Back In The Swing Of Things

June 18, 2006

So I went to the Texas Democratic Convention for the first time last weekend. What an experience. I was, shall we say, over stimulated the first day. So many people, so many groups represented, almost too much to take in. The second day was a little easier, if only because I was terribly hungover from the Bloggers Caucus and more concerned with hydrating then I was with stopping at every booth. Anyhow, here’s my take:

Day One-actually started on Thursday. We went to the Drinking Liberally event in Fort Worth. What a hoot. Getting drunk with like minded liberals is so much fun. We (me, Anna and Nate) started out in Arlington at our local watering hole and then made our way to the liberal event. I wish I was better with names because I met some really wonderful people there who I would love to talk with again. I do have a couple of highlights from the event.

I met my first conservative Democrat, which was weird. The guy came off as a little defensive, but I guess that is to be expected when surrounded by much more liberal Dems. Apparently being a conservative Dem means owning guns and bitching about liberals but not claiming to be a Republican. I would have talked to him more to understand his position better but he seemed intent on controlling the conversation so I moved on.

I looked down the table to see where to venture to next and found myself talking with a really nice gentleman who is running for a judge’s position down around Waco. We talked about campaigning and blogs and all things politics, but I think once he realized I wasn’t going to do anything for his campaign he moved on. Fair enough. He no doubt has more important things to worry about then talking with some Z level blogger.

I ended up discussing parenting (which I know nothing about) with a really nice lady who is a stay at home mom for the rest of the evening. We started talking because I asked her and another person what they did for a living and when she said she was a stay at home mom I said I had a great deal of respect for that, to which she gave me a look like she thought I was being condesending. It was a refreshing conversation because to be honest I was bored already with talking politics.

Day Two-walking into the convention, I had no idea what to expect. And nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Booth after booth of groups trying to get your attention, if only for a minute, candidates moving through the crowd, buttons and t-shirts with every slogan imaginable and folks of every race, creed and color come together to celebrate democracy. Truly, I thought, this is America. I did my best to stop and at least scan every booth to see what people were representing. There were so many its all a blur in my mind. From reproductive rights to gun rights, these people were there to let everyone know what they thought was the issue of the day.

I ended up blowing way too much money on pins, shirts, a board game and donations. But hey, why the hell not. It all went to good causes. I hope. My favorite purchase is a pin that says “Kiss me I’m a Democrat.” Didn’t work though, which is probably good because Anna can kick my ass. Speaking of which, her and Nate pretty much disappeared for most of the morning trying to get the blog thing going. This left me to wander about at my own frenzied pace. Hence the shopping spree. As much as I often say otherwise, I do love to shop.

Eventually I found my way to the Texas Democratic Veterans Caucus. The group hasn’t been very active since I joined, but they promised they are going through some re-organization, so we shall see. That said, the speakers were excellent. I sat in the back with David Harris and his wife Michelle, both of whom I love dearly. They are a fun couple to hang out with, and I hope like hell Dave kicks Smoky Joe Barton’s ass. And wins the election too. Dave gave a wonderful, moving speech about how he had been at that very podium 2 years earlier as a soldier back from Iraq and now he was there trying to make a difference as a candidate. When he started talking about Iraq he got chocked up and you could feel the whole room get chocked up with him. It was magical moment.

The other speakers were all very good, and since I completely suck at names I can’t remember who they were. Oh, Courage spoke, I remember that, and so did a guy just back from Iraq who I hope follows Dave’s example and comes back as a candidate one day too. It was a wonderful experience being there with my brothers and sisters in arms.

After that we all ended up at our Senatorial District Caucuses. Ours, District 10, was a very crowded room. The group was a little rowdy, so at times it was hard to hear. When we first got there Anna was campaigning for the Resolutions Commitee, handing out the longest campaign flier in history to anyone who would take it. I did my best to help, and I think people appreciated her commitment and determination. Needless to say she won. Oh, and each candidate had to give a little “why vote for me” speech, and you should have seen her up there, fire in her eyes as she said she was tired of the Republicans controlling the Democrat’s message. She got a lot of applause, and I don’t think she realizes how powerful of a speaker she is. The rest of the Cuacus was more voting, and Taking Back Texas pretty much ruled the day, getting their people elected to every open position. But more on them later.

After that event we made our way to the floor of the convention hall. Anna and Nate did the media thing, and I ended up front row, dead center. Perfect spot to hear and see the candidates. Instead of recapping each speech, if you are really that interested go check out the state party site and hear them for yourself. My favorite moment was hearing General Clark speak. He has to be our candidate in 2008. No one else can do it as far as I am concerned. Every other speech that day was good, but Clark had that crowd mesmerized. Count me in as a supporter of his presidential campaign.

We left a little early, missing Chris Bell speak, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. Why? Not because I don’t like him, but because we had to go set up the party of the night. The Bloggers Caucus was with out a doubt the best party I have ever been to. We filled the the Flying Saucer with more candidates, activists and delegates then my mind can comprehend. My highlight: seeing Barbara Ann Radnofsky kick off her shoes, climb on to the arm of a couch, and give an amazing speech. She was the only person in the room that could get the place go silent to here her speak, and every word carried determination and motivation. We as a party are blessed to have her as a candidate. And forgive me baby but I might have a little crush on her.

The people there were fun to chat with. The best conversation I had that night was with 3 young Dems from San Antonio. They were young, energetic and exaclty the shot in the arm this party needs. I love you guys, you know who you are.

Day 3-aside from suffering from my 2nd hangover of the weekend, the day started out well enough. Anna had to get there by 8 am for her commitee duties, while me and Nate rolled in around 10 am. We all ended up in the convention hall for the last big round of speeches and some inter-party elections. The early speakers were all great, though by this time I was really over hearing speeches. After a while they all sounded the same, kinda preaching to the choir if you ask me.

Then we hit the party chair election. This is where my story takes a dark turn. The race was basically between Boyd “Boss Hogg” Richie and Glenn Maxey. There were two others running, but they didn’t really have a chance. First, let me set up the situation.

There was a bit of a sticker war going on all weekend between the Richie and Maxey supporters. Both camps were doing their best to get their sticker on everyone, but one look around and it was clear that the Richie sticker was the fashion accessory of the day. It helped that Richie had cute young people at every door handing them out like candy. Then there was the signs. As in Richie signs. The first day Richie signs were hung all around the main hall. Now this would be no big deal because so were all the other candidates, except that most had a sign or two, while Richie signs numbered in the hundreds. The secound day, the day of the vote, we all entered the hall to find a Richie sign in every seat.

Now when I say signs, I don’t mean some cheap paper signs. These were multi-colored heavy, glossy stock two sided prints. (Sorry, I worked at a Kinkos for a while) Maxey had a few signs up on the railings, hand painted on poster board. Anyway, the first thought that went through my mind was, “Why isn’t this money being spent on our real candidates? You know, the one’s running for office against Republicans.” There must have been several thousand Richie signs in that place, all for an unpaid political position. Including the gazillion stickers, I heard Richie spent $50,000 to Maxey’s $8000. What the fuck are we doing as a party wasting $58,000 on inter-party politics when most of our state candidates are lucky to have a couple of hundred dollars in their war-chests? I’ll tell you why; because this was a war between the grass-roots and the establishment.

In the end Richie, aka the establishment, won. What really chaps my ass isn’t so much that he won, but why. Two reasons were brought to my attention, one which gives us insight to our party and one that I think is meant to cover up the truth in the other. The lie is that Richie won because we are too close to the election to change leadership right now. The real reason, the one that was admitted to me personally by Richie voters after the fact, is that Glenn is gay. Thats right, you read that. Texas Democrats won’t elect a gay man to lead our party. They will tell you in public, if they will admit it at all, that it’s because the Republicans will use it against us. But there was some real homophobic shit going on at the convention.

Which brings me back to Taking Back Texas. I am going to say my peace and then never bring this up again. How dare you sit in the main hall and feed me shit about some wrong you feel Maxey did to you and say that is why you won’t vote for him and then later admit it’s because he’s gay and you are afraid of what the Republicans will say. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Welcome to the establishment, where morals and values are traded for money and power. I lost a lot of respect for two people I love dearly, and it hurts to no end to see that all the talk about inclusion only counts when getting fundraising, but falls to the wayside when it really matters.

But enough with that. In the end, if you’ve made it this far, I salute you and everyone who showed up to fight the good fight. We are not perfect as a party, we are not perfect as people, but we are (I hope) correct in our beliefs and in our message. Democracy is an ugly thing, as I learned at the convention, but it sure beats the hell out of every other form of government.

So, that’s my story. I know it’s not deep political insight, profound realizations or even a good recap of the whole convention. But this is what I remember, what I took home with me. I wish I knew where to go from here. I don’t know if I can contribute to the state party, but I will do what I can to support the candidates. Because that is what we are supposed to be doing. The candidates are more important then the machine, and unless we remember that we don’t deserve to win.

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3 Responses to “Back In The Swing Of Things”

  1. Shell Says:

    dude, you are way smarter than you look…when are you running for office? 🙂

  2. Dave Says:

    UGH!

    We love you too Monkey!

  3. Nate Says:

    Truly vivid storytelling. I especially like the parts about me.


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