Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Belated 2007 Mass. Democratic Convention Report

On Monday, I noted that press coverage of this weekend's convention was sparse. To be honest, that's really what I expected for an off-year. The point of the event was not necessarily to make news, but to share ideas about how to grow the Massachusetts Democratic Party. There was some convention business to take care of, however, and the party made two charter amendments, including one very similar to the amendment that was voted down last year. We also passed three of four resolutions, the first asking our congressional delegation to put a moratorium on foreclosures, one to ask them to begin impeachment proceedings on President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and the last to end the Iraq War (the one that didn't pass was only because it was an impeachment resolution that was replaced by another one).

I thought it was amusing how seriously some people were taking the debate on these resolutions, particularly the details. On impeachment, one speaker opposed the resolution because he didn't want to see the Democrats make the same mistake that the Republicans made in the 90's and experience blow-back from impeachment proceedings. I happen to agree, but the fact is that impeachment of the President is unlikely to happen whether or not the Massachusetts Democratic Party passes a resolution. It's completely non-binding and besides that, the point is not to start proceedings, but to express a no-confidence vote in the President and Vice President. The same thing came up with the Iraq War resolution. The resolution we voted on urged our congressional delegation to bring the troops home within three months. Someone spoke about how that was too soon. It may be too soon, but that's beside the point. The resolution was not going to bring the troops home, but it's a way for us to express our desire to see the war come to an end. We're not making laws here, we're making statements. The details will go unreported, and therefore are unimportant.

The highlight of the day for me was John Walsh's presentation after the party's business was completed. There were a number of afternoon sessions, including one lead by BMG's Charley on the MTA, but Walsh's stood out. Earlier in the day he had told the convention to change the party's culture from one of debate or one of meeting and complaining to a culture of action and this session he talked about how the state party was going to support that. Here was the Chair of the Massachusetts Democrats telling us how he wanted our Democratic Town and Ward Committees to open up and share ideas with each other. And he did so in plain language. "If your idea is to keep people out" of the local Democratic Committee, "you need to change," he told the crowd. "Want to have more people come to your meetings?" He asked, "then stop having them suck." He gave some examples of things committees can do, such as voter registration drives or community outreach, but ultimately he said that the party's 600 or so local committees need to share ideas with each other and build on each other's successes. If someone has a great idea or did something that really worked, he wants to know about it so we can try to replicate it across the state. In addition, Walsh told us that he no longer wants to see Republican candidates go unopposed in races. Even if our candidate doesn't win, we'll at least force the Republican to campaign.

One more thing: I had a long conversation with someone from Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts who was trying to convince me to start up a branch in Watertown. I think there could be a market in town for a Progressive Dems group, and this is not the first time someone has suggested we start one up. Still, given John Walsh's comments earlier in the day, I'm still not sure that setting up a parallel institution to the Democratic Town Committee is the way to go, particularly since the Watertown Dems are very welcoming of new members. One thing, however, that a PDM chapter would be able to do, however, would be to endorse pre-primary and meddle in non-partisan town elections. That might make forming one worthwhile.

Other observations:

  • Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin got a standing ovation for saying that we have to end the war. All in all he got a much better response than the tepid applause he got two years ago in Lowell.
  • Mass. AFL-CIO president Robert Haynes gave a barnburner of a speech where he served notice to New England's remaining Republican Senators, John Sununu (R-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
  • Of all of the Democratic candidates to replace Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) the only one with no presence that I could detect was Rep. Jim Micelli. I saw Rep. Barry Finegold from across the convention floor, though he did not have a table there. Eileen Donaghue wasn't there, but she had a table with literature and supporters. Niki Tsongas and Rep. Jamie Eldridge both had receptions and Eldridge in particular seemed omnipresent during the day (or maybe I just noticed him more because he's tall).
  • The Larouchies were out in full force. It seems that they're starting to deny Global Warming now that it's no longer fashionable anymore.
  • There was an afternoon session about how to become a delegate for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I didn't attend because there's no way I'm going to be able to get to Denver next year, but those interested in becoming a delegate should start getting involved now.