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A couple of weeks ago I decided to throw my hat in the ring and run as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, pledged to Bernie Sanders. With three days to go before the application deadline, there were only two men in the race for our congressional district to fill four male delegate positions (three men and an alternate). After I applied, another 16 men entered the race.

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This turned out to be quite a challenge, but I decided to go for it. I think it's common knowledge that I've been a big Bernie supporter since he started his Presidential campaign in earnest a year ago. I attended his mass rally at the Los Angeles Sports Arena last summer and in the crush managed to shake his hand. I also stood within ten feet of him at another event in Los Angeles a month later. What he had to say inspired me. I can literally say that I agreed with every aspect of his platform.

Now I had a chance to participate in a major way in Bernie's historic revolution. I immersed myself in the process of becoming a delegate by reengaging with a committed group of activists I had worked with last summer, the Ventura County Activists for Bernie Sanders. I also developed a relationship with activists in Thousand Oaks who recently set up a volunteer office for Bernie. And I met with Bernie's incredibly overworked field organizer, Megan Harris, who has responsibility for campaign activities from Thousand Oaks to Santa Cruz. She has two unpaid volunteers who support her over this huge area.

I wondered how Bernie could run a Presidential campaign with such a slim staff. I learned that he accomplishes the impossible through an amazing social media presence. His supporters run numerous Bernie Facebook sites including at least four in Ventura County. His campaign also has an on-line method of setting up events in various locations, including rallies, voter registration, phone banking, door-knocking, and other campaign activities. Canvassing is managed through a smart-phone app known as Minivan, which features a neighborhood map with addresses of potential supporters.

Want to find a Bernie event? Easy to do on-line! Want to canvass? Use the Minivan app.

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This all culminated in the caucus held for Bernie Sunday at Cisco's Mexican Restaurant in Westlake Village. (The caucus for Hillary Clinton was held at the same time at a union hall in Ventura.) With the help of club members, the activists from Ventura, and others, I was able to secure the number two slot as a pledged male delegate for Bernie. I will know whether I'm going to Philadelphia after the June 7th primary, but it's looking good.During this whole process I've spoken with a couple of hundred people about Bernie's campaign and what they expect at the National Convention. Bernie has announced that this will be a contested convention, and I'm sure he's right. As a pledged delegate, I am required to vote for Bernie in the first round. After that, I essentially shift status to an unpledged delegate who is free to make up his own mind. But I have committed to hang tough with Bernie, round after round if need be.

Why would I want to do this? Well, I and other Bernie supporters see this as a pivotal moment when we have to break the back of big money interests in the Democratic Party and the country writ large. It's time for marginal tax rates for the wealthy to begin a steep climb back to where they were decades ago. It's time to end the pernicious influence of shady organizations on Democratic officials, organizations such as the payday loan industry, the health care insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and of course Wall Street. It's time to end the "free" trade agreements that help companies achieve huge profits but do nothing to help the ordinary American.

Bottom line: The entire wealthy/poor paradigm has to be changed in this country. There has to be a level playing ground for all Americans, not huge entitlements for a tiny proportion of the population. And the Democratic Party must once again be thought of as the Party of the People.

There will be protestors gathered around the convention location in Philadelphia with the purpose of "forcing the delegates to do their job." It could become an ugly scene for all. And if the Democratic Party doesn't change in a major way, I've been told by numerous Bernie supporters that they will abandon the party. Truth be told, many of them have already abandoned the party, but have temporarily rejoined it simply to vote in the primary. They intend to change back to "No Party Preference" or Green or whatever on June 8th.

We are truly in historic times, and it looks like I'll get a chance to participate in it. I plan to put my game face on and be ready for some tough times in Philadelphia. I sincerely hope we come out of it with a rejuvenated Democratic Party!

Richard Gardner

Rick Gardner