Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rattling the Democratic Cages

They invited me last night to speak at the Young Democrats of Broward County club at the Downtowner Saloon. We all know from recent events how dangerous those kinds of things can be for newspaper types.

I first met Amy Rose, a past president of the BYDs who is now running for state house seat in north Broward. She told me that Diana Wasserman-Rubin was going to be there. I thought that was great and told her so.

"That's funny, she had completely the opposite reaction," Rose said, laughing.

I couldn't understand why. Unless it had something to do with this story and a few others. Surely she still wouldn't be sore about that, would she?

Even after the meeting started and Wasserman-Rubin swore in new club president Andrew Torres, an impressive fellow who is oddly reminiscent of Vin Diesel, I didn't really know what I was going to talk about. But when I got up there, it came pretty easy.

I looked out at the room -- about 30 people were there -- and said I bet most of them opposed the war in Iraq. A bunch of people nodded their heads. And then I said most of them didn't do anything about it and that Democrats as a whole totally failed the country.

Wasserman-Rubin, who was sitting in the front row and who I've written about in the past, sort of raised her finger and said she opposed the war.

"Really? I didn't know that," I said. "You sure?"

"I did."

She looked a little sheepish as she was saying it. There isn't a published report in the world, as far as I can tell, to show that she spoke out against the war, at least not before it turned into a debacle.

Whatever. The Democratic Party as a whole was scared to move on the war -- and the Young Democrats were definitely part of the problem. Why? Because they were too busy attending little functions like this one. And because they allowed pragmatism and political calculus and their fear to get a little dirty at demonstrations to silence them on one of the most important issue of their lives.

Yeah, I was feeling a little hostile. The truth is I've never gotten over the failure of the grassroots or the cowardice of senators like John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Nelson when it came to Iraq. And I told them that even as they're schmoozing it up at their function and getting caught up in the game of politics, they need to use their minds sometimes. I told them to beware of lobbyists and understand that they are standing in a hotbed of Democratic political corruption. (I know Wasserman-Rubin loved that one). And I said that they need to retain their individualism and not be afraid of doing the right thing, even if the party is against it.

There was a lot of interaction throughout the thing, with people making their own observations about Iraq. Some nodded their heads as I spoke, agreeing wholeheartedly, and a couple of guys, including a young Iraq War veteran sitting in the front row, disagreed. There was some decent debate.

"I liked it," said one Young Democrat after the show. "We usually sit here and pat each other on the back for an hour. You didn't do that."

No. I guess I didn't.

(More later)

4 Comments:

Anonymous Florida Pulp said...

Here's a slightly edited e-mail from a relatively new Young Democrat club member:

"I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to thank you for the lively dialogue last night. ... [I] wonder why it is that the politicians and candidates we meet rarely speak anything about the issues. We scratch our heads and figure that it must be some tactic... don't talk about anything meaningful until right before the election or they might use it against you. So, to say the least, it's been a bit frustrating to get involved but not be 'engaged' in what is happening out there. How can you support a candidate when you don't even know where they stand on the issues?...Just because they're a Democrat?????
So anyway, thanks for shaking the cage a little cause that may be what it takes to create a balance to all this docile attitude we keep experiencing."

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Florida Pulp said...

And some observations from friend (and young Democrat, though not a club member) Sarah Scherer, who watched the BYD thing go down last night. She remembered some things I had forgotten and had a different take:

"Kudos for standing up and first thing challenging the commissioner. That was hilarious. She was pretending to be vocal against the war, but it soon felt odd that she would act so efensive, as the crowd of BROWARD YOUNG DEMOCRATS (three
words that evoke images of active progressives) fought you for being
against the war. Broward, Young, Democrats, claiming the war was necessary and we were never
sold out by political calculus.

I was shocked at how conservative this group was.
'You have to put yourself in the shoes of the Senators'
also
'I was in Iraq... We were deceived about the causes for the war but
the war was necessary'
and, my favorite,
'Iraq was helping Al Qaeda.'

I don't know now whether to run far, far away from that group or go
early to every meeting, asking them probing questions that will hopefully wake them up."

11:35 AM  
Anonymous sam eifling said...

If I might pimp some of my own work on the war protests, there is this little ride-along with a 12-foot-tall Bush effigy with his pants aflame: http://www.newtimesbpb.com/Issues/2004-02-05/news/news.html

At the time, two years ago, Bush seemed bulletproof, his power unchallenged, but the arguments against his reign haven't really changed. He just continues to make the case against himself that most Democrats (and Greens, and independents, and intellectually honest conservatives) were too pusillanimous to articulate to anyone but their like-minded, unmotivated friends. I wonder how Las Olas would respond to a flaming Bushmobile today -- more cheers, surely, and more exasperated sorrow.

1:32 PM  
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