Reflecting on the Platform Draft - Calabasas, California

Give the Bush gang credit for reminding us of our American values and the proper relationship between government and the governed. As we went into our Democratic Platform meetings around the nation, there were large, smelly elephants in the room. I'm not talking about the disgruntled Republicans who took part in the open Democratic platform process. I'm talking about the administration's secret torture memos; the lies and greed that took us into Iraq; the cronyism and corporatism; and the general disregard for the planet, the Constitution, the common people and the common good. Those elephants were there with us, reminding us of our nation's desperate need for positive change.

At the platform meeting I attended as a participant/citizen reporter in Calabasas, CA, the crowd offered resolutions on a wide range of issues. But whether someone happened to be talking about FISA, gay marriage or improved healthcare for veterans, it was all about restoring fairness and openness, equal rights, hope for the future of the Earth and its inhabitants, and a willingness to help others achieve their potential and not be forced to fend for themselves when circumstances are tough.

Now that we're evaluating the 2008 national draft document, the members of the Calabasas group range from reasonably contented to frustrated and disappointed about how well the national document matches our desires. Many in the group agree with me that the national platform draft reflects the spirit of our local meeting, but some are more frustrated than others about particular national planks that are less ambitious than those we fired-up Californians proposed. Carrie Gibson, who took part in Calabasas and another platform meeting, isn't thrilled that the national document says only that the Democratic Party is "against the Defense of Marriage Act." "That is a step in the right direction", Gibson says. "But in both meetings I attended, everyone agreed that marriage is a right, not a privilege. Both groups want the Democratic Party to take the next step in the human rights struggle in this country and legalize marriage for all."

Calabasas participant Frank Rodriguez also agrees that "the tone, if not the detail of the national draft, is in concert with our input. In fact, it is a very worthy platform. I would have liked an even more ambitious energy goal and health care program as per our proposals, but it's certainly on the right track."

Stephen Fofanoff also wants more ambitious planks on healthcare and energy. . "The national draft says a lot about healthcare and what we hope to achieve," Fofanoff says, but it does not state, as our group did, that health care must be universal. Nor did it give a specific timetable, e.g. two years, for achieving the goal.

Concerning energy, both Fofanoff and Steven H. Brown wish the national document had included the plank we proposed, to adopt Al Gore's challenge for the U.S. to become energy independent within ten years, and to use renewable sources to do it. While they acknowledge the proposed goals in the national document are in the right direction, given the urgency of the situation, these participants want to see more urgent measures taken.

"The fact, says Brown, "that the platform as written does not address the most pressing issues of our times in a manner that reflects the sentiment of the most active grass roots members of the party is not a surprise, nor is it a defeat. It just means that from November 4, 2008 on, there will be work to do for groups like ours -- to see that the platform is a starting point, not the final policy, position of a new Democratic administration and Congress."

I agree, but I am more pleased than disappointed with the national draft as written. While our group wants to go further and faster on many issues, at least the proposals in the national Democratic draft are for changes in the right direction. That's no small thing after almost eight years of the elephants in the While House... and the looming prospect of four more years of McSame.