When Alameda County progressives recently got wind of President Bush’s resubmission of seven federal judicial nominees previously rejected by the U.S. Senate for being too extreme, they did what many progressives all over the country did: They decided to party.
Ten Alameda County residents opened their homes and hosted parties for scores of people they did not know on the night of March 10 in Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, and beyond. These parties were part of a larger wave of parties across the nation that began at 7 p.m. Eastern, Mountain, and Pacific times attended by approximately 15,000 people.
Vincent Casalaina of North Berkeley hosted a party off College Avenue.
“This is a big deal,” Casalaina said of the wave of parties across the country. Casalaina decided to host a party because he wanted to see “how MoveOn is going to make its first big foray into organizing grassroots action at the local level.”
Garth Shultz decided to host a party in South Berkeley because “all the other parties were filled up and I really wanted to be at a party.”
Shultz added that he believes getting people into local action is crucial.
The party at Casalaina’s spacious Berkeley home transitioned quickly from friendly introductions with the typical unease one finds when meeting strangers to all attention focused on a streaming videocast coming over the Internet. The videocast piped in two phone calls from Senate minority leader Harry Reid and Democratic Party leader Howard Dean.
Senator Reid told the people sitting in the living room off College Avenue—as well as people sitting in living rooms in Contra Costa County, Nevada, Colorado, and beyond—that the President “is once again using fear to push his extreme policies” by saying there is a judicial crisis in the Senate.
Reid said that the Senate’s record of confirming judicial nominees—with 204 nominees confirmed and only the ten most extreme rejected—is better than that achieved by President Clinton, President George H. W. Bush, and President Reagan.
He also said that Senate democrats “will not capitulate to threats” and will fight every step of the way against Bush’s seven renominated judicial nominees who have “already been found too extreme by the members of this [Senate] chamber.”
Howard Dean spoke of reshaping the Democratic Party. He said “the core of the progressive message is going to be social and economic justice.”
Closing remarks on the videocast were made by MoveOn PAC organizer, Adam Rubin. Rubin told the party-goers that they were “like the minutemen in the American Revolution,” willing to stand up against those who control our government.
He said that the 3,000 neighborhood action teams now forming around the country mark the launching of a nationwide campaign, called “Operation Democracy.” He said the campaign’s purpose is to “confront policies that put corporations first and people second.”
“With tens of thousands of us around the country now, and later hundreds of thousands of us all standing together, I know we can win,” Rubin said.
After the videocast the party-goers separated into neighborhood action teams, and they rehashed what they had heard on the videocast.
Edward Shipwash, 48, of North Berkeley, said he had read about a few of the judicial renominees the Senate had rejected last year.
“I read the backgrounds of three of those guys and they seemed greedy and self-serving,” he said.
Operation Democracy’s first activity was neighborhood action teams enlisting citizens in every state to call their local Senators March 16 to tell them they care about having fair-minded judges, they understand these judicial appointments are for life, and they are watching.