Monday, June 21, 2004

Winning Friends & Influencing People -- Not!

We hear that things went bad at the North Carolina State Democratic Convention on Saturday, with the meeting suddenly adjourned in the middle of debate over a resolution advocating for industrial hemp. (When the world is going to hell in the Middle East, wrap yourself in hemp!) Presiding officer Jerry Meek suddenly called for a quorum and finding no quorum present, adjourned the meeting. (A quorum would be 51 counties, out of 100. Apparently, 48 answered "present.")

This means the party failed to approve any resolutions or a party platform.

The culprits, according to the current ownership of the Democratic Party in the state, are "those Kucinich people," specimens that evidently landed via spacecraft back in the winter sometime, who brought with them certain alien ideas. Like pure democracy.

The Republicans had their state convention a few weeks back and did their anti-democratic purge of Co-Speaker of the House Richard Morgan. Now the Democrats show that they're just as talented at running people off. Unfortunately, in this case, the people they're running off are the "newbies" to state politics who have been energized this year to get involved because of national campaigns to oust George W. Bush. They've marched under various banners and not just the Kucinich one. Some are Deaniacs. Some with buzz cuts and short fuses were big supporters of General Wesley Clarke. All of them have been about as welcomed by the state party as Mad Cow Disease. (The state party, incidentally and in violation of its own rules, endorsed John Edwards for president way back last winter. But it's evidently not disgraceful to ignore the rules when you're in charge!)

In responding to complaints about how he ran the Convention on Saturday, Jerry Meeks (who is First Vice Chair) wrote an e-mail in which he chided "the lack of knowledge" about party rules among the Kucinich people and "the height of disorganization" among the "progressives" at the convention. Message: You people don't know how to play OUR game. Therefore, we stopped the game.

Brilliant! The state party poohbahs do what they can to run off the very people who have the energy and the commitment to pull undecideds into our camp. Progressives, especially those many who had never ever been to a political convention before and who worked hard and got involved with their local county parties and ran as delegates, came away from Raleigh feeling railroaded, slighted, dissed. As one delegate from Greensboro wrote in an e-mail: "This is the sort of thing that discourages people like me from getting involved. I just want to get in there and work for peace, justice, clean environment, etc., but keep running into a huge mountain of entrenched party hacks who seem more interested in playing power games than instituting true change." And Jerry Meeks' response is basically "serves ya right for being new!"

Meeks emerged in the state party a couple of years ago as something of an insurgent himself, and we had high hopes for him ... blowing the cobwebs out of the corners in what is known in these parts as "The State Deadquarters." But the way Meeks handled "the Kucinich people" does not auger well. We NEED those people, we need their idealism and their commitment, just as we needed the Jerry Meeks we recall from two years ago.

But apparently, in North Carolina, where virtually all the Council of State are entrenched Democrat incumbents, there's a kind of clubby smugness among Democrat power brokers in the 27601 zip code area, a bland willingness to stampede newcomers over the nearest cliff, if they appear too liberal. What happens when the Republicans finally get their shit together and run moderates for Governor and the Council of State? Those entrenched Democrats start losing, and the state party might turn up sorry to have slammed the door on people who believe in democracy (even if they also have their quirks ... like advocating for industrial hemp). If the Democrats haven't got the skills to handle a few whole-earth advocates, I don't give 'em high marks for handling the scorched-earth denizens of the Republican Party.

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