Eric Jackson for chair of Democrats Abroad Panama — and the democratic way

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How it’s done, was attempted to be done and should be done — three different things

by Eric Jackson
vice chair, past chair and candidate for chair, Democrats Abroad Panama

These elections are delayed. It is so because there was an attempt to ditch Democrats Abroad Panama by-laws and most semblances of transparency and democracy and present the organization with a slate of candidates with a single person for each position, and no more nominations once the slate is presented process. This, not based on any decision of the board (intentionally kept short-handed) but “because that’s how they do it in Europe.”

I objected. Eventually Kim and her supporters backed down and we belatedly got a slightly more open process. The slate was revealed, additional candidates were allowed and the voting by email ballot is underway. If you are a member of Democrats Abroad Panama and you did not file a notice with the organization to refrain from sending you emails, you should have gotten your Google Forms email ballot by now. If you have not filled it out and sent it in, you must do so before the end of Tuesday (by 11:59 p.m.) for your vote to count.

You may have joined and had your name purged from the database at some point.

However, if you are a US citizen living in Panama, there is “same day registration” — or re-registration — via this link:

https://www.democratsabroad.org/join

Don’t mark your application that you don’t want to get emails until after you have received and returned your ballot. You can adjust to reduce email box clutter after then if it’s your pleasure.

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What’s this stuff about how the Europeans do it, anyway?

First of all, let’s look at the Democratic Party as upscale social set. As in, the rules say that with very few exceptions anyone attending a Democratic National Convention, OR a Democrats Abroad Global Convention, has to pay his or her entire way. The DNC there has never had online participation. DA has had it, with mixed results. The epidemic makes the Democrats Abroad global convention in May entirely online.

There are these perennial jet set in-crowders, not all of them elected by any country chapter nor by a global convention to have votes at a given convention, who join these gatherings. Some are fine activists — taught by trial and error and observation over many Democratic campaigns over many years, young and talented quick learners, veterans of different causes taking a plunge into electoral politics or so on. Down at the bottom of the barrel some were born rich, or are corporate managerial types, and consider themselves inherently entitled to lead.

But to lead WHOM, anyway?

These are the countries outside the USA with the most American citizens living in them:

Canada, more than 1 million
Mexico, about 1 million
France, perhaps 200,000
UK, perhaps 200,000
Germany, about 150,000

There are imprecisions about counting Americans living abroad. There are spectra of dual citizens. Many are the Panamanians whose parents met at a US university where dad was a foreign student and came back with an American bride. Some are proud of their US passports, some dread it being known that they have a gringa mother. And then there are purely US citizens who went abroad deeply disenchanted, and don’t care to be counted by Uncle Sam for any purpose. Folks come and go, and sometimes change citizenships. So there isn’t an American Embassy anywhere that has a totally accurate count on how many US citizens there are in the country where it is located. But the approximate numbers above are the most recent and generally accepted ones.

Democrats Abroad had global presidential primary voters from almost every country in the world. We have accepted country chapters from fewer than one-third of those. The representation at the conventions are based on Democrats Abroad members, which have sometimes been counted in fishy ways, but generally do reflect the organization’s membership. Panama, with 586 confirmed members, gets two votes at the global conventions, one for the chair and one for the vice chair. These might be assigned, entirely or for certain times or votes, as proxies to other members. The biggest two delegations, Canada and the UK, are tied at 23 votes each. France has 12 votes. Germany has 15. Mexico gets 9.

Now, in a year where there is all this talk about diversity and identity politics, let’s look at the candidates for international offices, stripping away their names, genders, races, sexual orientations and favorites in last year’s primary, leaving just their countries and which of the three Democrats Abroad regions from whence they hail: (The regions are Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) and Asia/Pacific (APAC).

International Chair
Israel, EMEA
Germany, EMEA
Germany, EMEA
France, EMEA

International Vice-Chair
Israel, EMEA
Switzerland, EMEA
Spain, EMEA
Greece, EMEA
Singapore, APAC
Ukraine, EMEA
Serbia, EMEA

International Secretary
India, APAC
Sweden, EMEA

International Treasurer
Denmark, EMEA
Spain, EMEA
Colombia, Americas

International Legal Counsel
Australia, APAC
France, EMEA
United Kingdom, EMEA
United Arab Emirates, EMEA

Be not fooled. DA has been heavily Eurocentric in its leadership since it formed in the 1970s. Bernie Sanders won the 2016 and 2020 global primaries but at the 2016 convention Hillary Clinton had the most delegates and last year Joe Biden got most of the convention delegates. 

And me?

Whether I have a vote at the global convention in May depends on if I get elected chair. If I do become chair again I would vote for officers and certain resolutions, but might assign a proxy or two to folks who have never participated in a global DA convention because I want to be a transitional chair who brings new people into new realms of knowledge and skills.

I would surely vote for one of the candidates, and surely vote against another. I’d keep an open mind, with all the usual identity politics stuff giving way to experiences, skills and most important of all, ideas. Not “Who did you support in the primary?” but “How would you democratize and expand Democrats Abroad?” Knowing as I do what a great uphill battle we face in 2022, I would look for folks who can run an intelligent political campaign. I would expect to vote for some centrists, and some progressives, based upon individual merit. I would oppose anyone who wants to purge a party faction to which she or he does not belong. 

The resolutions? I’d support the proposal coming out of DA Israel this year, to move toward making Medicare available outside of the USA. I’d oppose the idea coming out of the taxation committee, of giving a special $400,000 exemption from Biden’s proposed “offshoring of profits” rules for those Americans who own businesses abroad. I’d support student and medical debt relief and bankruptcy reform. I’d side with the doves against the hawks if that argument comes up. I’d support DA Guatemala’s resolution to reduce the pressures for mass migrations from that country and neighboring Honduras and El Salvador toward the USA.

And if I am chair again, I would resume the practice of informing the membership about what’s going on upstairs. Folks have a right to know.

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A number of states and cities have elections this year, plus there are some congressional by-elections. To register and vote, click on https://www.votefromabroad.org
 

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