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Voters First: The Party Political Leaders Are Wrong

In the election of 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis felt that a grassroots, door-to-door campaign by thousands of volunteers was the way to win the election. After the Democratic convention he actually was leading in the polls.


The Democratic Party political leaders knew this was not the way to win. What Dukakis had to do, they said, was convince the voters that he was strong on national security. So Dukakis dutifully climbed into an Abrams tank, put on a helmet, and was photographed looking stupid.

He lost, and we got George H.W. Bush instead and ultimately his son George W. Bush.

The Party political leaders were wrong.

In 2000 Democratic candidate Al Gore was passionate about the environment and about the use of technology.

"No,no," said the Democratic Party political leaders. "These issues are losers." So Gore dutifully debated George Bush on the traditional Democrats issues of jobs and the economy while looking stiff and somewhat inarticulate, even compared to Bush.

He lost, and we got George W. Bush.

The Party political leaders were wrong.

In 2004 our candidate John Kerry had a whole program of good issues, but then the Swift Boat Liars began attacking Kerry's Vietnam War record.

The Democratic Party political leaders, safely ensconced inside the Washington DC beltway and insulated from the grassroots Democrats in the hinterland, told Kerry not to worry. "You've got medals to prove you're a war hero!"

Kerry lost, and we've still got George Bush.

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The Party political leaders were wrong.

Last week, the California Democratic Party political leaders conversed with the co-chairs of the state Party Executive Board's Resolutions Committee, of which there are six. They met in advance of the Resolutions Committee as a whole, possibly by phone, to come up with preliminary recommendations on all the submitted resolutions and ballot propositions. I know political director Bob Mulholland opposes Voters First, and I suspect he weighed in against it. In any case, the co-chairs recommended a no vote on the initiative. All 11 of the ballot propositions were presented to the Committee as a whole (and there were about 15 Committee members present on Saturday) as a consent calendar. Several of the propositions were pulled for debate and discussion, but Voters First was not one of them. In other words, no one, not even the Committee members that are also members of the so-called "Progressive Caucus," objected to the no recommendation.

Sunday, the E-board as a whole voted by consent calendar on the recommendations of the Resolutions Committee. John Smith, Democratic Party Region 16 director, pulled the Voters First initiative for discussion, but the E-board voted overwhelmingly to rubber stamp the recommendations of the Resolutions Committee, which had rubber stamped the recommendations of the Party leaders.

Once again, the Party political leaders are wrong.

The note appended in parentheses to their recommendation reads "Schwarenegger & Swift Boat Donors," as if this were argument enough to oppose the measure.

Once again Democrats are in a reaction mode allowing the Republicans to determine Democratic Party policy!

Last Friday Schwarzenegger informed the Environmental Protection Agency that he will bring suit against them so that California may impose even stricter standards for greenhouse gas emissions. Will Democrats push for looser regulations simply because Schwarzenegger wants lower emissions?

Obviously not. Just as obviously, not everything that Schwarzenegger wants is ipso facto a bad idea.

Gray Davis, Steve Westly, Fred Keeley, not to mention the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, are all backing the Voters First initiative.

herb engstrom

We of the Santa Clara County Democratic Club should do so also.

by Herb Engstrom