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wRog
Adventures at the King County Democratic Convention 
10th-May-2004 12:54 am
howitzer
This one started at 9:30am. Bleah.

At least, this time, instead of some stupid no-food-or-drinks high school auditorium, the venue was the Washington State Convention Center which would have no such issues (and probably even a few in-house franchises ... which turned out to be true).

Also, this time around, I got to sit with solarbird and llachglin, trading snide remarks as the Day of Masochism unfolded.

I suppose my main conclusion is that, having now seen the process first-hand, I think I can now safely say that local/county party platforms are indeed good for something, i.e., assuming you can find sufficiently soft paper to print them on.

I guess I knew this already but there was something perversely fun about it nevertheless. And now the anal nutcase in me wants to pick up a copy of Robert's Rules of Order and actually read the bloody thing.

  *  *  *

While we were waiting for the credentials committee to report on the final attendance counts and on the seating of alternates, various candidates came and spoke.

Ron Sims (current King County Executive, running for Governor) had the largest goon squad. He's also got the fiery preacher rhetoric down pretty well. As solarbird said afterwards, "Great speech. If only I could believe a word of it."

Christine Gregoire (current state Attorney General, also running for Governor) had the most signs. Also not too shabby as a speaker. I'm guessing she has the white-people vote pretty well sewn up.

I felt a disturbance in the force as Darth Sidran passed within about 10 feet of me, introducing himself and shaking hands.

Alex Alben (former Realnetworks Lawyer Guy running for the WA 8th CD house seat being vacated by Jennifer Dunn) gave a rousing, fluffy speech, to be immediately followed by Heidi Behrens-Benedict (current Angry Soccer Mom, also running for the WA 8th CD seat).
I'll note my bias here: I had a pretty good discussion with Alex on the phone about two weeks ago. He got about two sentences into his spiel when I said, "Let's cut to the chase. What's your take on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act?" Among other things his website at the time touted his work on "combatting software piracy", which can be code for any number of things, some of them potentially very bad.

He laughed. Apparently I was the first person to ask him about this. "Entirely too slanted towards the recording industry. I testified long and hard against the reverse-engineeering provisions,... but we got steamrolled." All without any prompting from me. And things went uphill from there.

Alex appears to be on the Side of Light as far as I can tell. Moreover, he appears to be technically clueful. I take back everything bad I might have ever said about him.
Heidi gets about two words into her speech and goes negative. I guess she pretty much has to at this point seeing as how Alex has a huge money advantage and is playing towards the middle --- which, given how suburban the 8th is, you pretty much have to do, IMHO. But apparently it's entirely too much towards the middle for Heidi ("Vote for the Real DemocratTM!").

She also went way over her time limit, which might not have been so bad had she not spent the extra time all on mindless platitudes and clichés.

  *  *  *

Somewhere around 11:30 or so the credentials committee got back with its final report. Of the 9585 delegates elected at the various King county precinct caucuses, 1000 or so have actually shown up. All of the alternates are seated. That should probably have told me something right there --- well okay, I guess I'd already expected something like this.

So now it was time to argue about stuff. Here's how it works:

The platform consists of 10 sections (Civil and Human Rights, Economic Justice, ...) each with about 10 or so items under it. The chair first calls for people to to flag particular items as needing discussion/amendment, to flag particular sections as needing additions, and to get a list of any new sections to be proposed. Then we have the vote to pass the platform modulo the flagged stuff. Then we go through each section in order, entertaining amendments to the flagged items one by one --- discussion on each item limited to 15 minutes. Likewise for the proposals for additions to the section. Once we get to the end of the document, there'd be a final up/down vote, and then we go on to deal with the various resolutions.

I guess the way this is supposed to work is that most of the platform is expected to be agreeable straight off, that a few items here and there might need discussion, but no big deal. And we have all day, right?

Nearly every item was flagged. At 15 minutes per point, we calculated it would take about 19 hours to get through them all. There were also proposals for two entirely new sections.

We voted to pass the remainder of the platform; pretty easy since there wasn't much left.

Let the amendments begin. Someone proposes a completely braindead change to the preamble. Two speakers later, solarbird explodes, "Keep the preamble simple!" and heads up to the microphone.

I'm like, "Ok, fuckit. It's noon. There's a SUBWAY franchise right outside the conference room and I'm not doing anything else on an empty stomach."

  *  *  *

While I was getting my lunch, I stood in line behind someone who was pointing out that party platforms really haven't meant a damn thing since about 1920, which was evidently the last time anyone ever tried to hold an elected official accountable to one. That we really just need to do away with the whole process because the only purpose it serves is to turn off otherwise-motivated people.

These days, if you want to find out what, say, John Kerry believes in and will try to enact if he's elected, you go to his website. End of story.

I lamely tried to argue, not having yet seen what the afternoon's session would bring, that it's still perhaps vaguely useful for getting an idea of what the folks at the grass roots in the party actually care about. The elected officials can ignore it if they like, but it least it's all still on record somewhere.

He didn't quite laugh at me.

  *  *  *

I get back and they're debating section 1, item #1:
"Food, shelter, medical care, education and jobs are basic human rights."
Someone wants to change "jobs" to "job access". Makes sense to me. To be sure, there is much to be said about the current sucky employment climate, outsourcing, the effects of NAFTA and GATT, the 3 million folks who aren't even on the unemployment rolls anymore because they've given up... plenty of fodder for the Economic Justice section. But this is the Civil and Human Rights; you can't IMHO reasonably talk about jobs being a "right" absent any notion of qualifications and how those jobs are going to be provided --- but I guess I'm just a horrible conservative or something.

Statement against: "No, we really mean 'jobs'" followed by rhetoric about dignity and about how utterly horrible it is to be without a job; all sorts of true statements that utterly missed the point. But it's enough to send the proposal down in flames anyway. "Jobs" remain a basic human right. The loony left is apparently out in force today.

Item #4 was about abortion. Always fun.
"Strike this entire section. We believe life begins at conception." Uhh,... good luck with that.
Down in flames.
"Add parental consent for minors." Uhh,...
First opposing speaker: "Call for a vote."
Down in flames.
Hi, welcome to Seattle.
Yes, there are a few republicans here, but their convention was last week.
Please don't slam the door on your way out.

Item #5 was gay marriage.
Replace wishy-washy civil union language with full-on recognition of marriage as a basic civil right for all couples regardless of gender.
Passes overwhelmingly.
Various people come forward with attempts to dilute it.
Down in flames. Down in flames. Down in flames..
Yes, this is still in Seattle; same place as 15 minutes ago.

I guess what annoyed me most were the bozos who, even after we'd been through a few iterations so that it should have been clear what the process was, would come up to the microphone and immediately launch into their argument.
CHAIR
Wait, what is your amendment?
BOZO
As I was saying we need to . . . [more argument]
CHAIR
No, you need to tell me what new wording you are proposing, what to strike out, what to add.
BOZO
That can be worked out
CHAIR
No, you need to work it out before you get up to the microphone.
BOZO
Umm, ok then, strike out, uh...
[thirty seconds of dithering later...]
CHAIR
Ok, we don't have time for this. Next.
That's the thing about democracy; even the Stupid People get to participate. Oh well. And so things dragged on.

At some point, we had a rule-change so that the debates were cut down to 1 speaker for and 1 speaker against. This sped things up a bit. Thus, the flagged-item discussion process finally made it through all 11 points of the civil rights section.

And then came the additions. Remember, this is still section 1.

Somewhere in there we also had a quorum call. which we barely scraped by with a count of 396.

Anyway, as the new planks were going in, I started to realize that with such short discussion, pretty much anything that wasn't obviously stupid or out of line with basic Democratic principles was getting approved....

And then yours truly gets the idea for an anti-DMCA plank. ("[We believe] in fair use and the right to view legally owned copyrighted material, that the reverse-engineering provisions of the DMCA are fundamentally anti-consumer and must be repealed." People would have gone "buh?" but I had nice little 3-sentence speechlet about large media corporations inventing new IP rights for themselves, etc...)

I show it to llachglin. He shrugs. So I head up to the microphone. All told, there were maybe six or seven people standing at mics then.

I think if I'd gotten my act together a minute or two earlier I would have made it.

Unfortunately, bunches of other folks apparently got similar ideas at about the same time, because after 2 more additions I noticed there were suddenly about 20 people in line behind me.

At 4pm or so, I was person #2 in the lefthand line, but by this point it had become manifestly clear that we were in a free-for-all randomly-adding-shit session --- section 1 now had about 20 planks --- and we were simply not ever going to get to the end.

People were clamouring to skip ahead to foreign policy. Others wanted to skip the rest of the platform entirely and go straight to the resolutions.

Someone tries another quorum call, which the chair manages to finesse in some manner I didn't fully understand --- some strange appeal to the chair 2/3-vote-shit that somehow allows the chair to ignore quorum calls; I guess this is the sort of thing that distinguishes the True Parliamentarians from the wannabes. He got away with it but probably only because the other quorum call had been so recent.

We then get motions to suspend the rules, approve all remaining flagged items without further discussion, and open up the other sections but only for additions.

And I'm like, "Damn!"

But then I realize that section #2 is "Economic Justice" and, arguably, DMCA stuff can just as well go there as Civil Liberties. Just need to emphasize the anti-consumer aspects of it a bit more.

So somebody proposes something, it passes, I'm next at the mike and all set to go when the chair announces that the next add would be for "Education." See, we have to rotate through all of the sections in order before we can make it back to EJ. Bleah.

We got a few lively items about the Iraq War and electronic voting.

By the time we got back to EJ, things were getting rather ugly. It was now nearly 5pm. The resolutions people were Not Happy (even though the chair essentially pointed out, "Look the resolutions are already on record; it's not like they really *have* to be voted on --- in fact nothing we're doing right now really makes a huge difference, though at least with the platform, we're getting new stuff in..." Well okay, he didn't ACTUALLY say that).

It was also clear we were due for another quorum call.

So we get a bunch more rule suspensions, motions to pass the platform, generally approve the resolutions, package up the various ad hoc ones for consideration at the next KCDCC meeting, and call it a day.

Which we did.
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