Public Comment

Commentary: Report from the State Democratic Convention

By Mal Burnstein
Tuesday May 30, 2006

The 2006 California Democratic Party convention was a far cry from that in 2005. Whereas progressives were trying to get organized and recognized (as the Progressive Caucus) in 2005, in 2006 we showed that we are a real force in the CDP. The 2006 convention was a “platform convention” in which the CDP adopts its platform for the next two years and endorses candidates for the Democratic nomination for partisan offices.  

Commencing several months before the convention, the CDP platform committee traveled around the state, holding hearings on what should be in the platform, and came out with a draft platform. Progressives (read the Progressive Caucus of the CDP and the progressives in various Assembly Districts around the state) read the platform and found it singularly lacking in a progressive vision. As a consequence we commenced lobbying the platform committee for changes in four areas: poverty, clean money, Iraq and single-payer health care. 

We continued our lobbying efforts at the convention, packing the platform committee with supporters and experts on the various subjects. The results? The platform was enhanced in the following particulars never before seen in the CDP platform: 

1. On poverty: Many changes, including support for living wage legislation and COLA’s in SSI/SSP payments. 

2. On public financing of elections and election reform: “California Democrats believe that a healthy democracy is based on clean elections: public financing of political campaigns at all levels of government, campaign spending limits, restoration of the fairness doctrine and a strong role for political parties.” Then, as a bullet point, “Support and implement clean money legislation.” 

3. On single-payer health care: “California should lead the nation in providing comprehensive quality health care to all our people by transitioning to a single-payer public health care system.” 

4. And on Iraq, the following language: “We call upon the Bush administration and Congress to bring our troops home starting now. . . . We must turn Iraq over to the Iraqis starting immediately, end the wrongful occupation of Iraq and re-establish a commitment to the rule of international law and human rights; provide for the financial security of the Iraqi people during Iraq’s transition toward self-governance; return the national territory of Iraq to the sovereign control of the people of Iraq with no permanent U.S. bases in that country; support international diplomatic efforts to assist in peaceful reconciliation among the Iraqi people; and contribute financial resources to rebuild Iraq’s physical and economic infrastructure.” 

Perhaps equally meaningfully, this convention saw the surge of impeachment sentiment expressed, and the CDP went on record Saturday morning as follows: 

“The California Democratic Party calls for the immediate investigation of the President and Vice President of the United States for committing the following alleged acts: 

“Misleading Congress and the American public about an unproven and unrealized threat to national security by Iraq in order to justify war thereby violating the federal anti-conspiracy statute and the False Statement Accountability Act. 

“Ordering the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance of American citizens without seeking warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review as required by law. 

“Violating the Federal Torture Act Title 18 United States Code, Section 113C and the UN Torture Convention and the Geneva Convention, which are U.S. law under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. 

“Ordering indefinite detention of accused persons without access to legal counsel, without charge, and without the opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer to challenge the detention, all in violation of U.S. law and the Bill of Rights. 

“Sufficient questions have been raised in public discourse, in the press, and on the floor of Congress to warrant an investigation of these and other alleged crimes, misdemeanors, and acts of misfeasance and malfeasance, and to merit an investigation into the propriety of impeachment.” 

On the Saturday night of the convention, almost a thousand people jammed a theater in Sacramento to attend a forum on impeachment sponsored by the Progressive Caucus and several other organizations (including the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and East Bay for Democracy) to hear Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, Bob Fertik, Elizabeth De La Vega and Shayana Kadidal discuss the topic of impeachment, moderated by Air America’s Mike Malloy. Tim Goodrich delivered an inspiring and heartfelt opening, reminding the crowd about the devastating effects the Bush Administration has had on our country.  

On Saturday the convention voted to endorse for office in the June primaries Phil Angelides for governor and Debra Bowen for Secretary of State, in each case picking the best progressive for the job. Additionally, the CDP voted to endorse Sandre Swanson for Assembly (16th AD) and Jerry McNerney for Congress (11th CD), again picking progressives for office. 

All in all, it was a far better convention than 2005. 


Mal Burstein is a Berkeley attorney and Democrat.