War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Rev. Dennis Delivers The Word...

...and the State Democratic Convention delivers a wild-eyed far-left platform.

Around 8:00am this morning I manage to drag myself out of bed, and somehow get enough coffee and advil down my throat to get out of the house and down to the MAX stop. Amazingly this proved to be worth the effort, because when the convention convened at 9:00am Dennis Kucinich took the stage - to the frenetic applause of an army of rabid Kuchies - and delivered a fiery speech that denounced the pacification of the right-wing, and extolled the virtues of leadership by principle.

At first Kuch seemed a bit off tilt - he identified one of his own operatives as Diego Alvarez, instead of Alvarado. I heard someone mutter that he must have "hit the rails pretty hard" the night before. But as he built momentum, and the crowd continued to increase the intensity of their response, Dennis got into his own. By the time he was condemning Kerry's support of Bush's war policies, and leading a call for Democrats to set an alternative policy, even I was standing and cheering.

Others in the audience shouted "yes, yes" as he spoke, invoking a spirit of religious revival. All that was missing was a call for the converts to come down the isle, and kneel before the congregation - to accept the spirit of the holy trinity of democracy (Jefferson/FDR/JFK) into their political consciousness.

After Dennis left, so did I, to go up the street for another 20oz cup of coffee. Walking out, I was joined by a number of other Kucinich supporters. For them it seems, a Democratic Party without Dennis Kucinich is a Democratic Party not worth being a part of, and I can't say that I really disagree with them. I am not a registered Democrat anyway.

The Democratic Party is a dinosaur - a gigantic old skeleton, which gets dragged out and dusted off every couple of years to be toured around the country. It does still draw crowds who come to gawk at the spectacle, but with each passing season they come out in fewer numbers, and those who come bring less of an interest and intensity than they did before.

While I was brooding on this, nursing a hangover, and sipping on my hot coffee, I fired off a text-message to Mr. A complaining bitterly about my boredom, and concluding that "The only people still getting turned on by the D party are necrophiliacs!"

This, in retrospect, proved to be a rush to judgment, because once I began to listen to the debate over the planks in the platform, I realized that what had been assembled over the past two days, in the meetings I couldn't attend because I didn't have the money to register, was a truly supportable progressive agenda.

In the planks of the platform you will find support for "public education at all levels, universal and free for all." It is clearly stated that "we support universal health care." The platform calls for the "repeal of the USA PATRIOT act." The platform denounces a "bloated defense budget," and endorses "increases in the incomes of the poorest in our society." Reading and hearing language like this was a pleasant surprise, and I actually found myself staring at a document that I would endorse.

On the lunch break I hurried home, and started to chug some cheap wine, while doing last minute research for proposed amendments to the Legislative Agenda of the platform, which was scheduled for debate during the afternoon. After 30 minutes - and 3 glasses - of frantic digging for obscure statistics, I poured out another quart of wine into a large cup, and staggered back across the river.

When the delegates recovened, the realities of trying to debate 14 pages of policy points, along with countless additions, began to sink in. As the afternoon progressed, the pressure for speed steadily eroded the level of order, and the ability of the delegates to follow and participate in the proceedings. When the final hour arrived, the process collapsed entirely, and the convention descended into chaos.

Nathan Jimenez, who had been forcibly removed earlier in the day after a long outburst of railing against what he described as, the "vagaries of the Chair," fought his way to the microphone repeatedly. He frantically called points of order, and personal privilege, while making a litany of wild motions. His attempts were met mainly with defeat, and inspired a great deal of annoyance in his fellow delegates, which reminded me that the Democratic Party never really cared much for Abbie Hoffman or Jerry Rubin either.

Will Seaman - the soft spoken, but eloquent mainstay of PPRC demonstrations - delivered a passionate argument, calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. The motion to include this controversial language was passed in a contentious 77-70 vote.

At one point, a hastily formed group of activists won a voice vote to include language condemning human rights violations by China. Then, a few minutes later, a (presumably Chinese) Asian woman, whose name I did not catch, angrily took to a mic and demanded that the point be reconsidered. She contended that it was unfair to single out the Chinese for human rights violations that are common in regimes around the world. Her point was well taken, and the language was stricken.

This incident was perhaps the most extreme, but not the only example of how the haste of the afternoon session led to votes on language that had been only superficially debated, and poorly understood by the delegates.

In another very close vote, a motion to insert language supporting "instant run-off" voting was rejected, (65-60 I believe) after only the most minimalist explanation, and a cut-short debate in which the Chairman took the floor in opposition. After the vote I heard a young delegate, who was wearing a Kucinich t-shirt, say bitterly that he was "quitting the Democratic Party."

While there was some bitterness at times, there was also a great sense of humor among the delegates. At one point when a woman was speaking in opposition to privatization of the OLCC, saying that this would lead to "liquor being sold in your neighborhood stores 24 hours a day, seven days a week," someone in the back began clapping loudly, bringing a round of laughter from the lighter elements of the after lunch crowd. In another case a bearded middle-aged man from Multnomah County, who had seen his progressive amendments being shut down all day, took the mic in opposition to a motion he actually supported, saying that "since I seem to kill everything I touch, please vote against this," which unleashed another wave of laughter.

As the last hour wound down it became increasingly apparent that the final platform would be woefully ragged and unfinished. Recognizing this, an ambiguous motion was put forward to allow the Democratic Party Executive Committee to edit the platform and rectify any "inconsistencies" in the text. This motion brought about smatterings of explosive dissent, but with time running out, and no real alternatives being offered, it passed.

The affect of leaving the platform open, to be edited by another committee, remains to be seen. It is possible that the platform may stand as it is, unchanged. According to one local party agent who took the floor, it is against the party's by-laws for the platform to be modified outside of the convention. It is also possible that radical modifications could be made, to remove some of the platform's more divisive language, which will surely hang like a rotting albatross on the neck of Democratic candidates in rural Oregon.

As the platform stands now - in the language that has been passed by the State Convention - it is a truly exciting progressive vision for Oregon and America. Major points that I have not yet mentioned include support for:
-single-payer healthcare
-getting the U.N. in, and the U.S. out of Iraq
-rescinding Most Favored Nation trade status for China
-normalization of relations with Cuba
-withdrawal from NAFTA, FTAA, GATT, Fast Track [negotiation], WTO
-taxing companies based on Net Income reported to shareholders [as opposed to IRS]
-ratification of, and full participation in the International Criminal Court
-repeal of the death penalty
-judicial discretion in criminal sentencing [read: opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing]
-ending the war on drugs [I am proud to say that I was the instigator for this language - and thanks to the individuals who put it forward for me.]
-immediate ratification of Kyoto Accord
-repeal of the "kicker"
-removal of upper limit on Social Security payroll tax
-progressive taxation of all income, including capital gains, and dividends

In case it isn't clear, the platform adopted today looks a lot like the one that Kucinich has been campaigning on, and it is far to the left of the positions being promoted by John Kerry. This is no accident. The Kuchies are excited about their candidate's ideas, and they had the dedication to arrive in force at the convention to get them into the Oregon platform. But what now?

Something I heard from more than one delegate was "This is my first Democratic convention, and it will probably be my last." I also heard from a number of young - and a few older - progressives that they would not campaign for Kerry, and some said that they wouldn't even vote for him.

At the Oregon State Democratic Convention there were almost no young people participating as delegates. To have some of the few who did attend say that it wasn't worth it, because the national candidate and party is too far to their right for them to support, is a potential disaster for the Democratic Party. It remains to be seen what will happen at the national convention, but if the Democratic Party fails to listen to this same group of noisy lefties who dominated in Oregon, they will squander an opportunity to expand the big tent with some of the strongest and most dedicated activists they have had the opportunity to reach out to in years. At the same time though, a platform like the one adopted here could be disastrous nationally, and though it remains to be seen, there were surely be ramifications locally.

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