Politics: Democrats elated over new platform

by Judy Ferro

They clapped, they cheered, they stomped, and then they clapped some more!

Democrats were elated when the final draft of their 2016 platform was presented, and they showed it.

Looking back after a week, I realize that the cheers wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic if forging the platform had presented no difficulties. People had spoken passionately, willing to go to the mat for the principles they supported, and the platform committee had taken each one seriously. Working long into the night, the members created a platform that Idaho Democrats can stand behind.

More than half those voting at the Idaho Democratic Convention in Boise June 16 to 18 had never taken part in a convention before. The groups was a mixture of delegates elected by caucus goers in March, officers of county and legislative districts elected by precinct captains in May, and elected legislators and county officials. Many had more than one credential. One-third of them—204 out of 306—were supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders.

The newcomers ranged in age from a handful of 18-year-olds to one feisty 90-year-old from Bonners Ferry. Some been active in politics for years. A few had previously scorned affiliating with a party. Others had just not paid attention until this year’s heated presidential campaigns. The procedures and rules—even Robert’s Rules of Order—were confusing to some. Just how does a resolution differ from a plank? Why is discussion in order before some votes and not others?

Saturday, convention goers got to know one many of their cohorts. During the morning, candidates to be delegates to the national convention gave stump speeches—this is who I am and what I’m fighting for. Women campaigning for legislative and Congressional seats got their turn at a Women’s Caucus luncheon. Then, when a credentials question halted business temporarily, it was open mike time. Among those we heard from was a Viet Nam vet angry over Republican attempts to cut veteran assistance, a woman who walked away from politics after protesting in Chicago in 1968, and a retired professor who is fighting for a bill to make corporations pay taxes where they make their sales, not to some island in the Pacific.

Resolutions passed requesting Central Committee action to start a Native American caucus and to seek out a presidential nominating process “at least as inclusive” as a primary election. Another asked Congress to pass specific items of Sanders’ platform including voter suppression and implementing single-payer health care.

Only delegates elected in March could vote for delegates to the national convention. The numbers were based on attendance at the March caucuses—18 for Bernie and 5 for Hillary. Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln of Caldwell, chair of the Canyon County Democrats, was among the Bernie delegates elected. Evangeline Beechler—a newcomer to Caldwell and first Vice Chair for the Idaho Democrats—is one of the state’s four superdelegates.

Jerry Shriner of Coeur d’Alene and Susan Eastlake of Boise were elected to the Democrat National Committee.

Adoption of the platform, however, was the high point of the convention. Emotions ran high as the initial reading was interrupted by applause more and more as it progressed. Attendees flocked to microphones afterward to state that the document was “eloquent and thorough,” “perfect,” and “a platform we can embrace.” One delegate said, “Never forget this day—we will make a difference.”

(The reading can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByUqe194er0; the text, at http://idahodems.org/news.)


Politics: Dems Caucus, That’s What They Do

by Judy Ferro

Canyon County’s Republican and Constitutional party members will vote at a special presidential primary at precinct polling sites between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8. In prior years these parties caucused or waited to vote in May primaries.

Democrats will caucus, as they have for decades. This year Canyon County Democrats will caucus at Sage Valley Middle School, 18070 Santa Ana, off of Ustick Rd. between Middleton and Midland Blvds. No one may enter after the counting and program begins at 7 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 so everyone can be signed in to their candidate’s sub-caucus by that time.

Until 2012 Republicans voted for presidential candidates in the May primary; Democrats always caucused weeks before.

I attended my first caucus in 1968, after Lyndon B. Johnson stunned America by announcing he would not run for re-election. Robert F. Kennedy was the favorite in a field that included Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and George McGovern.

The party stalwarts argued that we should send our delegates undeclared because that guaranteed they’d be courted by candidates at the national convention, and that’s what we did.

In 1976 every state seemed to have a favorite son in the Democratic race; the 14 candidates included Idaho Sen. Frank Church, Washington Sen. Henry Jackson. Arizona Rep. Morris Udall, and California Gov. Jerry Brown.

This time the party leaders wanted our first round vote to go for Church; other candidates would still court our delegates as the field narrowed. Newcomers, however, took the floor to argue passionately for former Alabama Governor Jimmy Carter. I didn’t want to trust our government to someone so inexperienced, but many wanted a candidate that got new people excited.

So, please, do not ask me why Idaho Democrats decided to caucus this year. It’s what we do. We’ve discussed changing to the new presidential primary, but there are complications that need addressed so, for now, we are sticking with a system that we know.

And that system did not change when Republicans decided voters should register their political party with the state. Democrats aren’t concerned with how you registered. We accept a signed statement that you are a Democrat and qualified to vote in Canyon County. It is requested that you do not participate if you took part in another party’s presidential nominating process.

Basically, there are two parts to the caucus: finding the number of delegates to be pledged to each candidate and electing those delegates. Your vote counts if you stay through the first part. Volunteers can provide rides and assistance for the handicapped. Caucuses do not, however, offer absentee ballots.

Caucusing does take time. There are introductory speeches. Then each sub-caucus elects a chair and a person to speak for its candidate. After the speeches, there is a chance to discuss and change your candidate.

And that is before those wanting to be among the 34 delegates to represent Canyon County at the state convention introduce themselves.

A caucus is not merely a vote; it is an event. Working with hundreds of Idaho Democrats can be exhilarating. Hearing newcomers, particularly young people, speak of why they are Democrats is inspiring. The process takes time, but it happens only once every four years.

Yes, presidential primaries may be in the future for Idaho Democrats. They are quicker for voters, and the state bears the cost. Soon our rank-and-file may, like others, have no idea where their state delegates come from and no chance of becoming one.

But many of us don’t relish giving up the equivalent of a home-cooked Thanksgiving feast for a TV dinner