King County Democrats Meeting 2/27/2018

In case you haven’t heard, King County Democrats Chair, Bailey Stober, has been accused of harassment, creating a hostile work environment, and misappropriation of funds. He is currently under investigation and refuses to acquiesce to demands that he resign.

You can read more about these accusations in The Stranger, Seattle Times, and The C is for Crank. Included in the C is for Crank article is a video posted by Stober on his personal Facebook page.

Last night there was a King County Democrats meeting. I attended, but was not allowed in the executive session, which is always closed to the public. From what I gathered from hallway gossip, most of the two or so hours we sat outside consisted of people inside asking questions they knew the answer to in order to make a point.

I enjoyed myself in the hallway, meeting other PCOs and learning about how things work at the county level. At some point some committee members who identified themselves as serjeants-at-arms were sent into the hallway to make sure no one was standing too close to the door, in case we were listening in. Of course, we were listening in, but we couldn’t actually make anything out and had begun chatting instead. They should have been more concerned that everyone inside the room had functioning cell phones (aka recording devices) on their persons.

Later, one of the same serjeants-at-arms came out to tell a PCO not to leak sensitive information to the press. This was a bizarre admonishment, because the PCO wasn’t in the meeting and didn’t have sensitive information to leak. He said as much. By now it was ten at night, and we were all slumping a little. Maybe this why I was so incredulous about the rest of the evening.

The serjeant-at-arms came out again and told the reporter that they needed to monitor interviews. The reporter did not like this and refused to be monitored. The most absurd moment in this utter circus was when the serjeant-at-arms said to a committee member (whose voting credential had fallen out of his pocket and onto the floor without him noticing) “Do you pinky-promise not to leak sensitive information to the press?” I think this serjeant-at-arms knew that what they were being as was absurd, yet there was a self-seriousness about everyone’s tone and demeanor, but none of the training or actual professionalism required to make it believable. I imagined that what was going on inside the meeting room was equally farcical and more upsetting.

Once executive session ended, we were allowed back in the room. A few things happened that I think are important. First, confidential materials had been distributed during executive session that needed to be returned. However, rather than ensuring that they had all been returned before opening the doors to the public, they attempted to do so afterward. The acting chair announced that two copies were still missing and that if any committee member was found to be in possession of one they would be risking a charge of misconduct.

Second, when a motion was set forth to further the investigation into Bailey’s actions, the acting chair announced that there were no rules of debate in the bylaws. That’s right. King County Dems have no established rules of debate.

Third, the body decided they needed to form a new investigation team—the vice chairs who had done the preliminary investigation had been deemed too biased. Unfortunately, no such team existed, and they had no formal process at hand to appoint one. Rather than, say, draw names out of a hat or go through a strikethrough process, they agreed that the vice chairs could appoint two investigators, that Bailey could appoint 2 investigators, and that those four investigators would come to consensus on the fifth investigator. I don’t know of any investigation where it is considered ethical for the person under investigation to be allowed to choose any of the people conducting the investigation. The conflicts of interest seem self-evident to me, and I was disappointed that no one stood up to cry foul.

Finally, an amendment was made to the motion which ultimately passed that called for the investigation to include discovering who leaked a confidential memo to the press. This is not a bad amendment per se. What was bad was the framing. I confess that I had to leave the room for a moment when this amendment came to the floor. Few things make me more angry than miscarriages of justice. The woman who introduced the amendment said that the worst thing about this entire conflict was the leaked confidential memo. She has been presented with everything that Bailey is accused of, sat in the same room as the victims, and decided that where the organization is most vulnerable is due to an as yet anonymous whistleblower and not the reason for the whistleblowing. Her proposed amendments was met with applause. As a sexual assault survivor, as someone who spent years being ignored on this subject, this was triggering. I left. I walked down the hall into a different room, closed the door, and for the first time since I was a child, I screamed. I breathed, and then I went back inside in time to see the amendment pass. I have never felt more helpless.

What all of this highlights is that a lack of process is dangerous. For the sake of expediency, the body just allowed the person being investigated to appoint his own investigators. I urge Legislative Districts and other counties to put processes into place about how to investigate your chairs or other leaders in your org. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have shown us that abusive men in power don’t get to stay in power anymore. While it is inconvenient, even painful, for the organizations that go through public accusations, it is made more inconvenient when you don’t have a way to sort through it. It’s painful for the victims most of all who, rather than feeling heard, safe, and affirmed, are part of a drawn out faux-trial. The longer this goes on, worse it is for everyone and the more likely it is that Bailey will continue to do harm. The best thing Bailey could have done was say “I’m sorry; what can I do to make it better?” and then gone and done those things.

Full disclosure, I think Bailey should resign immediately. He has said he wants due process, but if I learned anything last night, it’s that KC Dems don’t have one to offer, and it is partly Bailey’s fault as their chair. I fully believe the victims in this situation, but even if I didn’t, the accusations and the financial situation Bailey has put the organization in have reached critical mass. Bailey’s continued presence is a hindrance to fundraising efforts, fuel for our political opponents, and alienating to anyone who identifies as a victim of sexual harassment. Further, Bailey’s behavior since the accusations has been categorically unprofessional and childish.

My final anecdote from last night took place at the start of the meeting. Bailey, rather than opening the meeting by announcing his resignation, brought up the treasurer to give a financial report. She did so, painting a dire picture. KC Dems would be in the hole $3,000 if they paid all their outstanding bills. That doesn’t include pending litigation that is likely to result in a yet to be determined fine. A member of the Executive committee took this opportunity to pay his dues. Bailey also took the opportunity to perform a piece of theater. He handed over a check made out for $5,000 to the treasurer. He did not say where it had come from. This was met with applause. I cringed and rolled my eyes. Great. He is the reason they are in this financial situation to begin with, and $5K hardly addresses the $163K in funds he has depleted. In this moment Bailey proved his interests lie in himself over the wellbeing of the organization, that his is a politics of theater and not of substance.

Edit: The check for $5,000 has since been rescinded. It was the fulfillment of a 2017 pledge from Dow Constantine, according to the KCD treasurer.

There is no Substitute for Elegance

There’s a song in a musical about how you have to have elegance in order to fit in at fancy restaurants; I never could understand the lyrics. Today, especially where I reside in the Pacific Northwest, elegance is considered bourgeois—and the word bourgeois is even too bourgeois.

Once, during a philosophy discussion, I claimed that I like social rules. They put the world in order and have an elegance to them. My professor said that the real reason I like such things as having multiple forks and knowing where to put my napkin and when is because I like to be distinctive. He didn’t go so far as to call me a snob, but that’s what he was insinuating.

I am not a snob, but I do love elegance. I love flowing fabrics, crystal goblets, pearls, and caviar. My favorite designers are Alphonse MuchaErté, and Paul Poiret. If I could put feather accents on the shoulder of every dress and have huge, batwing sleeves on all my coats, I would. Velvet. Silk. Lace. They thrill me.

Of course, I’m a practical person in many ways, so my wardrobe is considerably plainer than any of the prints Erté ever produced. I’ve never worn a turban with a single feather jutting into the heavens. I own no silk bathrobes.

I do, however, own a pair of white, silk palazzo pants; two vintage coats with fur collars; a backless, black velvet, floor-length dress; and a pair of yellow suede heels. This finery could easily lead people to believe that I am completely obsessed with my appearance and have no bearing on the normal world, giving rise to frivolity.

On the contrary, I am not obsessed with my appearance. I care very little for it. That is what makes it so easy to change it. I do care about fun, and it is fun to wear a gigantic, floppy hat out to dinner. It’s fun to shave your head and wear dreamcatchers for earrings. It’s fun when your boyfriend can’t keep his hands off you in your satin jumpsuit despite being so skeptical about it on the hanger. I can be a Greek goddess or Edith Piaf or a ’30s film star just by putting on an outfit or doing my hair a little differently. And then I can go right back to being your typical Seattlite in riding boots, leggings, and a sweater.

However, I would like to state unequivocally that these things are, indeed, frivolous. They are not, however, a frivolity that I intend to take seriously, ever. The real problem of frivolity is when it is taken too seriously. That is how a good time turns into snobbery. And snobbery is merely upper class exclusivism. The rules create order, but being flexible enough to eat a corn dog while wearing elbow-length suede gloves also has its merits. A generous spirit is essential, and you simply must have absolutely as much fun as possible. Elegance and dignity are not the same thing, after all.

Anarcho-Commun-Indepence Day

The 4th of July is far from my favorite Holiday. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the ones that insight so much feeling and good cheer. I get especially thoughtful and sentimental about those Holidays. And Easter is always profoundly impactful in its ability to remind me about sacrificial love and the hope of salvation, etc. Of course, I know our country’s history. I know that we celebrate our independence from the British, our ability to govern ourselves, and pay taxes with representation. But for the most part, July 4th is the day that my family piles into a van and drives somewhere. I don’t know if we’ve ever gone to the same place twice. Last year it was so hot, the only thing we could think to do was visit some caves where we learned about stalagmites and stalactites. One year, we went to the Spam Museum (yes it does exist). There is always a great deal of singing, a frenzied attempt to get out the door with all of our picnic fixings, and some dirt-road experience or another (my mom has always said that it’s not an adventure until you’ve been on a dirt road). Most of the time, we forget a knife and can’t cut the apples or the cheese.

Naturally, this year my usual expectation for adventure was aroused by the sound of fireworks in the distance and the unusually sunny weather we have been experiencing in Seattle. Unfortunately, I am too many miles away from my family to plan on piling into my parents’ minivan, and as it turned out, Seattleites don’t share my enthusiasm for dirt roads. When I was invited to a party hosted by an anarchist and a communist, I was intrigued but a little incredulous. The plan was simple: celebrate America in the most cliché ways possible. Someone bought a big flag and mounted it on the wall. We had McDonald’s, and everyone drank Coke and Budweiser. There were larger-than-life cardboard cutouts of Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx on one wall as well. Our hosts took their jobs very seriously, posting signs forbidding communists in the bathroom and wearing red, white, and blue armbands. The guests had varying degrees of investment in the theme. There was, however, an underlying sense that no one was very proud of America and that this whole thing was a charade, which it was. Perhaps Sartre would have been proud of us, but I have never really wanted to impress him.

Suddenly, the decision was made to walk over to Gasworks Park to watch the fireworks. If you don’t know, that is where everyone goes to watch the fireworks in Seattle. I didn’t want to walk or deal with the inevitable swarm of people, but it was that or miss the party. So, I put my shoes on anyway. Someone had the idea to bring our large flag, and off we went, banner waiving conspicuously. There were crowds of people over a mile away from the park. They were gathered at the edge of the lake or walking in the same direction as our group—there were about fourteen of us.

Then someone started singing “God Bless America.” We all joined in. As we got into larger crowds of people, we continued to sing. There were several repetitions of “The Star Spangled Banner” and at least two rousing renditions of “America the Beautiful.”

Just outside of Gasworks, we got into a huddle. Again, the plan was simple: we would enter the park waving the flag and singing, “Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?” We all sang loudly with our fearless leader waving the flag heroically. People cheered and gave us high fives. Many joined the singing. Others stood at attention, hands on their hearts with somber expressions. And suddenly it struck me—even though I sensed my childhood romps in large vans had vanished—America isn’t so bad. Entering the crowded park, all of us following a massive flag, I suddenly had a feeling of satisfaction, or even pride.

It was with mounting fervor that I sang, “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave o’er that land of the free and the home of the brave?”

When we finished our song, we began chanting, “USA! USA! USA!”

One person in our group yelled into the mass, “Make way for America!” and people moved aside.

Some people took pictures and chanted with us. I couldn’t help but feel a little silly chanting those three letters over and over again, like I was part of the US Olympic Swim Team, but it was fun, and I couldn’t help but notice that it was bringing us together. People who probably wouldn’t talk to each other on any other day of the year were pointing at us, starting conversations, and, most importantly, singing together with smiles on their faces.

Once we found a spot to sit, again we sang, starting with “America the Beautiful.” I was surprised at how many people on our corner of the hill knew the words. After that we went straight into what must have been our eighth time singing the National Anthem. What was it about this flag and these songs that moved people to raise their voices and cheer? Were we all just that drunk?

When the fireworks started, we danced on the hillside to explosions of color and Bono going on about it being a beautiful day. And, well, he was right. As thousands of people packed up to go home at once, our group formed an inseparable conga line. We held fast to each other, never letting that flag out of our sight. Once we cleared the bulk of the crowd, we walked two by two or three by three, chatting like old chums.

I didn’t have high expectation for a 4th of July away from home. I guess it’s easy to feel glum when you realize that your traditions are fading into memories and you have no van to climb into for a day trip to Taylor’s Falls with your family. And there’s the underwhelming feeling that America might not be so great; after all, there’s nothing impressive about student loans and the ill-conceived notion that Jesus was American, bred out of a disproportionate sense of superiority. Then you sing. So what if the man waving the flag, causing strangers to cheer is an anarchist; there’s something about music, something that connects us to each other, even more than the widely recognized symbol of our nation that is The Flag. There is something about singing that fortifies every good feeling we have and makes us think the person next to us isn’t such a stranger after all. More than anything, it makes me feel like I’m home.