Friday, July 30, 2004
 
Convention Ends On Note of Unity--For Now
By Frank O'Brien

BOSTON -- July 29

In a cascade of balloons, confetti and pounding rock music, the 2004 Democratic convention ended at 1100 PM eastern time. Several themes were constant throughout the convention: the injustice of the 2000 election result, the failures of the Bush administration, the unity of Democrats around their ticket and standard-bearer John Kerry and, finally, the need to work from the morning after the convention to the evening the polls close on November 2.

US Senators, Governors, representatives, state leaders, party veterans, new democrats, progressive leaders, talking like local ward bosses, urging the delegates and activists to get out there and turn out the vote.

The value of the convention has been questioned as an audience draw on television. At the California State delegation breakfast Thursday morning, former California House Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said (not from the podium but in an interview at the back of the room) that the 4-day convention is obsolete and should be replaced with "a reality TV show" format.

Without question the 4 days have created a strong common bond among core party activists and sent the delegates back to their respective states with clear direction to make it happen on behalf of the party.

The unity of purpose puts several important unresolved issues on hold. US Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) said during a brief conversation on the convention floor Thursday evening that progressives have been very forgiving of the mainstream party, by tolerating votes in favor of the Iraq war for example, in the name of
victory.

At very well-attended Thursday afternoon lunch of the National Stonewall Democratic organization, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts said emphatically that any differences that exist between the Kerry/Edwards platform and the gay / lesbian / bisexual / transgendered community should be set aside during the campaign, but "On the day after inauguration we will be right back aggravating them". In this context, GLBT issues are but one of the most visible and potentially divisive of the cultural questions that will be prominent in the campaign and over the next 4 years.

In certain respects, the 2004 presidential election is shaping up as a national referendum on the bill of rights, with the very different official positions of the two parties, obscuring significant differences within the parties about how best to balance free expression and public safety, cultural values and individual freedom.

Urban issues, problems of the inner city and race-related matters were kept in the background. Kerry sought to establish his credentials through the personal endorsements of African American shipmates. Although it was notable that the crew assembled on the podium for Thursday's acceptance speech, the convention has been marked by prominent speaking slots for African Americans.

Local Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald was given convention prime time - Thursday evening when the hall was packed with delegates. The speech itself was cut to fit the overall convention themes (Transcript below), but the highly visible scheduling suggests both Kerry's confidence in Rep. Millender-McDonald and the critical importance of the African-American voting bloc. As Jesse Jackson reminded the California delegation at the Thursday breakfast, "in 2000, Bush won the white vote".

Within the dynamic is a Democratic strategy that appears to include a key principle: position Kerry as a strong leader for moderate, independent and swing voters, especially in the so-called battleground states.

Missing from this formulation is an articulated effort to drive turnout and increase participation among voters. While the convention rallied the troops and reached out to the moderates, it did little to engage the uninterested.

While the conventional wisdom is that the 2004 presidential race will be very close, there may be a decisive Kerry victory in the making, especially if these disaffected voters recognize their stake in a democratic victory.

And one piece of evidence to support the theory: Friday, immediately after the end of the Democratic convention, President Bush took to the campaign trail with a rally in Missouri. As shown on FOX TV, directly behind the President's shoulder, as he was speaking about his accomplishments, a young girl in the audience fidgeted, yawned and conspicuously checked her watch. She seemed to be asking "When will this guy stop bothering us and just leave the stage?"


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CONGRESSWOMAN JUANITA MILLENDER-MCDONALD'S SPEECH

BOSTON, July 29 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of The Honorable Juanita Millender-McDonald's speech before the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, July 29, 2004:

My fellow Democrats! My fellow Californians! Fellow Americans! The families of my district, like families across America, want leaders who understand their struggles -- who not only speak about their values, but who actually share their values. And nothing reveals the values of a nation more than how it treats its children. I am here tonight to re-affirm John Kerry's commitment to our children.

As Democrats, we believe that a strong America begins with strong families -- with healthy and safe children. And we believe that when it comes to our children, America can and must do better!

Tonight, nearly 8.5 million American children are without health insurance. We can -- and we must -- do better!

Tonight, more than 12 million American children are living in poverty. We can -- and we must -- do better!

Tonight, 29 million American children are living in areas with unhealthy air, increasing their risk for diseases such as asthma. We can -- and we must -- do better!

Tonight, 35 million American children suffer from hunger. We can -- and we must -- do better!

For the past four years, these children have been neither seen nor heard. Tonight, Democrats say to America's children and their parents: "We see you. We hear you. And help is on the way."

We believe that in the richest, most powerful nation on earth, that every child deserves the chance to live the American dream! That every child deserves quality health care! That every child deserves clean water to drink and clean air to breathe! And that no child - no child - should ever go to bed hungry in America!

In the Senate, John Kerry fought to pass the largest investment in children's health care in three decades! His fight led to the creation of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that provides health care for five million children!

As husbands and as fathers, John Kerry and John Edwards know that children are a blessing. And they have the plan to keep all of America's children healthy and safe. John Kerry and John Edwards have the plan to expand health coverage to all America's children! John Kerry and John Edwards have the education plan that protects Head Start, and gives our most vulnerable children the nutrition they need! John Kerry and John Edwards have the plan to strengthen and enforce the environmental laws that protect our children from pollutants and disease! And John Kerry and John Edwards know that children are healthier when their parents have jobs. So they have the plan to help small businesses that create most of the jobs in America by cutting their taxes and reforming health care so small businesses can prosper.

John Kerry and John Edwards have the vision, the values, and the plan to build a stronger America with strong families and healthy children. We must speak up for the children who cannot speak for themselves. We must stand up and vote for the children who cannot.

Are you ready -- with President John Kerry and Vice President John Edwards -- to build an America that once again values our children? Let's go out and vote to bring America an administration who will embody these values that build strong families and healthy children!

God bless you! God bless our children! And God bless America!

Source: Democratic National Convention Committee

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