Well mostly, it’s a collection of folks striving to see that the Party winds up looking like what they envision it to be about. Which means that some of the time Party members are actually working at some odds to one another. And this is because it’s not well-defined what that Party really is, and individuals hold different visions of what it should be. Hence, the work is always-in-progress, the plane being built while flying, continuously evolving, self-defined, reflexive.

The Democratic Party is a collection of folks elected (and appointed) to be what it is. Some of them get elected directly to the state-level Democratic Party. And those elections are coming around again right now, happening this upcoming January (figure 1). The “enrollment” period for being a candidate to the state Democratic Party, an “ADEM”, is open right now, for two more weeks, through December 9th, 2022. An ADEM candidate training video is here, covering what the Party is, the responsibilities of ADEMs and other constituents, as well as a lot of incumbent financial and voting information. Click through to the ADEM website and registration.


Figure 1: CADEM notice of ADEM candidate enrollment and elections

So the Party is what it’s comprised of. And that is a few distinct constituencies. There’s this ADEM set – 7 self-identified “females”, plus 7 who do not self-identify as “female”, from each of California’s 80 assembly districts. Those ADEMS – 14 individuals*80 counties = 1120 members, comprise one bloc of directly-elected delegates to the California State Democratic Party (CADEM).

There are other constituencies. Delegates to the county-level Democratic Party, or “County Committee” (DCC), are elected every four years; the DCC is also comprised of non-elected members. A delegation from that County Committee (in turn comprised of county-level Democrats), is also elected internally, to represent the DCC in the state-level party. These folks are therefore also “elected” representatives to the state-level party, though their election is not by the people directly (like ADEMS), but secondarily, via the DCC.

A third set of CADEM delegates is appointed by those whom we have elected to statewide (or state-level) office, our statewide Party Leaders and Elected public Officers (PLEOs). This constituency is therefore also not elected by the people directly, but is secondarily answerable to those who are. For example, the state’s Governor, should they be a Democrat (and if not then whichever Democrat got the most votes in that race), appoints 6 delegates to the statewide Democratic Party (figure 2).


Figure 2: Three internal constituencies comprise California’s state-level Democratic Party

The state-level Democratic Party meets periodically, sometimes in smaller “executive board” conventions, less frequently as a whole. There’s an executive board meeting going on right now, albeit virtually. It is at these conventions that the Party builds itself, in midair. It defines what it stands for by articulating its Platform, by scripting Resolutions, by endorsing positions on legislation. It is self-defined by amending its own bylaws. And it makes and keeps itself relevant by electing Democrats who in turn define what it is, that the Party is.

Also convening this pre-Thanksgiving weekend were Party caucuses, collections of individuals interacting around a shared set of ideals or political alignment or perspective. There are 19 caucuses of, for example, progressives, AAPI members, LGBTQ members, folks focused on children’s issues. The Party has an interest that these subsets of individuals all speak with “one voice”. Even while that sovereignty is decried by many as antidemocratic. Again, the Party’s integral, reflexive, evolutionary design results in internal dissension in the process of articulating itself and its position.

That “one voice “is formally constructed within Party committees composed of folks appointed by the Chair and executive Party members (Vice Chairs, Controller, Secretary). Even though the committees are large, there are far, far fewer seats on committees than there are delegates. Because committee service is appointed by the establishment, it can feel as if the ship of state is designed to perpetuate itself by the exclusive efforts of those already in charge. And the relative size and character of its internal constituency is reflected in the delegates who are chosen and who therefore ultimately advance the policy which is articulated. The structure of the Party is robust by design.

It is therefore promising that of late the Party has prioritized long-term organizing and “capacity-building” and the leadership training of volunteers. This invests in the Party’s work beyond fundraising and policy-articulation to include targeted harnessing of individual’s skills aside from committee work. The landscape comprising political victory is complex so its former strategy of simply shifting policy to reflect the elected, is narrow and inefficient. New voices and different perspectives should be integral to the essence of Democrats, a novelty properly incubated within the caucuses. An important victory was sustained at this weekend’s executive board by redirecting Party establishment’s seemingly constitutional drive, to constrain innovation through limiting caucus autonomy.

You belong to the Party by voting for Democrats. And you can participate in crafting the Party, by being a delegate to it. JOIN US by running to be an ADEM now (figure 1)! Elect us when the vote-by-mail period for ADEMS opens on December 12th. The last (of two) in-person election days is January 22nd.