Sunday, June 07, 2009

MA Dems Stumble To Platform

Maybe the most obvious answer for Massachusetts Democrats is the right one. With a huge nominal majority among party-registered voters here, the Party is complacent and maybe tone deaf.

As revealed and explained this week at Left Ahead by Sabutai, the draft platform for presentation at yesterday's state convention illustrated an entrenched bureaucracy. It was worse than lacking leadership. Despite strong progressive calls and actions by Gov. Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama in campaigns and since election, the platform was devoid of strong positions or specifics. After numerous hearings where Dems made their best pitches for such planks, the party boo-bahs went vanilla with whipped cream for the draft.

Fascinatingly enough, the big initial amendment created by disgruntled progressives at the convention was to scrap the new, almost meaningless platform. The call was to plug in last year's platform and at least start with some substance.

By vote, that may or may not have failed. As Ryan Adams showed in his video of the vote, Chairman John Walsh blew democracy for Democrats by using his best snap judgment. It was really too close to call like that, but he did. He's the chairman and you aren't. So there.

The convention was there funnelled into the more painful procedure of per-plank amendments plus resolutions. In the end, this may have worked OK or better. There was a vote to reject casino slots, after all. Of course, that could have been added to the older, better previous platform as well.

Amusingly enough, Walsh managed the plethora of proposals, proponents and opponents well, He did a much better job on the votes than on the initial platform one. On several, when it was unclear which side would win, he went through voice vote to hands up to stand up. He should have done that with the whole-platform vote and satisfied the delegates.

He was very efficient in calling the question when there were only proponents of an amendment or resolution to speak, pushing the sausage makings into the casing quickly. After his initial clumsiness, he got the hang of it.

To Sabutai's comments, a larger question is whether the new attitude of the party big shots is to shy from strong positions. Does their idea of attracting and keeping voters mean not risking offending anyone? Considering yesterday's very vocal feedback from delegates, did Walsh and his minions learn that a progressive state wants a progressive platform?

There are other messy details when considering our local party too. For one, it's far from the majority of voters. Almost exactly half of Massachusetts registered voters are unenrollled in any party. If the Dems represented what most Bay Staters believe, that would not be so.

Moreover, both pols and voters include many DINOs. For politicians, that makes sense. If the party in power, strongly in power by number of elected officials, is Democrat, calling themselves that gets them a better chance at being on the ballot, getting party money and getting elected or re-elected. Yet we have seen many, particularly House members, who are so conservative or worse on fundamental issues that you have to ask how they can align with this party.

Like many states, we have areas, particularly suburban and exurban ones, that are far more conservative than the population centers. Most of those states elect Republicans to many of those districts though.

The buzz around me on the convention floor echoed that of some of the speakers. They wanted some leadership, reflecting Patrick and Obama's progressive stances at least. A typical comment was that if you can't say progressive things in a progressive state's party platform, where can you?

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