Progressive Democrat and organizer Joe Traina believes in fairness, equity and the rule of law. For over a year, Traina and his colleagues have been trying to get fairness, equity, and the rule of law enforced by the Richmond County Democratic Party. Last night, Traina was “ejected” from a public meeting by local party leaders. Richmond County Sheriffs were called to remove Traina from the meeting. He was told by officers that he either needed to leave or face misdemeanor obstruction charges.
Earlier in the day, Traina received a letter claiming he was barred from participating in any party functions, meetings, or other activities for seven years. While at times engaged intense conversations, Traina maintains there have been no incidents of “cruelty of senior citizens.”
In addition to the letter, Traina also received a package which included bags of gummy bear d*cks. Traina also serves as campaign manager for Trent Nesmith who is running in the 12th Congressional District. It is thought the “bag of d*cks,” was sent as a dig at the recent outreach the campaign did at a local Gay establishment. The campaign is focused on making sure the Democratic Party lives up to its values and engages all people on progressive values.
The expulsion letter comes in the midst of an ongoing battle between local party leaders and Traina along with Progressives for Democratic Reform in Augusta. The progressive Democrat wing has been demanding process as outlined in the bylaws be followed in regards to meetings, new membership, and elections. In early January, the group held a progressive summit in Augusta featuring several candidates running for office.
As with many other instances documented by Traina and his associates, the latest action by the local committee is inconsistent with the process laid out in the bylaws. After the meeting last night, a committee member raised some concern about whether recording public meetings was “respectful.” Around minute 8:30 there is an acknowledgment that members of Progressives for Democratic Reform have been right about requiring that the Committee stay true to its own internal rules and process. Sounds like while there are some stylistic differences and particularities even other committee members know that Traina and crew are on the right track.
In a Facebook live video last night, Traina provides context for what happened and why he continues to push.
“We want the rules to apply to everyone.”
“It ain’t about me; it’s about the bylaws.”
“This kind of machine stuff, this kind of the walls where there shouldn’t be any…”
Traina stresses that those who identify as a progressive Democrat need to be more organized and coordinated in their efforts. He says that despite objections to the presence of progressive Democrats in various spaces, people need to continue to push forward. Progressives are playing a long game. Obstacles may be put in the way, but the integrity of the process matters. At around 32:00 Traina makes an impassioned call for focusing on dismantling the machine.
Traina has consistently challenged committee actions that allegedly violate local and state bylaws. In December 2016, it was reported that Traina and several others, including individuals seeking to join the party, were not allowed to attend a meeting claiming it was closed to the public. Per the bylaws in effect at that time, all meetings were public meetings unless explicitly stated to be an Executive session which it was not.
The group continued to push forward with getting new membership accepted and corrected elections. You can see a video of the July 2017 meeting here. Here is another dialogue regarding public meetings with the former chair who threatened to have folks removed and insisted that Traina or others do not record meetings. Progressives for Democratic Reform uploaded a video in November 2017 showing a group trying to become members of the party. From the linked video at around 16:45 they are being told they “waited too long” to join and cannot join. This is not how we build coalitions to win.
Traina maintains there are recordings of his interactions with current and past members of the Richmond County Democratic Party. He also has several detailed videos explaining his objections to the handling of local party elections etc.
In “How Not to Democracy” Traina explains the issues with acquiring his ballot and issues with the election process that was unfolding locally. In “They’re Stalling to Give Us Ballots” Traina is documenting his attempt to receive a ballot and raises issues with the bylaws. In “This is Why We Lose Folks” Traina once again confirms his term on the Committee was not expired. He discusses the frustration with trying to get answers and action in resolving the issues in the Richmond County Democratic Party.
Earlier last month, Traina made a video encouraging individuals who care about getting involved to register to become a voting member of the local party. He explains the process of becoming a post seat holder and why such participation is necessary.
Unfortunately, this is a part of a broader trend statewide and nationally. In June 2017, Traina had conversations with a staff member of the Democratic Party of Georgia concerning the issues with rogue county committees. During the dialogue, it is explained that there needs to be a culture change in many of the county committees including Richmond County. You can hear the conversation here and here.
For those reformers who are focused on transforming the party from inside out, not every space or committee will be open to your participation. People have an investment in the status quo even when it is not in the best interest of our communities as a whole. This is a long game, and people need to stay committed to ensuring the process is consistent and adhered to regardless of who is in charge. To paraphrase Traina from his video testimonial last night, if we are trying to win, we must be intellectually honest with people. The party cannot grow if it continues to subvert progressive values.
With the current primary season heating up and some expressing concerns about a possible rift in the party caused by the “Battle of the Staceys.” What is being felt in the Governor’s race is indicative of a deeper and more widespread issue of people wanting accountability and integrity and not adherence to the status quo. There cannot be real unity at any level without accountability and integrity in the process. Strong campaigns to win statewide cannot occur with mistrust and private fiefdoms at the local level. People across the state need to believe in their leaders and the process. Otherwise, Democrats will continue to lose.
State party leaders and members need to intervene in Richmond County, or any county, where the process is not being followed. “You can’t just expel people you don’t like,” Traina says we need fighters. Knowledge, information, and values like love and inclusion are his tools. It is time to leave the status quo behind.