First off, the state players, Arizona and elsewhere: I met with Jeff Latas, Candidate for The U. S. House of Representatives, Arizona, CD 08. Mr. Latas is a mild-mannered, well-spoken man who has served five tours of duty in the Middle-East and currently has a son in Iraq. He has served in Iraq himself, during the Gulf War in the 90’s, and spent several years in Saudi Arabia, among others. Jeff has a strong knowledge of the local agenda, including hot-button issue immigration. He told me that the most troubling parts of this issue are the legal status of new immigrants working, or who want to work, in Arizona and that there needs to be a stronger crack-down on employers who hire immigrants illegally. As for national issues, the most imposing one, the Iraqi offensive, needs to be dealt with responsibly. He shares many of the opinions on the war currently circulating among many in the progressive wing of the Democratic party and is supportive of Representative John Murtha (D-PA). Jeff Latas receives my endorsement. He has the right combination of ease in personality, sense of purpose, and knowledge of complex issues that can go a long way in Congress.
Rosalinda Guillén, Affirmative Action Chair of the Whatcom County, Washington, Democratic Central Committee and Executive Director of Comunidad a Comunidad (Community to Community), explained the situation of minutemen in her state, along the U. S. – Canada border. “There were several men from Whatcom County that volunteered for a month [in Arizona]… and started a minuteman contingency in Arizona.” She went on to tell me about County action dealing with the situation: “We have a county council that has drawn up a resolution opposing the minutemen.” Rosalinda let me know that a resolution dealing with this issue would be brought before the D. N. C. this weekend. For more information on Whatcom County Democrats, and issues there, go to: http://www.whatcomdemocrats.com.
Now for the people with national connections: Tom Hayden, who authored what eventually became the P. D. A.’s “Out of Iraq” strategy, gave the first major speech of the night. “The goal of the [Bush] administration was to remove the [Iraq] war from television.” In light of recent revelations in this week’s Rolling Stone Magazine (http://www.rollingstone.com) about how the war was sold, his statement took on the aura of prophecy come true. He went on to state that the Democrats need a new “New Deal” and that immigrants should be at the center of it over the next decade. Tom mentioned that Iraq is already a member of the World Trade Organization and the problems that this suggests for the Bush administration. When asked if he knew whether or not fascism had a bearing on this administration, Tom said that he didn’t know.
Next up in the cue of my digital recorder was Terry Lierman, currently Maryland’s Democratic State Chair. When the issue of fascism was brought up, the following was his response: “If you look at President Bush’s policy as it relates to energy and the military industrial complex, he is so smitten with both of those that it’s going to be paid for for generations by our children.” When I asked Terry about why this country is still supporting voting machines, he explained a measure coming up on the Maryland ballot in about a month and a half: “It would make a paper record required for verification for counting your votes, for letting people know exactly how they voted the second after they voted. So, in Maryland, we’re really trying to take the lead on that. The second reason is very simple: people are not demanding it enough, and they’re not asking their legislators to put it in.” In light of the recent Ohio election, this might not actually be the case. The Columbus Dispatch reported overwhelming support for reform prior to the election, but the issues “failed” on Election Day. On the “liberal movement,” he said, “That’s what’s so important about the liberal movement, the liberals have got to wake up their elected officials and get these issues on the ballot.
On the D. N. C., Iraq, and Democrats speaking truth to power: “I think [Rep. Jack] Murtha’s statement was absolutely terrific. What [Rep.] Nancy Pelosi said was great. I think more and more Democratic leaders are speaking out because they see the consequences of not speaking out. I think the Democrats have learned a really, really, really difficult issue in the last six years in this country. The greatest risk is not taking one, and silence is deadly. We’re now saddled with a seven trillion dollar debt. Medicaid is cut. Our environmental and educational programs are all cut back. The list goes on, and on, and on, and, finally, people are saying, ‘enough is enough.’ We have got to stand up for what we believe in, and I’m proud of Democrats now. We did ourselves, and the nation, a terrible disservice by not speaking up. Now we are speaking up, better late than never, and we’re speaking out on the issues of moral values. More values are addressing issues of poverty, investing in America’s future for our children, talking about health care for everybody, talking about immigration programs; talking about issues that really mean something to every day Americans.”
Christine Pelosi, member of the D. N. C. from California since 1996 and one of five children of Representative Nancy Pelosi, was present and talked with me for a few minutes. “Not everybody came to this position at the same time, but I think Jack Murtha changed the debate [about Iraq]. He spoke for the kids he visits in the hospital every week. He spoke for the child he once was fighting in Vietnam.” Ms. Pelosi praised the diversity of voices within the party and said, “We are not going to bow to any efforts to curtail our liberty.”
Representative Maxine Waters gave a terrific speech about the battles that must be fought by the Democrats. She covered everything from Iraq to election reform, including endorsing a “no machines” policy. When I sat down with the Representative, we were able to get into detail about a few more issues. I presented Ms. Waters with The Council for Secular Humanism’s Fourteen Points of Social Humanism and Fascism (http://www.secularhumanism.org/ - search fascism for those points). The Representative was open to the idea that fascism may very well play a role in the current administration. I explained that the word “ownership,” which has been a large part of Bush’s agenda (“ownership society”), is the foundation of domestic violence (*Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men* by Lundy Bancroft, the preeminent expert on abusive men in the nation). In response, Rep. Waters said the following: “We have to be careful because when you grow up with this idea [as American have], it [ownership] becomes part of the society.”
I asked Ms. Waters about two people who seem to be thorns for progressive Democrats right now: Senator Joseph Lieberman (D – CT) and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D – NY). On Lieberman being an apologist for the Bush administration and Iraq: “I am very disappointed in him. I thought he was coming from a much better place than he apparently is.” On Clinton: “[Hillary] thought a lot people would be there for her while she took the more ‘centrist’ positions on the war and abortion, but a lot of people aren’t.” It seems to be a shift in the way people look at candidates who come from their own party.
Finally, I talked with Mimi Kennedy, Progressive Democrats of America Chairwoman and a woman who has studied non-violence with Reverend James Lawson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lawson), who taught Martin Luther King, Jr., and was taught by Mahatma Gandhi. On her role as Chair, “It’s been the second most demanding role I’ve ever had. The most demanding has been my children. I remember being a good Republican girl in upstate New York during the Vietnam War, and I wanted to stop that war, as I saw the political realities [of it]. When this administration was selected, I didn’t believe that Al Gore had lost because he’d won half a million more popular votes. So, I really thought something was wrong. I predicted that Republicans would go to war because that’s what they knew and loved. I was right. My husband went to Afghanistan and started the Global Exchange Teachers Program to try and reconstruct the country because there had been a war, and it was the least we could do to help with the aftermath.”
Mimi was approached by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich about helping him with his campaign, “As he was the only candidate speaking for peace, I readily agreed and traveled with him and spoke for him.” During this time, Ms. Kennedy met Tim Carpenter who told Mimi that he was starting a new organization, and that anyone else who wanted to join could meet at the Democratic Convention. She was offered the honorary position of Chairman and agreed. “It’s been two years since I joined, and I’ve had the most wonderful opportunity to work on my country, which I love. I’ve gotten to work with people who have convictions of social justice and community and peace and strategy.”
On Democracy in America and fascism in America today, Mimi commented: “In the process of my work, I have found that we really are in danger of losing Democracy in the United States. P. D. A.’s main issues are ending the war [in Iraq] and fair and honest elections…. What I find troubling about fascism in America now is the lie that national security in this day and age of air wars can be law by telling another country we’re going to fight our battles on your soil and ruin your country for our purposes.”
On Iraqi contractors: “They don’t know anything about national security, and they don’t know anything about patriotism.” On our military and making service mandatory for all Americans who are healthy enough to serve: “Something is wrong with the military right now. The military has been thrown like cannon fodder at every problem the way we throw money at every problem. There’s no human caring, and there’s no human intelligence, and I’m not sure that the lack of intelligence can be solved by teaching every young person to thrust their bayonet into a dummy and say, ‘Kill, kill, kill the dummy.’”
All in all, the night was successful. While it would have been the icing on the cake to have an opening appearance from Dr. Dean, Representative Waters more than filled his shoes. Tom, Mimi, and Terry also made the night exciting for the Dems, who stayed until midnight to take part in the festivities. If every issue mentioned in this article is being seriously discussed this weekend, then it will be a successful weekend, indeed.