Last December’s LACDP meeting put democracy, its overreach and its jeopardy, on full display. I thought the prevailing excesses were so outrageous that surely at last, no one could countenance this process of remote meeting, used for so long now as a bludgeon to erode our freedom of expression.

And I was wrong.

For here we are to convene for a second endorsement meeting remotely this January, back like a bad penny on Zoom, subject to its unyielding monocracy and the PunishingMuteButton of virtual reality.

‘Believe them the first time’

Last December, 2023, the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee (LACDP) met to vote on endorsements for the upcoming March primary. By design, the +/- 350-person strong county committee vests the power for recommendation of its endorsement to smaller subcommitees – assembly district delegations for “Local Races”, and a “Candidate Interview Committee” (CIC), constituted by the Chair, for countywide, City of LA, LA Unified/Community College District and other nonpartisan races, covering more than four assembly districts [p. 42].

The delegation of duties by a large body to a constituent smaller working group is honest and efficient if representative of the larger body: this is the premise of statistics and estimation. When instead the delegation is to a body of skewed representation, the recommendation becomes less likely to represent the full body truly.

Thus the subcommittee recommendations presented to the full body of the LACDP for ratification, included some of questioned judiciousness. Provision is allowed through the bylaws for contesting specific recommendations, revisiting the endorsement process from the full floor by hearing from all candidates in a select race.

There were recommendations and gambits that strained group mores. And the mood from the floor was edgy when urged to snub two unimpeachable candidates for LA city council, women well-qualified to serve in an imminently all-male body, one a popular, BIPOC incumbent subject to demonstrable harassment and unfair ostracism (CD 4’s Raman), the other even worse, running against no Democrat at all but rather opposed by ethically challenged, disgraced Republican “City Staffer B” (CD12’s Oberstein).

Both subcommittee’s recommendations were triumphantly reversed; Raman and Oberstein are officially endorsed by LACDP in their respective council district elections. And in similar mood, the incumbent DA Gascón was likewise officially endorsed, overturning even the difficult mathematics of achieving a supermajority 60% threshold, in a crowded field.

That edginess from the floor reflected a sense of maneuverings from inside the Party apparatus that felt ham-fisted and fixed. And while what came to a vote was vivid, there were many more legitimate objections quashed without hearing, rights of expression wrongly suppressed, and appropriate standing crushed by improper silencing.

Recommendations unchallenged and unchallengeable

The race for Los Angeles Unified’s 5th District was never allowed to reach the floor, at the expense of not one, not two but three legitimate delegate’s attempts for recognition. One delegate was repeatedly and intentionally removed from the meeting electronically. Another was improperly silenced for a cascade of rationales which each were illegitimate for a succession of reasons. That race was completely unscrupulously prevented from reaching the body politic for consideration. And the mode of execution for this muting is the technological gadgetry of Zoom: the Mute Button; electronic removal from the virtual meeting space; the dishonest claim of technical complexity or the sanctity of serenity for the body politic justifying circumvention of the rules of meeting and non-recognition – muzzling – of mandated delegates.

Why should my fellow Democratic delegates accept this anti-democratic framework? We should never, ever stand for this manner of constraining the freedom of our expression, for controlling our right of voice and of motion, for silencing us.

Zoom provides the mode for precisely the chicanery that so many of us have long decried and that led us to seek seats inside the Democratic establishment to begin with. And yet, here we are giving succor to the very means of our own treacherous silencing.

I am frankly shocked by how many acquiesce to their own electronic muting, how many will trade off the convenience of remote meetings in violation of the expectations for service we acceded to in running for our positions.

Condoning our own loss of voice with electronic submission to electronic control

LACDP should be meeting in person so that we may stand and object when our voice is suppressed. So that we may defend our right of expression and recognition. So that we may democratically represent those who voted for us to perform this job of representation. It is antidemocratic to hide behind the excuse of efficiency or environmentalism or personal convenience to justify abdicating our responsibility to free speech.

In the meantime, bad faith institutions are enabled in strongarming our vote as camoflage for self-serving agendas. We should not allow ourselves to be so coopted – not ever, but most certainly not for the sake of niceties such as personal expedience.

I request of each and every fellow LACDP delegate, alternate, associate and appointed member – and person who ever voted for any of the above – to contact LACDP leadership and demand the functionality of inperson meetings. Politicians need to interact authentically and persuasively with people, those they would represent; those who direct policy must have the personal means of articulating what they would manage. These are skills actionable in person only; the alternative – electronically-enforced distance – resigns us all to proxy representation, to paltry argumentation, to muting and redundancy.