Joseph was the poster child of the Democratic party as a young, enthusiastic and effective organizer. He had worked for the party for most of his adult life, making deliberate choices to be able to do the hard work of organizing for the good of the party and the people it should represent. What Joseph soon discovered was that reforming the party from a donor-centered organization leaves Progressive on the outside – unless they show up in a unified way. Joseph was the vocal focal point for just fifteen progressives that shook a county and the state party in a way that hasn’t happened in decades.  

Joseph’s Credentials: 


Joseph talks about his experience in Georgia politics, his rise into Progressive reformer, and how others can help move toward balance in the party to make room for Progressives.  

Time Stamps 

9:00 min

Joseph speaks on building coalitions and building a movement through the bad habits learned in the party from establishment party members causing problems within the movement. In Georgia, there exists a perfect example of the intersection of the donor class with Blaxploitation by the Democratic Party and environmental racism.  

“We are a red state here and we are a blue island, but our blue isn’t ideologically blue. It’s blaxploitation. Earlier tonight I was walking on a street where I grew up, went to high school, middle school and if you look at the math, the Democratic Party counts it in terms of automatic votes. It doesn’t count it as a constituents that needs to be served.”  

14:00 mins 

Ghost candidates as a campaign strategy to thwart viable candidates and “zombie” campaign funding for counter intel strategies. Don and Joseph talk about how campaign funds are often used to hide spending, transfer funds, hide donors and otherwise manipulate races, often to the detriment of good representation. 

20:00 mins 

What is a Democrat? Joseph and Don talk about the expectations and responsibilities of representing the party. In 2002, the mass migration of Democratic members after backroom deals left parties in the South without support. What followed was a massive flip of state houses from blue to red. In Georgia is was decided to organize poor and middle-class whites with Republicans and leave minorities completely. From there, the political landscape included Bush to ALEC, who began pushing for a Constitutional Convention and how this effort was stopped in Virginia and Washington State by the early Progressive movement.  

“When you take the party pledge, you’re pledging to the platform. The platform is supposed to be something democratically voted on and the platform should have parity with the national platform. People who call themselves Dem here have no idea what the platform is.” 

This massive exodus left those in charge who do not know what they are doing.  

“Our parties are not really Red and Blue; it’s up-down, top-bottom. What happened was the people who got a hold of the authority of the Democratic party are functionally running the organization as an exclusionary club. It is in opposition, but not a very effective opposition.”   

Therefore, recent history is an important framework to understand the current landscape. After 2008, the mindset was that things had modernized and changed. The South Strategy also included this exclusionary mindset which is now being met with an awakening thanks to internet access, social media and tools available to everyone.  

28:20 min 

Bernie’s chances in the South, including Florida 

Florida is still in chaos today because of party politics and existing revolving debt. South Florida is key, particularly with the retired Jewish community where DWS is still a strong influence. The concept that Sanders himself would have to work with DWS to win Florida. Would the Progressive movement cannibalize their own?  

“Unacceptable. I don’t think that would happen because of him. I think it would not happen because of her. If Bernie takes the nomination, I expect establishment to take a long nap. The most she will do is send an email out inviting people to an event where he will be.” 


32:19 mins

The history of Joseph’s experience with harassment by the party. Joseph had been active since he was 14 yrs old. Under the Obama campaign, Joseph boarded a bus and went to Indiana to canvas for the first time.  

Joseph endured legal trouble as party leaders sought to use legal means to stop his participation, going so far as to use an elderly party member to file an order of protection against him. In court she admitted she didn’t realize the protection order was against, “Joey,” as she had known him for over a decade.  

Joseph and a group of Progressive Democrats had confronted the party’s senior membership over bylaws violations and other issues, endured threats and reprisals culminating in a formal letter where leaders informed him that he was no longer welcome at meetings or around the party’s executive committee members. Leadership then told a 90-year-old party member that another order of protection had been placed on “Joseph”. None of that was true and the judge in the case was able to reveal the discrepancy.  

Since then party leaders have had Traina ejected by police and in March, arrested, when he appeared at meetings. 

“One of my proudest moments was actually getting an AME/CME church to actually talk about LGBT issues before marriage equality was legalized and getting that community talked about, a community that was being ignored. Event people in the party did not want to talk about it. I showed up us as Secretary of the party, ‘I am organizing for a human rights campaign. Can we talk about this, can we get a letter out’ …and they establishment told me no…. and they would tell me ‘no, you are going to scare the money’.”  


Joseph discusses how leadership was actively discouraging participation in party roles. County leadership is also facing pressure from state leadership. The establishment is not of one accord themselves and working against each other. Joseph insists that a unified approach of Progressive is imposing to establishment because they themselves are focused on the “the next big podium” which means prestige is more of a goal than principle. That is a threat to them.  

“In 2016 they called it a takeover. I called it the most successful membership drive the Democratic Party in the state of Georgia had ever seen and I came in prepared with enough knowledge so every time I saw them misbehave or whatever I would call a point of order. Then they start to break the rules and then they started to break the law.”  


44:00 Breaking the law and violating bylaws for membership election 

Joseph describes a pattern of violations of the party bylaws so the chair of the party can install committee members and leadership at will, preventing outsiders from coming in. It is a culture of unaccountability and authoritarianism. Joseph insists that knowing the rules and understanding is a powerful tool that can hold them accountable. At this point, the erroneously elected chair sent Joseph a letter “banning” him. With enough people looking the other way, they can absolutely get away with it.  

This is not unique to a county, a state or removed from the DNC. To fight the DNC, we must challenge this behavior at the county and state level.  

“Just fifteen of us showed up and made a difference. We showed up and challenged them.”  

1:00:01 mins

Thoughts on consensus 

Occupy was a consensus building movement and inclusion and purity as a powerful way to organize. Translating that into a political movement can become a challenge. Modeling this through an organization also includes tearing down the obstacles to inclusion to reform politics. Neoliberals and corporatists are allied to opposing ideologies, but Progressives need to build coalition. In context, Warren’s supporters left her camp over honesty issues and those voters when polled went to Klobuchar. These environmentalists loved Warren’s message, but either hated Bernie or just wanted a woman so much, they compromised their values to back Klobuchar. This also means showing up and the entertainment value is the response from establishment leadership.  

“If you show up you will enjoy their reaction. It will be as if you literally set them of fire.”  

Joseph also describes the relationship with DWS and Georgia’s party leadership, including Stacey Abrams. In service to Clinton, DWS was building connection with the old money and international donor pools. The current chair of Richmond, Jordan Johnson, is now building shrines to previous white leadership who themselves never held legitimate elections. The Machine politics has moved into Georgia and is evident in appointments and illicit activity with backdoor deals.  

“No one is going to do this for us. We have to turn this enthusiasm into action and show up and take over the party.” 

Joseph is currently running for City Council in the 2020 election.  

“I can’t do this alone. There are many people like me who are not giving up and we need you. Take a breather, get ‘zen’ and when you can please plug in… I can’t not fight this. I just don’t have the privilege to stop.  

I deliberately hacked life to be able to just live and fight for the things I believe in. The world is on fire, there are kids in cages, and my son has type 1 diabetes. I am not comfortable enough and I can’t be still and be comfortable in that. If you can be an ally, if you can follow Bernie’s example and fight for someone you don’t know, get to know me and let’s build this movement…” 


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News: Richmond County Democratic Party member invited Traina to buy tickets, then took out restraining order  

More on Joseph’s fight to reform the Democratic party: