I kid you not, at the recent quarterly meeting of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP, as the in-crowd affectionately abbreviates it) held in our own fair Kingman, AZ this last weekend (11/20-11-22/09), I was asked to join in singing the following lyrics written by retired music teacher/longtime Dem party member, Del Bohlmeyer to the tune of “Zip-pediddie Doo-Dah:
“Democrats Rising, we’ve had our say/Washington’s changing, what a great day/With Obama in the White House, all the world is praying/ that for eight years he’s staying ….”
At this time when the national GOP requiring “purity tests” and loyalty oaths, it seemed like a small request, but somehow I balked.
We were in the banquet room at the Hotel Brunswick on a Saturday night after a long day of Democratting for the awards dinner of the League of Democratic Women Voters. It was the capstone event after a day of caucuses and speeches. My wife a teacher turned novice political candidate was about to receive an award and possibly campaign donations. I had walked in with a dark beer on draft and the crowd was taking up the tune.
“…He has won the No-bel Peace Prize, Now, we’ll all see whether we can live in peace together/ Zip-pi-ty doo-dah, zip-pi-ty ay.”
There’s young Ron Glassman, a giant of a man with a mile-long resume and potential powerhouse senatorial candidate whose exploratory campaign is trying to net 10,000 AZ contributors before he intends to declare against John McCain; or, at least wait till Jan. 2010 to officially announce his candidacy, less as a Tucson city councilman Glassman would have to resign according to AZ election laws. Glassman’s singing with gusto, his handlers gathered around him in color-complimenting outfits and in a pretty fair harmony. Nearer to the door and not to be outdone Attorney General candidate Felecia Rotellini, beneath her busy business woman’s scarf, is pumping her arms in rhythm.
And there was my sweet loving wife, Beth Weisser, bravely chasing after the tune. Essentially an independent until the GOP blatantly self identified as an enemy of the state, in particular our education system, Beth had thrown herself into the hornet’s nest of AZ statehouse politics to challenge current state senator Ron Gould on everything from haircuts to tax cuts, but mostly on education funding. She’s one of a handful of locals I recognize. While not quite the James Carville and Mary Matalin of our time, Beth is a centrist-progressive and I’m from the “Kucinich wasn’t even left enough for me” crowd.
In a town and a county that typically skews 65% Republican, my wife is much more in keeping with the majority of local Dems who challenged Bush ideas, and state GOP party ideologues. Though Kingman herself boasts fewer public Democrats than militia chapters, the party faithful from around the state had schlepped to town and filled up the room to reach out to Mohave County. County Dem leaders showed up in their regalia. The award winning Dem volunteer duo of Mitch and Susan Smith were in from down in Fort Mohave. Kingman’s mother-son team of Mary McLaughlin and Patrick Gonzales were there through the day though Patrick was elsewhere that night. Plus there were all the other Dem faces from around the state that I’m supposed to be remembering. The lyric sheets were on the table at each placemat in the rows of banquet tables that fill the hall.
And everyone was singing and several were looking at me.
“… He is trying to fix our health care; and the wars around us/the e-con-o-my that hounds us … Democrats Rising, What a Great Day!”
And, in all honesty I did not succeed in joining in the song. Well, not wholly.
Like the majority of people in this city, this county, this state, but not in this country as a whole, I am not generally a Democrat. I am not one to support blatant war criminal thieving would be dictators, so I haven’t been able to support the GOP for quite some time. But the Dems have been no bed of roses either. As a true liberal, there is much about the mainstream approach of the Democratic party that I find obstructionist, shortsighted, or even farcical.
That’s not to say I haven’t given them my time on issues over the decades, however. In fact, shilling for the Democratic Party was the first political thing I ever did. I would have been nine then, it was the eve of the presidential election in 1968. I scrawled “Humphrey-Muskie Are our Man [sic] Nixon-Agnew Garbage Can!” on the street in front of our house in chalk thinking that would make all the difference, which it did not.
Since then it is true, I have championed most every Dem against most every Republican in most every election I’ve encountered where party mattered. I wrote pro-Clinton anti-Bush material in ‘92 and pro-Gore anti-Bush material in 2000. I volunteered with the Dems for their presidential campaigns in both ‘04 and ‘08, though neither candidate was the one I wanted. It wasn’t the first time either. I found Carter ineffective and thought the only thing truly Democrat about Clinton was his libido.
But now, I have taken the whole Dem-love thing to a new level and am actually in bed with a prominent local Democrat — my wife. Still, like George Washington I emphatically oppose political parties, though like the rest of America two hundred and thirty some odd years afterward, I am held their hostage. Washington feared that when political activists drew together to promote their own agenda that that’s what they would do and the needs of the people would become secondary to the men’s efforts to further themselves. And pretty much since Washington’s demise in 1799 we have suffered exactly that fate.
As a younger much more idealistic thirty year old, I was once offered a job to report on the Illinois State Legislature. I lived in the capitol, Springfield, IL, which is definitely a company town, with 35% of the metro workforce employed by some government agency. Reporting on how the legislature made the whole thing work seemed like it was going to be such a cool job. I got into work at 9am that first day and had quit before 3pm.
Both sides of the aisle were loathsome. Petty egos, controlling the lives of the public through their caprice, posturing, and self aggrandizement. Sent to solve crises, they perpetuated them. Sent to represent the public, they handcuff our access, ignore our pleas, make backroom deals, condescend and grandstand away most true progress they could have achieved. Sent to be the solution, they become the problem.
Democrats as much as any. It is a two party lock in this country. Like they say “clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.” In fact the only good thing I can say about the party as a whole is that at least it is not the Republicans.
Between Reagan and the Bushes most any safeguards the public had from predatory businesses and a war-profiteering economy were stripped away. Plutocrats have been raping the rest of us and now the global economy is on life support, while the right wing have been holding us in position so they can get a better aim for god and country. Rights made shambles, our integrity as a country squandered, our economy destroyed. America the beautiful has become America the train wreck. And then when we elect one party to throw the bums out, in most cases, they replace the faces but not the policies. At least I knew with my wife that wasn’t going to happen …
Which is why, when Beth opted to become a Democrat, then a candidate and challenge Ron Gould for the state senate seat in LD3, I shuddered for a second, then threw in with her and started attending events where donkey butt is considered a fashion accessory. Though a longtime political pundit myself, when we do Dem deals I am strictly the arm candy, only the candidate‘s spouse. It was fun to roll along in the auxiliary role like that. I actually spent much of the day volunteering with the Penny Kotterman campaign for Superintendent of Public Education.
One of the main issues of the party meeting and the talk of a variety of caucuses was a proposed change to the party bylaws which would have allowed the party to essentially ignore the rural corners of the state in favor of a tri-annual state party meeting schedule aligned along what was called “the I-17/I-10 Corridor.” Seems several central party members in the central state areas — Tucson/Phoenix/Flagstaff — considered it a hardship to attend meetings out in the rural corners of the state such as Yuma, Bisbee or any place in Apache or Mohave County.
Party dismay over travel time showed in the attendance numbers. Last quarter’s party meetings in Flagstaff filled a huge auditorium of over 300 and hosted luminaries like soon-to-be Dem gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Terry Goddard and President of the Navajo Nation, Dr. Albert Hale. Of the 640 some odd party delegates from around the state, only 152 arrived for the Kingman convention, far short of the 272, or 40% that should have been present for the assembly to conduct business. However more than 300 proxy votes were sent in with those that did attend. Through out the day you could tell how many votes each delegate was responsible for the proxy of according to how many nametags he or she wore around their neck. Some’s necks appeared to be bowed from the weight as if hoisting accordions.
However despite pressure to urbanize the party outreach efforts from some, the party that presumes to represent the power of the people, democracy itself, will now continue to represent all the people of AZ, even the ones who don’t conveniently live in Maricopa County. When the issue was put before the delegates assembled for the afternoon meeting, the voice vote on the issue wasn’t even close. APD wants all Democrats, even the ones who don’t live in Phoenix. Many say it is the only way the party will ever achieve that holy grail they pursue every election cycle: to turn AZ Blue.
As one local Dem called out in the Progressive Democrat Caucus that morning, “The party already wins in metropolitan areas. Until you work on all 15 counties the way Howard Dean set up the 50 state strategy of fighting in each state, not just some of them, until you work to change the mentality throughout the state and not just in the cities, Arizona will continue to think like a red state. The best you will do is give AZ a blue stripe, but it won’t become a Blue state.“
National party strategists are hoping that the Copper State democrats can pull it together for the 2010 mid-terms and are watching AZ as a “likely to flip” state by 2012. Though both political parties are suffering from the recession, the Dems claim to be out raising the state GOP by a 2 to 1 margin. To be sure, throughout the day the state party members seemed optimistic that they were a party of change and change was on the way.
They act as if just because Obama’s in the White House, the Democratic Party was large and in charge, despite the fact that nationally the GOP with the help of the media, as they did in Carters’ time and in Clinton’s, manages to derail any progress their president tries to make. And despite the fact that in the state itself, the Republican party out and out ignores any overtures toward negotiations with the minority Dem party and runs roughshod over any opposition. The AEA, aka the state teachers association, recently filed a lawsuit against the new education budget which includes policy changes designed to limit free speech and punish teachers for actively opposing ed budget cuts throughout 2009.
AZ GOP leaders contend the state does not need public education and several have been caught in private school funding frauds. Meanwhile in addition to millions in cuts, new policies which just went into effect on Nov. 24, strip away teacher seniority and tenure, and penalize teachers for political activism. Lord knows what they will make of this column.
Any AZ Democrat honest with himself would tell you the Dems are not in charge around here … yet. The last eight years damaged the party in ways a few pundits cannot dismiss away and the GOP leadership keeps tarnishing the brand. With continuing outrages from earlier GOP offenses and the outlandish statements made by Republicans during the Obama administration, it is safe to speculate the GOP could marginalize themselves out of relevance within a couple of election cycles, even in traditionally conservative areas such as the cowboy state West. AZ is a red zone. Kingman in particular I might add. The opening Friday night of the convention dinner parties popped up around town and some Kingmanites, in typical red-state redneck fashion, did not take it well. At the Dambar, when a local big booted big hatted Kingman cowboy found out the Democratic Party in that very building, he hissed , “Sheesh, Democrats. That’s all we need.”
I, ever the antagonist, piped in, “That’s right. Democrats ARE what we need.” As he and his buddy and their wives all stood aghast I rushed them a little. “Democrats, yes! After the last eight years of our president making our country a war criminal, after our state GOP destroys our people so their rich friends can have a tax cut, Democrats are exactly what we need. Peace and love, man, peace and love.”
At which point his buddy spat me an expletive and shot me the finger as they left. The ADP may be ready to reach out to Kingman, but Kingman still has a long way to go to be ready to reach out to the ADP.
In the meantime, Del, can we work on that song?