered something about how she was in that position in 2008, and that it would be a disaster for Donald Trump to become president. “But ‘she’s not Trump’ is not good enough. Hillary has to find a way to make Bernie people enthusiastic about campaigning for her, not just against Trump.”

It was at this point that Vicky got diverted to greet another arrival and the conversation got handed off to one of her assistants. I tried to emphasize that my problem isn’t as much with Hillary’s policies as with her bland incrementalist message. “When the Russians were putting people into orbit, Kennedy didn’t say ‘we should also go into orbit.’ No, he said ‘let’s go to the Moon’ and that inspired and excited people.” This person said, “but Kennedy didn’t have to deal with the tea party…”

This is when I got diverted. Myron and Jody were arriving, and Vicky was trying to herd people into seats. We didn’t wait to witness what happened next, as we both had a long list of things to attend to at home. But let’s just say it was an “interesting” evening.

Getting Certified

Last Sunday evening – the night after I was elected – I got my first email from Cassi. She’s the state party’s “Party Affairs Director”, a job title that seems to include “delegate wrangler” as part of its description.

After the usual congratulatory happy-talk, she briefly described the certification process. The forms we filled out after we were elected will have their info processed by “the DNC’s certification software.”

Our hotel is the Home2Suites next door to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and rooms will cost $356/night plus tax. Reservations can only be made thru the state party, and that will start in mid-June.

We were encouraged to make our travel plans as soon as possible, and then given a sketchy schedule.. enough information to make travel plans. There will be a “delegation welcome party” on Sunday night the 24th, so we’d want to be in town by then. We’ll check out of our hotel and catch a train home the following Friday, the 29th.

Then she talked about the state convention on June 3, and a meeting of the Wisconsin delegation after that convention.

I sent a reply the next day. Since the state convention is in Green Bay (a five-hour drive from La Crosse) and we don’t have a car, I explained to Cassi that this would be a hardship, and expressed hopes that this wouldn’t be a problem.

The other thing I decided to do was to open up a new email account for DNC-related business. I anticipate a lot of emails before, during and after the convention; so it feels prudent to give them all their own mailbox. So my other request to Cassi was to change my “official” email address as a delegate.

I also mentioned that Rozie would be coming with me, and wondered what convention activities (if any) she would be able to participate in.

I heard back yesterday afternoon. No worries on not getting to the state convention or correcting my email address in the database. As for what Rozie can do, the news was encouraging:

For our delegation’s spouses/ guests, they will be allowed in all of the WI delegation’s free breakfasts and any WI delegation specific parties. You’ll have to register her on the survey I will send around in June for booking hotels and things. Typically guests are also allowed in many of the afternoon caucuses and meetings. They will not be allowed in the evening speeches though, without a credential. Typically the DNC will give each state party a couple of extra guest badges. They haven’t told us if/ how many they will be doing this year, but WI likes to use these by raffling them off every morning so that spouses and guests have an opportunity to at least see some of the program.

Late yesterday afternoon I got an email with instructions to fill out a form for the “Certify” system. It was all on Google Forms, but I had to jump thru a few hoops to open a Google account under my new email address. Once I got to the form, it asked for all the same information I’d provided three times already. Oh, well.


Our room is going to cost over $2000 for five nights, and it’s going to cost close to another grand to get to Philadelphia and back, especially factoring in meals and incidentals along the way. Since we can’t afford to spend that much money on this trip, I need to master the dark art of political fundraising.

Early yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon I received an email blast from Matt promoting his gofundme page. That amplified the nudge that Cathy delivered on Monday night to get my page set up this afternoon.

The process wasn’t much different than most other pseudo-social-media sites I’ve encountered. Fill in name, email, and other basic info; respond to the confirmation email and you have an account. There’s a place where you can choose your campaign’s URL (“obbie2dnc”). Before your campaign goes “live”, you’re asked to write a fundraising pitch and provide a photo.

Once it was set up, I sent out an email blast to the group:

Hi all…

Now that I’ve been elected as a Bernie delegate representing Wisconsin’s 3rd District, I must begin the uncomfortable process of groveling for money. I enjoy promoting and discussing the issues a lot more than fundraising, but until we can get Big Money out of politics….

In the spirit of the Bernie campaign, if 100 people each donate $30, then we’re covered.

If by some miracle I raise more funds than my goal, the excess will be shared with other Bernie delegates from the 3rd CD.

Thanks a lot for all of your support.

That was sent out at about 1:20 this afternoon, and by 1:30 the first donation arrived. Thru the day they trickled in: $15 here, $27 there (nice touch!), and by the end of the day I had my first $100.

All right, only $2900 to go.

Facing Reality

When we gathered for Indian food after last Sunday’s caucus, the three newly elected delegates posed for pictures.

It got out pretty quickly, as we received this message from a friend Monday morning:

Hey, look what I just saw on FB:

Look who just got elected to represent us in the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia! Obbie King, Xong Xiong and ALICIA LEINBERGER!!! Matthew LaRonge is not pictured.

Look who just got elected to represent us in the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia! Obbie King, Xong Xiong and ALICIA LEINBERGER!!! Matthew LaRonge is not pictured.


Literally minutes later came this:

A little birdie named < redacted > told me that you’ve been selected to be a delegate at the DNC in Philadelphia. Congratulations! Feel the Bern!

The informal email discussion list that Cathy started as a way for delegate candidates to introduce themselves still exists. I was feeling overwhelmed by the congratulatory messages, but at the same time I’m overwhelmed by the responsibility and I felt a need to express gratitude to those who voted to send me to Philadelphia. So I sent this message to the list this morning:

Hello everyone…

With the reality of an impending trip to the DNC (to the INSIDE as a delegate, instead of to the “free speech zone” as a protester) still sinking in, I wanted to send out a brief thank-you note to all of you who voted for me at the CD caucus. I am truly grateful and overwhelmed by the support of so many of you, especially those who I had never met before that day.

For those who did not vote for me… I won’t hold it against you. There were many good people on the board, and I’m sure that we all wish that EVERYbody could go.

Whether or not Bernie gets onto the general election ballot (making that happen is now part of my job description), we must sustain this movement thru this election and thru every election of the foreseeable future. In the event that Hillary (–shudder–) is at the top of the ticket, there are many good and worthy candidates elsewhere on the ballot (from Russ Feingold on down) who can use our energy and support, whether that takes the form of money, phone-banking and door-knocking, or general hell-raising.

The work we need to do will take more than one election… it may take a lifetime. But if we keep working, we will live to see young people thanking us for the work we did rather than condemning us for ignoring the crises we faced.

So let’s all keep at it in any way we can!

And thanks so much for all of your support.

Meanwhile, Cathy has been expanding her email list of local Bernie supporters to include those who came to last weekend’s caucus from around the district. I can still feel myself being nudged as I read an email she sent to her list today:

First – for those of you on FB, please somebody make a Third CD for Bernie page…. I refuse to be on FB but I know a lot of people haven’t seen the light yet 🙂 and it’s a good way to share info with lots more people. We will also make sure to put all our delegates’ GoFundMe pages … at (by later tonight).

I hope that the other three delegates – Obbie King, Xong Xiong, and Alicia Leinberger, will also set up GoFundMe pages. See Matthew’s info below. If each county could host one fundraiser for our delegates and individuals contribute what they can, it should help a lot!  We were told at the training session that costs would be $2,000 to 4,000 per delegate (but this includes discretionary spending for sightseeing and other extras). If every 3rd CD Bernie voter kicked in $1, we’d have it made!

She had a lot more to say than “please someone set up a Facebook page” and “I wish the delegates would set up their GoFundMe pages already.” A lot of the message addressed keeping track of where Ron Kind is appearing so he could be convinced to cast his superdelegate vote for the candidate selected by the voters of his district: Bernie.

But she’s not subtle in her encouragement to set up a GoFundMe campaign. I’ll have to get on that tomorrow.