Dems focus attacks on Tea Parties

APRIL 17, 2010


“California is a moderately taxed state.” That is just one of many takeaways from speeches given by Democratic elected officials today in the second day of the California Democratic Party Convention at the Convention Center in Los Angeles.

The convention, which started Friday and will conclude Sunday afternoon, is the annual party shindig where party loyalists, donors, candidates and elected officials mix, mingle and plan for the upcoming elections.

Being that this is a major midterm election year, emotions are high among convention-goers with cautious enthusiasm over the passage of the Obamacare cloaked by a not-so-subtle cloud of anxiety and trepidation for the November elections—much of that due to the popularity of the Tea Party movement and the perceived vulnerability of the two key California Democratic candidates, Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown.

Party events started on Friday with delegates pouring into the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to register for the weekend’s festivities. The usual stickers, posters, yard signs and handouts were being disseminated for various candidates throughout the hotel. Attendance at the conference is pretty good, at least compared to the California Republican Party Convention which I attended last month. (The GOP convention was well attended, too, but the Democratic convention has at least double the participants—I would guess a large plurality are union members.) Friday was chalked full of mostly workshops and various caucuses.

Things began to get interesting at the general session meeting where attendees heard speeches from gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, Senator Barbara Boxer, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a slew of other notable elected officials. The common themes were health care and the Tea party, and of course well placed moments of deference to the labor movement.

Secretary Solis was introduced to the audience as the real “liberal in the Obama Administration.” Solis started in with the usual blame Bush rhetoric taking credit for already reversing the “anti-worker policies enacted by the previous administration,” in other words kowtowing the whims of big labor unions. She made the astute point that Democrats will put Republicans in an awkward debate position this November over entitlement elements of the health care. She said she wanted to see Republican candidates argue that they will”take away the $250 medical rebate to seniors” or “the option of young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance policy until they are 26.” To that she said “bring it on.” She also announced her plan to bring on the Employee Free Choice act (card check), a terrible policy that would make it even easier for unions to form. After hearing that all I wanted was to “bring on” the next speaker.

The next speaker was U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles. The theme of her speech was “ain’t no stopping us now” which reminded me a lot of the words uttered by her fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom in 2008: “Whether they like it or not.” The congresswoman went along with the trend of praising the health care bill but took it a step further comparing it to what she termed successful and revolutionary programs like Social Security and Medicare—to failing, unfunded programs. She also took a brazen strike at the Tea Party movement calling it a “fake tea party organized around fake issues.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s speech was the liveliest and most entertaining speech of the session partially because of her entrance into the auditorium which included theme music and dozens of college Democrats holding “Boxer” signs. It was like the political equivalent of a professional wrestler or boxer making his way to the ring. Boxer attempted to draw contrasts with all three of her potential Republican opponents on the issue of abortion and she claimed that both Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell would fail against her because they, she argued, are directly responsible for the budget woes in California—Chuck as a state assemblyman and Tom as the former budget director for governor Schwarzenegger.

She also claimed that Carly Fiorina is bad for job creation because the only jobs she created while CEO of Hewlett Packard were outsourced to India. Most notably though, Boxer made a telling remark about her campaign when she told Democrat activists that she needed them to be “as excited as the Tea Party people.” Her comment made it seem that she was concerned, and rightfully so, about the electoral influence Tea Partiers might have in November.

Nancy Pelosi’s speech was fairly lackluster mostly rehashing arguments she had made about health care reform over the last several months—it was almost as though she was still campaigning for it. The most interesting moment of her speech was when she was introduced and California Democratic Party chairman John Burton referred to Speaker Pelosi as the “greatest Speaker of the House” ever. Some might question that as a tad generous. Pelosi quoted President Obama saying they will measure Democrat progress by the success of “American working families.” With the jobless rate, growing deficits and the economy that might not be a wise standard to hold her own party up against.

Jerry Brown’s appearance was the most anticipated speech of the day. He started his speech stating “sure there is some anxiety out there but we are energized,” another indication that Democrats are on the defensive going into this year’s election. He spent most of his talk addressing job creation, mentioning green jobs, and also condemned the bank bail outs and credit crisis, as he said, perpetrated by Wall Street. The purpose of his speech seemed to be to call out Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner for a three-way debate, an idea that doubtfully much traction. His attack was more aimed at Meg Whitman and her television ads. He and fellow Democrats are attempting to caste the former eBay CEO as a billionaire trying to buy the gubernatorial election.

All and all, the Democratic Convention seemed more like a confab of loyalists needing to convince themselves that they still have a chance of prevailing in November despite political missteps. But the reality is just about every speaker illustrated a disdain for the influence of the Tea Party movement and looming trepidation many Democratic voters feel going to the ballot box this fall.

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