In regards to social media and the Democratic Primary for President

Today, a seasoned volunteer posted to the Multnomah Democrat’s Facebook page a quote from one of our Multnomah County precinct committee persons and a link to an article about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s position on childcare. As you probably know, Senator Warren is vieing for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

I deleted it from our feed.

It is not that the article was not well written and compelling, worthy of discussion. It is not that Elizabeth Warren merits censorship. It is not that I or any member of the party favors another candidate. I deleted the post in the service of being a responsible officer of the party in the complex world of social media.

I am extremely proud of our lively MultDems social media presence, particularly Facebook. I inherited it from the groundbreaking work of my predecessor and have every intention of keeping it going.

Our volunteers put hours every week into posting and interacting with other users. The result is vibrant and authentic connections to fellow Democrats.

When a legislative action connects to our platform, we use Facebook to get the word out to our activists and constituents. I am very happy that I am frequently told that the Multnomah Democrats Facebook feed is informative and community-building. I want it to be a place where people gather. A place that inspires the actions we can do together to change our communities and our world.

And then there is the upcoming Democratic primary election. What is a local party — and its social media presence — to do when multiple candidates are vying for the top spot on our ticket?

The Multnomah Democrats strive for transparency and accountability. That is why I am writing this post. The truth is that a perfectly clear response to this important moment is not easy. I want us to collectively find a way to use social media for its best purposes. I want it to bring us together in conversation. I want it to provide information and visibility to the topics that energize us.

As we all know, social media can create divides and falsely separate us — particularly around political topics. It happened before, and it is already happening again.

Social media thrives on heated conversation. It benefits those who count on us dehumanizing each other on topics ranging from immigration rights to who should play James Bond to 90s college rock bands. Done wrong, it is an unhealthy multiplier of a person’s passion. If you dig back in my Twitter or Facebook feed you will see that I have been there myself.

In my view, the platforms are so new that pretending there are norms or best practices is misleading. We are learning together how to relate with each other in these new ways.

As an officer of the party, I am honored and happy to serve in a role that helps us coalesce our collective energy around the eventual nominee. I very much believe that the party is ready to make the best use of the primary system, producing a candidate we can all work with and defeat Donald Trump in 2020. That is the most important thing. I believe that winning in 2020 won’t be easy. It is not gauranteed. That is why I work for every day to strengthen the capacity of the Democratic Party.

That is my (completely unpaid, second) job and I am honored to have it at this moment.

Excerpt from the Democratic Party of Multnomah County Bylaws

Article XIICandidate Support and Ballot Measure Endorsements

Section 1 Candidate Support

A. Democrats who win their Primary in a partisan election are the Democratic Party nominees and will appear on literature listing Democratic nominees, such as a Multnomah Democrats slate card.

B. No endorsements of any candidates will be made by the Multnomah County Democratic Party.

C. Democratic candidates in both partisan and non-partisan elections who have no Democratic opponent may receive support from the county party, such as financial contributions, campaign literature, and recruitment and organizing of campaign volunteers.

D. Support will be proposed by the Executive Committee and presented to the Central Committee for ratification.

E. PCPs [Precinct Committee Persons] who support a Democratic candidate may use Party facilities for campaign work for that candidate.

F. Candidates in partisan and non-partisan elections who align with the Party’s Platform and Resolutions may receive public recognition of their positions, which may be assessed through Candidate Forums, questionnaires and interviews.

I, and all of my fellow officers, happily comply to the bylaws and platform of our party. That is what we signed up for.

As a county party, we will develop clearer policies going forward for how our social media talks about these candidates. It requires some consideration; the candidate are great thinkers of our party and clearly historic figures. Entirely ignoring them seems odd.

However, posting about any candidate and excluding any others immediately draws the question of favoritism. The post that prompted me to write this article was up for about an hour and readers had already asked whether we were going to provide equal time for every Democratic presidential candidate. That would drown out the conversations of National Popular Vote, health care, Green Jobs, and fully funded education that matter so much to our consituents and our nation.

I did not feel good about taking down that post today, but I would have felt worse about leaving it up. I ask you to join me in sober consideration of how social media should be a part of our Democratic process, starting today and moving forward.

Yours,

Joel Barker
Communications Officer
Multnomah County Democratic Party
Elected January 2019