Wis. delegate informs, inspires young Dems

Wisconsin delegate Jason Rae, at 29 years old, is a seasoned veteran of Democratic National Conventions.

At the Philadelphia convention, his fourth, the Milwaukee man is leading the party’s youth council and mobilizing young voters for Hillary Clinton.

“I’m a lifelong Democrat — born and raised,” said Rae, who is the executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

John and Lori Rae early on encouraged their son, who was in kindergarten when he informed them of his political interests and affiliation.

“I told them I wanted to work for Bill Clinton,” Rae recalled during an interview July 27 in the corridor at Wells Fargo Center near the entrance to Section 115, where the Wisconsin delegation is seated.

The Marquette University graduate dates his first political memory to 1996 and “watching the Democratic National Convention in 1996 and Bill Clinton’s speech.”

In that speech in Chicago, Bill Clinton memorably said, “We can only build our bridge to the 21st century if we build it together, and if we’re willing to walk arm-in-arm across that bridge together.”

Rae got on the bridge.

Eight years later, in Boston, he went to the party’s convention to nominate John Kerry.

Each convention is unique to the time, the place, the people and the circumstances, Rae said.

In Boston and Denver, Democrats nominated candidates with the goal of taking back the White House. In Charlotte, Democrats nominated a president they wanted to keep control of the White House. In Philadelphia, they nominated a candidate they want to continue the party’s occupation of the White House.

As a delegate to conventions in Boston, Denver and Charlotte, Rae represented the youth vote and inspired other young people to get involved in party politics.

At the convention in Philadelphia, his task is to inform and inspire young delegates and prepare them for the general election campaign.

“It’s my role. As a DNC member, I chair the youth council,” said Rae, who in 2004 became the youngest person ever elected to the Democratic National Committee.

At night, delegates are spending their time in the Wells Fargo Center arena, listening to speeches.

During the day, delegates are spending their time attending caucus and council meetings at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Delegates were gathering this week for the LGBT, black, Hispanic, AAPI and women’s caucuses, as well as for the ethnic, Native American council, disability, small business, veterans and military families, labor, faith, rural and youth councils.

At the youth council sessions, Rae is presiding over a variety of discussions and welcoming politicians addressing issues of concern to younger voters and how best to rally for the election on Nov. 8.

“The work is to turn out millennials,” Rae, who also leads programs to teach children about the democratic process, said.

Speakers at youth council meetings talked about reforming Wall Street and the criminal justice system, dealing with the student debt crisis, addressing gun violence, expanding and safeguarding LGBT rights, recruiting young candidates, legalizing marijuana and much more.

Attendees said the evening speeches at the DNC are energizing, but they are learning from youth council panelists how they can build an even bigger voting bloc for Democrats.

Rae acknowledged the strong support Bernie Sanders enjoyed among young voters and the protests continuing throughout the convention, even after Sanders’ speech on July 25 calling for unity.

“There was some disappointment,” Rae said. “It’s a grieving process. But at the end of the day, we are strong. We are uniting. And we are strong.”

Early on July 27, Rae said the highlight of the convention had been the roll call to nominate Clinton. “We made history,” he said.

That was before President Barack Obama’s speech, followed by Obama and Clinton embracing onstage. And that was before Clinton’s speech, set for July 28, accepting the nomination.