Sunday, May 25, 2008

Conversation Recap for May 25, 2008

As part of intros, at a member’s request, we gave some background on what each of us does for a living. We are a K-12 teacher, student service coordinator, fair housing administrator, university nursing faculty, consultant to FDA on health products, director of Pierce County Community Services who also sits on the TPU Board, director and staff of Maxine Mimms Academy, parent support for a gang intervention program at the Urban League, student at Evergreen and member of hip-hop group 2012.

A question was raised about why our utility bills are so high and why there are so few resources for low-income people. There was some explanation about the market forces that affect our power rates as well as the revenue generating sources that can help lower costs. There was also some discussion of programs designed to help the poor.

Another question was raised about why people haven’t been coming. Laurie will resend the member list and each of us will call a name or two under our own from the list to see why they haven’t been coming.

Tom talked with us about the political process around nominating the democratic presidential candidate. Though there’s a lot of excitement around it this year. There is a nominating process and a convention process. Lots of folk who are involved now are not really aware of the procedures around this process.

The party itself has control over the process. There is a difference between the popular process and the party nominating process. The Supreme Court has said that political party members are the ones who may be credentialed to participate in the nominating process.

Our state has a caucus process. Feb. 9th was the state caucus date. They try to have the party caucuses on the same day for “party purity” purposes. The caucuses have 2 purposes—nominating and policy making (party platform). There is a mathematical formula for apportioning delegates for each presidential candidate based on how many caucus attendees sign in for a particular candidate.

The stages are:

Precinct Caucus
Legislative District Caucus
District Caucus
State Convention
National Convention

Who gets to play--Those who can bring people in to support them. Those who can get themselves known, by working, for example in the process—i.e., signing people in at the caucus etc.

The 25th district caucus, held at Jason Lee was the largest ever since 1972. Over 1,000. Just over 850 people attended the convention which represents a significant drop off, based on a misunderstanding of the roles and significance of the convention process and the nominating process and some folks probably lost interest in the policy making process.

A quorum call was made to see if 40% of the delegates were present. It was felt that the call was made strategically by Clinton supporters because they were outnumbered and wanted to quell Obama supporters ability to get platform planks that would be supported by Obama into the platform.

It is possible for delegates for one candidate to change their minds and vote for another candidate.


Question—what role does the general public have in this process? Might there not be a 3rd purpose beyond the nominating and the platform process, that progressives have? The 8-hour workday, civil rights, etc. came about because people went into the streets. We need to intervene in the political system in ways that nourish social movements.

One person asked what might be 3 ways progressives might organize?

Specific issues
Elect our own local officials
Alliances between these other 3

A point was made about how little influence and power the average American feels s/he has in politics.

Another issue that was brought up was how much time was taken up at the County Convention with amendments from the floor on resolutions so that a lot of time was spent by delegates voting on amendments they had very little time to think about. This time around some thing were managed differently AND there were so many more people attending.

One person said she was glad it was messy and hoped it stayed messy because we are struggling with inclusion.

A question was asked about what is done with the platform? It becomes party policy and candidates can be challenged based upon their position(s) on the platform planks.

Another person asked about Florida and Michigan. These 2 states broke party rules in moving up their primaries. Both Obama and Clinton pledged not to campaign in states that broke the rules.

One person said what Clinton is doing for women is phenomenal. Women have never had such a strong public voice.

One person remarked that we live in a representative democracy but we have the technology to do direct democracy. If we had direct electoral voting then Instant Runoff Voting would get his support but until then, in his opinion, IRV will just complicate matters.

Another felt that when someone invests in a process they should get a say in it. A person responded that he would love to believe that it’s possible, but his experience in Oakland was that when there was a large campaign to get rid of some very bad City Council members but at the end of the day, when the New Council was operating, they were faced with all these special interests in their face every day, “now that I’m here I understand the dynamics better” and the New Council became the Old Council within a year.

Hopefully, people will stay involved in the political process after the election and not just feel that it’s ok to go home and watch Jeopardy.

Another person remarked that there is no magic wand for building things but there is one for destroying things. Building something like universal health care will take some time.

Final comments were that this has been an engaging discussion and hopefully folks will take from I that our presence in important.