YDA now, Marathon later. The race took me over 6 hours to run. So I should get proportionately longer to write about it, right?
Anyway - so you want to know about YDA by the Bay, eh?
Well, on a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a B+. Seriously, I don't even know how to evaluate it for a general readership. For my fellow CYDers - at least those who've been around a few years, all I have to say is "how 'bout that Secretary race? I mean, c'mon, why are those always SO contentious?" Great people must get their start in that position.
For the uninitiated, all I have to say is, if you liked it - welcome, if you didn't, don't let it dissuade you from participating. There was a lot of politicking this weekend - much of which was, at best, meaningless, and at worst, distracting. Leadership is, of course, vital to any organization. But the fights fought this weekend involved layers of intrigue to which few other than Tom Perrotta or Alexander Payne could do justice. Nothing in the YDs is trivial. And yet, it all is, at the end of the day, if we can't get past it, get our party on track, and win.
The centerpiece of the weekend was either the extensive schedule of trainings put on by Democratic GAIN or the celebrity death match between incumbent YDA President Chris Gallaway and former CYD President and challenger Alex DeOcampo.
It's strange attending a convention in your hometown. Staying at home saves money and adds a bit of perspective to the event not available to those hundreds of delegates sleeping short elevator rides apart from the action and each other. The detachment was healthy but difficult. It's easier to keep calm when you know you're $1.25 from the rest of your life - but frustrating to become embroiled in minutiae of unartfully conceived and executed parliamentary jockeying at a credentials committee meeting.
Speaking of which - here's the two things I'll say about credentials committee:
1.) Rules are absolutely supposed to be manipulated to the benefit of whoever can figure out to work 'em.
2.) If, however, you're going to do that, there are methods more ethical - and more effective - than others. You can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to procedure: get your way and stand your ground.
Oh wait - for the benefit of the gentleman from Illinois, allow me to add a third item:
3.) Regardless of whatever else - if you are offered the opportunity to take advantage of the same rules changes advocated by those you would otherwise oppose - TAKE IT.
Back to the overall evaluation.
Saturday afternoon's elections were the emotional center of the convention for most California delegates and attendees. To give away the ending at the start - our guy lost. Chris Gallaway did not have the unanimous support of his home delegation - Kansas, apparent. But neither did Alex.
But because my relationships with several people whom I respect very much, and whom I consider friends, are important to me than YDA, I did not vote against Alex, nor did I abstain. YDA prohibits secret balloting, so my actions can't really be that masked. Even after years of publicly and privately acknowledged disagreements about leadership style and YD priority setting, there were some who still could not understand my reluctance to support our past president. I discussed the issue with several people over the course of the convention, but I know it's likely my position was discussed more frequently without me around. Such is politics.
For the second time this year, I faced a difficult YD related vote. This was less difficult than the CYD elections - but the long-term fallout is less certain. Or more uncertain. I think there's a difference there.
Perhaps I should pause here and give Illinois a bit of a reprieve from my previous reprimand. The way I see it, when we're all still in the YD paddling pool, we get to be a little less pragmatic and a little more idealistic (or at least idealistically pragmatic, depending on the situation). While I can, I'll make the decision I think is best and most in keeping with my ethics and record because someday, I'll absolutely need to make a few political compromises. They won't necessarily compromise my deeper ethics, but they will involve some nose-holding, I'm sure.
So I took a walk on Saturday because when it came down to it, I couldn't go against a fellow Californian. I wasn't alone in that walk, but the only story I tell here is my own. Others did what they had to do and cast their votes for the non-Californian. Many people cast votes they didn't necessarily love. But I respect each Californian who attended the convention, and will defend to the death the decision of each. I ask, and hope, others feel the same.
I have little doubt that somewhere out there in the 'sphere, convention delegates or YD critics will use the election as another example of how the Democrats are screwing up. How we can't keep it together.
But even if you agree with them that our strategy is broken and our goals fuzzy, the convention showed one thing clearly: we got passion.
Contested races are the hallmark of a healthy organization. It proves there's an interest in forward movement. A call for dialogue and action. A reason to pay attention.
Part pep rally, part study hall, part wrestling match, part comfort food, YDA by the Bay exemplified what's right about Young Democrats. There were dark moments - particularly distasteful, shameful hit pieces left anonymously on delegate chairs that unfairly maligned the CYD Executive Director for little reason other than she happens to be a woman. But there were great moments too, like when a candidate for office withdrew from the race when she was down in the vote count, even though the other guy hadn't reached the requisite majority yet. She was a class act and by her actions prevented what would've surely been an ugly, lengthy, and procedurally nasty recount.
So there's my indulgence in passive-voiced, convention introspection. It's not my best work. It has virtually no links. It's candid yet cagey. It is what it is.
I admire greatly those who gave their time, hearts, and likely big chunks of their stomach lining to pull this convention together through labor disputes, leadership changes, and personal trials. If nothing else, the week gave us stories enough to last until the next one. But more likely, it also gave us at least a small, very necessary foothold for 2008.
Today is the first day of the rest of our campaign. Let's get to it.