Tuesday, May 8, 2007

National Security:only in America....are we so contradictory!

Only in America do we go through ridiculous airport checks, and outrageously detailed checks when entering buildings such as the ones on capitol hill in Washington D.C. while at events such as the California Democratic State Convention where 6 of the 7 democrat candidates were present (including a Congressman, A Governor, Several Senators in addition to all speakers who are high ranking members in the California Government) and there was absolutely NO security point. All you had to do was register (as delegate, press, observer) and at no point were you checked. In addition you were given union printed, yet easily falsifiable passes to wear around your neck on a piece of plain black yarn. The likelihood of someone finding a pass is high, luckily the likelihood of someone using it for bad was not as high, or evident in the event last month.

Monday, May 7, 2007

6 of the 7 Dem Candidates for 08'

2007 Democratic state convention

My first attendance to California's state convention was VERY exciting. When I first got there, like many other attendees new to this type of event, I didn't know where to go. As I walked through the many people ambling in every direction and in complete confusion, I ran into a familiar group, none other than the Campus Democrats of UC Santa Barbara! People walked around some in suits and ties, others in jeans. Although a bit disoriented, I was comfortable when I thought that all the people there were united by the fact that they cared about the future of our lives, state and nation. Even more comforting, was the thought that as democrats, we all have a basic set of values, that while we might disagree on the specifics, we have a similar understanding of the way that America's democracy ought to work, and which priorities ought to be pushed to the forefront of American politics.

The various caucus meetings were held Friday night. I was able to attend the California Young Democrats caucus meeting that was replete, which made me excited and hopeful for the future since, I have often been concerned and disappointed by the large display of "Generation-Y's" apathy. However, to see a room full of young democrats, being so energetic about state politics really gave me a sense of contentment. Throughout the convention in fact I saw an amazing amount of young people, including delegates, volunteers, staff members, and bloggers which means that throughout our state there is so much involvement of young voters, that just needs to be rallied enough and listened to by elected members and they WILL have an impact in this upcoming election, because they have a vested interest in California, and in this nation's future.

I next attended the Chicano/Latino caucus, and although I was not able to speak about Speak Out California, I was also happy to see so many people in the meeting. I was amazed throughout the course of the convention to hear from such a diverse group of public officials. As a young woman having been born in Mexico City, and having grown up in California, I continue to be in touch with the specific needs and issues such as fair wages, affordable housing, and transportation for those that make up most of our service industry in California (and to be honest throughout all of the largest cities in the nation).

Lastly, I attended the most packed caucus meeting of all. The single group with the most members was the Women's Caucus. I was elated to see so many women stay after a long day, to be part of this. Surprisingly, the biggest words of support for presidential candidates from this group were not very loud and not all for Hillary Clinton. They mentioned John Edwards in passing, and Obama as well, but I was glad to see that their focus were the overarching issues of concern to all women, including Health Care, and Reproductive Rights. Assemblymember Julia Brownley spoke on behalf of Speak Out California, and I was pleased that she was able to get the word out to women of California, who are actively pursuing the best interest of our families, children, husbands. The rallying that took place at each of those caucuses really served its purpose in raising the energy level and excitement for the improvement of the current state of national politics.

Saturday was the first day of speakers and great speeches. After getting our table set up with our green California bear, Speak Out California banner, and the signs for our t-shirts, and straw poll vote, we were ready to hear what was to be said. Various California elected officials spoke including Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, State Controller, John Chiang, and Treasurer Bill Lockyer (whose name was most recognizable since it was on everybody's badge holder). Toward the later part of the morning, a crowd began to gather by the side door, awaiting the entrance of Senator Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton gave a lengthy speech in which she briefly mentioned issues such as a woman's right to chose, equality, embracing diversity, and a comprehensive immigration reform. She outlined 4 goals that she would like to set for America. The first is achieving Universal Health Care, the second is achieving Energy independence, the third is education and fixing no child left behind and providing funding for pre-school and college. Lastly she set the goal of creating world alliances not alienation. She claimed that the first thing she would do if elected as President would be to end the war in Iraq, and she spoke directly and strongly about the fear mongering tactics of the current administration. Her most powerful statement was that if America is willing to change, she is willing to lead. It was a good speech although she portrayed a very low level of energy which I attribute that to her being ill, and having lost a lot of her voice prior to the convention. Her supporters were a decent amount, but not an overwhelming number turned out. In the press conference Senator Clinton was affable and was asked several questions from the media. In her introduction, she was undoubtedly the one candidate that had a lot of California legislator's support, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez's.

After a pleasant lunch break in a touristy San Diego sandwich shop, I made my way back to the convention. After Nancy Pelosi's address, Barack Obama took the stage and the energy level reached its peak for the entire weekend. Obama walked into the room to a Motown rhythm of The Ojay's and a song titled, "Give the people what they want." Obama introduced himself and a little bit about his background. Next he began speaking like a true orator with his theme of "turning the page". He exclaimed that "It is time to turn the page" on Politics, Health Care, Unions, Education, Energy and lastly Iraq. He spoke to each of the themes with the goal of eradicating cynicism toward politics and all it encompasses. Most people criticize Obama for his inexperience, to that view he said, "I have been in Washington long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change." Although he didn't specify any policies, the overarching values he stated such as, "It's alright to compromise as long as you never compromise your principles" and "I stood up in 2002 (to the war in Iraq) when it wasn't popular to stand up" and that he believes that "our government is NOT for sale" really pumped up the crowd.

The next presidential candidate was Connecticut's Senator Christopher Dodd. He began by speaking Spanish briefly commenting that he is the only Spanish speaking senator. Like all other candidates, his enthusiasm came when he urged all democrats that change is long overdue. Dodd really sought the opportunity to be seen as a viable candidate with very large scope goals. The experience he is most proud of was his participation in the Peace Corps. Of the most common issues for this campaign, Dodd first addressed Education and the need for universal pre-school, and higher education. Secondly, he addressed the environmental issues, speaking about our need to be leaders of alternative energy and independence from fossil fuels. He briefly mentioned the need to address race relations in the nation. He emphasized the need for Democrats to choose a leader who will speak clearly and with conviction. His speech was the shortest and still nowhere near the ten minute limit that all candidates should have respected. It was surprising, that he didn't address a single unique issue, or any specific innovative initiative to the 'main' campaign issues.

Dennis Kucinch, made his entrance as the last presidential candidate after Dodd for the day. While Kucinich might be the most progressive candidate, his goals seem to be too broad too far reaching and almost unrealistic. While by no means have I become pessimistic about the ways of politics, I also have let go of the idea that the ways of the world can be changed in the way that Kucinich spoke of a spirit of change. He started out very strongly and mentioned the articles of impeachment of the vice-president that he had filed. He next listed his filing of the HR 676 a universal health care bill, and of HR 1234 to end the occupation of Iraq. Throughout his speech, Kucinich mentioned various clichés, and iconic figures such as Gahndi, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Franklin Roosevelt and Christ. Among his hopes and enumerated imperatives of peace, global warming, human unity, and international law, Kucinich mentioned taking steps in directions that no other U.S. leader has taken, such as signing onto the Kyoto agreement, joining the U.N international criminal court, canceling NAFTA and withdrawing from the WTO. In my opinion the idea of extreme change could really frighten most people.

On Sunday, I was most enthusiastic about getting back the Staw Poll that we brought with us to be filled by convention attendees. The Poll included two tasks, the first was ranking various (listed) issues that ought to be prioritized in California and the second was to answer, "Given that ranking, which presidential candidate could best fulfill these goals?" I looked forward to hearing the speakers, primarily the last two presidential candidates that attended the convention.

Of the two, John Edwards spoke first. He immediately captured my attention. (When his speech began I decided to forego the coffee line and come to where I could see him clearly.) Edwards, one of the most progressive and viable candidates without a doubt spoke of a Living Wage for America. (Being from a city that fairly recently passed a Living Wage ordinance; I know it can be done). Edwards spoke about his support for labor unions. He demanded that we fix our now completely dysfunctional health care system, and proposed letting people shop for their preferred provider, if most people prefer one provider, it could de facto into a single payer system that he would pay for by 'rescinding the Bush tax cuts for the rich'. He spoke about cutting greenhouse gas emissions and requiring that America set an example for the rest of the world. He spoke of an affordable college education, and of the issues of race that continue to exist in America. He proposed "vouchers for housing the one million poorest Americans, so they don't need to stay segregated and concentrated in a few locations." The most powerful things that I heard throughout the convention were the words he spoke about our need to reaffirm to the world, REAL AMERICAN VALUES of compassion for others. When he painted a picture of the world that we live in and our continued preference for a $4 dollar coffee over ending poverty world wide, and he spoke of Guantanamo, he exclaimed that, "We can't have a 'can't do nothing about it attitude' we are BETTER THAN THAT!" Speaking to the American conscience I feel will really be key throughout Edwards' campaign.

After that exciting speech, I was not expecting to hear any more presidential candidates. I forgot about Bill Richardson, and he was to me a complete surprise. As New Mexico's Governor, former Congressmember and as one of our former ambassadors to the U.N. Richardson encompasses all the experience we could hope for in a commander in chief and leader. He opened his presentation with a little bit of humor, which was different than all other speakers. I liked Richardson because in addition to the fact that he is the first Latino (of Nicaraguan and Mexican background) to run for president, he was very personable. It felt as if he were talking with just one individual rather than an entire crowd. I was very impressed with his delivery and with his content. Bill Richardson laid out his first "five days in office". Day 1, He would announce a plan to get America out of Iraq. He took this opportunity to mention the negotiations he had participated in with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He mentioned he just returned from continuing dialogue in North Korea, and most importantly he mentioned an anecdote of a woman that came up to him to tell him that her son died and she received a check for 11,000 for his life. Governor Richardson was outraged, and within one week in New Mexico, they passed legislation to provide all 4,200 member of the National Guard from New Mexico, currently in Iraq with a life insurance policy of 400,000 dollars. Richardson is undoubtedly a man of action. Day 2, Richardson promised to work on Energy Independence and on reducing U.S. greenhouse emissions and getting other nations through diplomacy to also reduce them. On day 3, Richardson would revitalize the American education system. He too mentioned universal pre-school and college funding, although he added an element of funding for vocational training. He outlined the need to improve teacher training and provide more resources for special needs programs. On Day 4, Universal Health Care would be his task. He would like to provide Americans the same health care plans as any congressmember or senator. He also stressed prevention, research and development of new cures. On Day 5, Richardson would reinforce America's commitment to civil rights, through addressing immigration, Gay rights, allowing civil unions and domestic partnerships, and respecting a woman's right to choose. After outlining his priorities (all of which, obviously would not be taken care of in a week), he closed with a little bit of humor again. Richardson also had a press conference, which had the least attendance, but the most amount of question. Most of his emphasis was on the fact that he is hopeful about this campaign, he urged American Democrats to vote for the most qualified, not the biggest rockstar (Clinton/ Obama), nor the one with the most money (Edwards?). Also, he reminded all who were present that it is still so early in the campaign.

Although I obviously didn't write as much on each of the candidates, it seems most exciting that we have such a great choice of candidates. We will change the way things have been in the nation under the current president and his administration. The options for better candidates exist. The panel of potential candidates is broad in terms of diversity, experience, and demonstrated commitment. The issues they will all campaign on are clear: Iraq, Health Care, Environmental Issues and Education. I only mentioned specific ideas, or those that brought up different issues because after all, that in it of itself demonstrates leadership. The most interesting thing about attending a State Convention as a young person for the first time was being with like minded individuals. This experience only reinforced my passion for the political world, and my hope that this will be much more than just a "horse race" election, but that people, Americans and those that we interact with internationally will benefit in the long run from all the changes and improvements we will make with our vote, and our elected government will make in representing our vote.
If you want to see any of the speeches, they are all at cadem.org.