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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

The California State Democratic Party Convention held in San Jose was not about party platforms, but more of a media event and a giant sales meeting to market the party to its own delegates. Its objective was not solutions, but winning the White House.

California Democrati...
01.jpgx0jve3.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

The air was optimistic. The Democratic Party was riding a wave of popular dissatisfaction with the Bush administration's handling of the economy, the war, and the environment. There was no shortage of wrongs done during the past seven years that could be corrected by a Democratic president and an enlarged Democratic majority in Congress. The youth vote was surging on the hopes of putting either the first woman or first African-American into the White House.

But the California State Democratic Party Convention held on March 28-30, 2008 in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center was not about political strategy or tactics. It was not about party platforms, legislative agendas, or even organizational decision-making.

There was no debate. There was no discussion. There were some whispers in the hallways, but no smoke-filled rooms. The scripts had already been written. A mere handful of voice votes were taken on perfunctory matters in some of the caucuses -- the Progressive Caucus, the Labor Caucus. The rest was speeches by politicians and party officials. The delegates were there to listen, to root for a favorite candidate, to socialize, and to wine and dine; not to think or create new directions for "the party of change."

There was plenty of cheerleading from the Obama and Hillary teams gathered on opposing sides of the convention floor. It was reminiscent of a football game. It is a small wonder why John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and others were quickly pressured into dropping out of the presidential primary race. There can be only two teams in a football game!

The only real thinking may have come from outsiders.

One was special guest Phil Donahue. Donahue's controversial talk show on MSNBC received the highest ratings at the time it was cancelled on February 25, 2003. An internal NBC memo reportedly pressed for cancellation of the show because Donahue would be a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war."

At the Convention Dinner on March 29, Donahue showed several two-minute film clips from his soon-to-be-released documentary film "Body of War," codirected with Ellen Spiro. The film interweaves the story of a severely-disabled Iraq war veteran, Tomas Young, and statements by President Bush and members of Congress in October 2002 on the decision to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The film's indisputable opposition to the decision to go to war was universally well-received by the more than 2000 delegates present. The 23 senators who voted against the authorization were cheered as heroes. Barack Obama and John Edwards were among them. The 77 senators who voted for it were booed. But some were Democrats. Diane Feinstein voted "aye," and the convention delegates booed. When the film clip showed Hillary Clinton repeating Bush's lies (she also voted "aye"), there was an incredulous moment of silence. Some Hillary supporters could be overheard whispering, "Sh**!"

The other outsiders were local antiwar and impeachment activists. One member of the Silicon Valley Impeachment Coalition donned a George W. Bush mask and an orange prison jumpsuit. He held a sign saying, "Impeach me." The other side read, "War criminal." He was perhaps the second most popular personality at the convention. (The first was former president Bill Clinton.) There were queues of delegates waiting to have their photographs taken with the most impeachable George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, antiwar activists, single-payer healthcare advocates, and anti-foreclosure activists held demonstrations in the lobby and candlelight vigils in the evening in front of the McEnery Convention Center. They were present all day on March 28 and 29. Antiwar groups have long complained that the Democrat-controlled Congress refuses to take decisive steps to cut off funding for the Iraq war. Delegates were overwhelmingly supportive, but they had no say on the party line.

Bill Clinton spoke very eloquently on March 30 about many of the problems facing America. He condemned Republican's theory of "trickle down economics" which says that giving tax breaks to corporations will create jobs that will be good for all Americans. Clinton asserted, "Trickle down economics needs to be put into the trash bin of history forever and ever and ever." But he had no solution for how to really create manufacturing jobs in the United States and eliminate poverty.

Clinton asked the audience, "How many of you know of someone without health insurance?" A swarm of hands went up. "This is the only developed country in the world where you get a response like this!" he observed. Clinton correctly recognized that 30 per cent of healthcare costs are consumed in paperwork in the current system of private health insurance. Yet he could not mention that the only solution that eliminates most of those costs is a single-payer healthcare system.

The California Democratic Party Convention showed that the party is capable of identifying the root causes of many of the problems facing the country and of the global conflicts caused by U.S. foreign policy. Yet it is not ready to make the fundamental changes necessary to solve those problems. And delegates are not allowed to go and find those solutions on their own.

After all, the Democratic Party is not really about solving problems, but rather about winning the White House.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
02.jpgvyswg1.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Delegates seated in General Session.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
03.jpgjclplr.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Convention honors farmworkers on the eve of César Chávez's birthday.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
04.jpg5pkcg4.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Antiwar die-in in front of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
05.jpgvrlynj.jpg, image/jpeg, 648x968

Delegates with "End the war" signs joining peace vigil.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
06.jpgyzlpct.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Antiwar vigil in the lobby of the McEnery Convention Center.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
07.jpg1fk57k.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Silicon Valley Impeachment Coalition meets delegates.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
08.jpgh74aet.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x500

Phil Donahue discussing film clips from "Body of War."

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
09.jpguys1vw.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Cheerleaders for Hillary on one side of the convention floor.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
10.jpgxntoma.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Cheerleaders for Obama on the other side of the convention floor.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
11.jpg6jmdv7.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x600

San Francisco DA, Kamala Harris, speaking in favor of Barack Obama.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
12.jpgmrjxzx.jpg, image/jpeg, 750x610

Bill Clinton speaking for Hillary's candidacy.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
13.jpgddsdf0.jpg, image/jpeg, 968x648

Delegates dining at a convention banquet.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
14.jpgoznxz5.jpg, image/jpeg, 518x774

Delegates wining and dining at late-night hospitality suites hosted by lobbyists and party aspirants.

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California Democratic Convention identifies problems, not solutions

by Sharat G. Lin Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 9:45 PM

California Democrati...
15.jpgdutoxu.jpg, image/jpeg, 774x518

Candlelight vigil for peace.

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