Last Sunday, my brother and I got up at the crack of dawn and spent four hours shoveling a truly massive amount of horse crap. Why? Because he and I were Sanders delegates to the 45th Legislative District Caucus and he needed to get the work done before the caucus started. We got done just in time and rushed off to the caucus, still in work pants and galoshes and smelling of horse. Turns out, we needn’t have bothered to hurry.
The caucus was a mess. Hurry up and wait was the order of the day. Nobody, not even volunteers, seemed to know what was going on. Apparently, new protocols had been handed down from the state party only days before the event itself, so people weren’t trained in the new rules. Frustrations abounded but for me and many others, the worst frustration stemmed from an irony.
Organizers spoke, again and again, about the Democratic Party’s dedication to serving the historically disenfranchised. Ironic, then, that the caucus was so inaccessible to so many of those groups.
At both the 45th and 48th district caucuses, there was no ASL translation and no captioning. Both of these measures are common means to improve accessibility for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
Real-time ASL translation has been used everywhere during this election. The New York Mayor has an ASL translator with him at press conferences. Sanders rallies have them as well. So does Obama. For God’s sake, Ron Paul uses a translator. So why is it that this basic accessibility measure was conspicuously absent at a meeting of the Democratic Party in one of the most liberal counties in one of the most liberal states in the country?
The failures didn’t stop there either. The chronically ill, the chronically pained and the neurodivergent were also screwed over by the caucus as well, in a variety of ways. Lack of air conditioning made it difficult for those with sensory processing disorders to remain present and several were forced to leave the 48th district. The metal chairs and benches provided for seating were awful for those with chronic back pain, movement impairments or other physical ailments.
The caucus itself ran hours over the stated ending time. This was a huge strain on people who have limited mental energy to get through the day. This includes autistic folks, people with chronic illnesses and a lot of generally neurodivergent individuals. Poor organization and constant confusion about what was going on at a given moment made those with social anxiety disorders unable to remain in the space without a risk of panic attacks and other problems.
Given that one of the platforms ratified for the legislative agenda at the caucus was a disability rights effort, this is particularly frustrating.
Disabled folks weren’t the only ones being hurt by the same organization that regularly pats itself on the back for supporting them. The poor organization which caused the caucuses to run hours over their designated stopping point harmed the attendees who worked on Sunday.
Many had to leave in order to make it to their jobs, leaving before the caucus even reached the point that we began to address the entire reason for being there in the first place, which was the election of delegates to continue on to the next level of caucuses. At both the 48th and 45th District Caucus, the elections began at 6 p.m., an hour after the caucuses were supposed to be over.
In a general email, the Chair of the 48th District Caucus issued an apology, saying that the registration process was a catastrophic failure. He acknowledged that people had disabilities and medical conditions exacerbated by the poor organization and the caucus running over time. These failures would be irritating anywhere, but when an organization that repeatedly praises itself for its support of the disenfranchised fails this badly, it becomes infuriating.