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General News    H3'ed 6/28/10

Report on the 2010 Washington State Democratic Convention

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On the weekend of June 25 I attended the Washington State Democratic Convention, in Vancouver, WA. Here's a report of some of what I observed and learned.

McDermott on Obama

I spoke for several minutes with Representative Jim McDermott, who looks like a Hollywood version of a distinguished US Senator.

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I asked McDermott if he has any sense for why President Obama has been so centrist. I mentioned health care, war, and the bailouts as areas where Obama has been a disappointment. McDermott said, "Oh, one could list other areas as well." McDermott said that Obama probably should have chosen a progressive economist like Paul Krugman as an economic adviser. McDermott said he asked Rahm Emanuel about Obama's centrism. McDermott thinks that Obama is by nature extremely careful and methodical, and he is less ideological than most politicians. I said that it surprises me that a black former community organizer, who is smart and who obviously knows about injustice, could be so conservative. McDermott said that often when you elect a politician you don't know what you're getting. People saw in Obama what they were hoping to see. McDermott said that he had supported Hillary over Obama in the primaries. "Obama's policies are --," and here McDermott moved his hands in a wavy fashion, to indicate, I think, that Obama's policies are inconsistent or changeable.

McDermott said that he heard that Obama and his advisers were badly scared by the loss of the Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to a Tea Party candidate, Scott Brown. Others have claimed that the loss is due to the weak campaign run by Brown's Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, and that one can't blame Obama for the loss. But this New York Times article and common sense suggest otherwise: Obama is at least partly to blame, since Obama's policies have allowed populist critics on the right to portray Democrats as the servants of Wall Street, the military, and the corporatocracy.

McDermott predicts that the Dems will lose 10 or 12 seats in November's election, though he doubts that the Republicans will win a majority. He said that bad losses in November may be what it takes to turn Obama around. I suggested that, to the contrary, it make push Obama further to the right. McDermott nodded and said that that's possible.

I heard McDermott speak in person before a couple of times, including his speech at a single-payer health care colloquium in Seattle. I am impressed by his intelligence, humility, humor and humanity. At the single-payer meeting he expressed considerable sympathy with single-payer but said that it ain't gonna happen. McDermott came under considerable criticism by the single-payer advocates, and it took guts for him to attend.

Progressives versus centrists

Friday afternoon I attended the progressive caucus meeting, chaired by Judith Shattuck. The room was pretty packed, which both surprised and pleased me. The meeting lasted but an hour.

Brian Gunn of the 31st Legislative District spoke on the Road Kill Caucus of centrist Democrats, about whom I have written previously. (See Centrists and Progressives Fight for Control of Washington State Democrats.) Gunn said that many of the Road Killers actively work with Republicans to kill progressive legislation. One of them, Christ Hurst, runs as an "Independent Dem" -- the point being that "Independent" is spelled out and "Dem" is abbreviated.

Separately, Brad Larsen of the 45th LD said that Road Kill members such as Larry Springer, Deb Eddy, and Judy Clibborn, accept BIAW money and vote to kill pro-labor bills in the legislature.

By the way, the name "Road Kill" comes from "middle of the road": they're attacked by both the left and the right.

The Washington Federation of State Employees alleged that Ross Hunter is a member of the Road Kill Caucus,. (See this article.) But Rep. Hunter says he is not a member. The Road Kill Caucus has a facebook page, which lists their photos, and Hunter is not listed there. He apparently upset the WFSE with a difficult budget compromise. He got a 100% rating from Washington Conservation Voters.

Most Road Killers are progressive on social issues and education. So, people aren't monolithic in their progressivism. They're mixed.

Several candidates spoke at the meeting. One of them, Bob Burr, is running for US Senate against incumbent Senator Patty Murray. Burr's website says he's running "against corporate corruption of Congress." In defense of his candidacy, Burr mentioned that Murray failed to sign on to support the Fair Elections Now bill. According to his website,

"Patty was a good Senator before she became so entrenched in the system." Burr has pledged to serve only one term. Not only will he not accept PAC money, he will accept absolutely no money from any source. "I will waste no effort raising funds and will owe no favors, concessions or tax breaks to anyone."

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Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, activist, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my (more...)

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