Nebraska Democratic Party's 2006 Convention Convenes in Grand Islandby Kyle Michaelis
I have been tinkering with the NDPs platform hoping to make additions and amendments touching on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (for), elimination of the Estate Tax (against, at both state and federal level), establishment of statewide broadband Internet (for), along with the immigration and abortion changes already discussed.
Of course, many of my proposals will be rejected, but that's as it should be if they do not reflect the will of the voting delegates. And, there will be concerns raised about how far out-of-line with Sen. Ben Nelson the party should dare to step on stem cells, estate taxes, and immigration reform, but I generally think there's little for Nelson to worry about each time we give him an opportunity to prove his "independence."
Of more legitimate concern is whether or not the positions we take put us further outside the mainstream and further handicap our down ballot candidates with Nebraska voters. Although it is short-sighted in the extreme, I will not be surprised if we fail to adopt a comprehensive position on immigration reform for this very reason. And, the question will no doubt be raised on many other issues as well.
Other than that, I expect the Convention will adopt resolutions opposing the spending lid and humane care amendments on the November ballot. Talk of Iraq will certainly arise in some form or another, and I regret that a call for President Bush's impeachment will probably take up time as well...though that truly would undermine the efforts of our Congressional candidates and play into the hands of their opponents.
Personally, I would like to see a resolution calling for benchmarks, goals, and greater Congressional scrutiny in the conducting of the Iraq War, with another resolution denouncing President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and the whole of the Republican Party for their continued politicization of the War on Terror, using fear for partisan advantage in total dereliction of their duties to the American public. A perfect example of these tactics is Cheney's assertion last week that Ned Lamont's victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary would encourage "Al Qaeda types." That is a ludicrous and insulting suggestion - one that even former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge outright rejected in the most recent issue of Newsweek.
Elsewhere on the agenda will be the election of state officers. Most notable is NDP chair Steve Achelpohl's bid for reelection. Over the summer, there was much talk of a challenge to Achelpohl being arranged by an assorted cast of Democratic Party players with a wide-range of concerns, grievances, and motivations. Some of these were legitimate - particularly questions about Nebraska Democrats' worsening disadvantage in terms of voter registration and our very much related failure to recruit candidates for three of five statewide constitutional offices. But, there were also several parties involved in the effort to challenge Achelpohl with rather suspect and blatantly self-interested purposes.
The word is that certain powers-that-be decided a contested race for Chair of the NDP would be too contentious and distracting from the party's campaign efforts, resulting in pressures that have supposedly defused the challenge to Achelpohl's leadership. I believe this unfortunate because it is so likely to only contribute to the resentments and back-biting of those already so inclined.
Ultimately, elections are healthy. They have their short-term costs, but they encourage accountability and provide the victor an undeniable air of legitimacy that may otherwise be lacking. With the record Achelpohl has established, the early support he earned from DNC Chair Howard Dean, and the fact that the NDP today stands better positioned for immediate and future success than at any other point this decade (a point well-established by the NDPs 2006 Report), I believe Achelpohl would have coasted to victory....to his benefit and that of the entire party.
Assuming that the challenge to Achelpohl is no longer forthcoming, there is substantial risk, however, that those who backed-down will simply adopt one more complaint with which to undermine the NDPs leadership without the obligation that would have otherwise manifest to respect the will of the Convention. But, that's just my opinion. Who knows - maybe we've averted certain catastrophe.
I'm not entirely sure if it will come up or not, but there's also been talk that the Convention will consider the idea of holding statewide caucuses months before our traditional May primary in 2008 so Nebraska Democrats are more likely to have at least some say in who their Presidential nominee will be.
Whereas Nebraska once had a position of some preeminence when it was one of the few states that held an actual party primary to decide its apportionment of delegates to the national convention (30+ years ago), the expansion of such systems and their increasing front-loading earlier and earlier in the year have left Nebraska's current influence negligible, if not non-existent. Transitioning to a caucus system, to be held earlier in the election cycle (supposedly with the blessing of the DNC), would be an attempt to change that.
The chief downside of such a transition is the expense involved, which would be substantial and which would need to be picked-up by the state party. The other downside is the fact that caucuses are generally considered less democratic, putting more power in the hands of activists and special interest groups at expense to regular voters who tend to be underrepresented. The upside of a caucus is that it might actually provide voters a reason to give a damn. Caucuses would also have side benefits in terms of getting people involved in their local Democratic Party and reinvigorating their activities - though, as it stands now, it seems questionable whether the infrastructure is currently in place or could even be developed in time to pull off such a mammoth undertaking.
It should be an interesting weekend, to say the least. I'll try to report back on what actually unfolds regarding the above topics (and so much more) as soon as all is said and done.
Until then, see you on the flip-side.