THE KUCINICH PHENOMENON SWEEPS THE CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION PARTY LEADERS AND OTHER CANDIDATES WONDER WHAT HAPPENED By David Swanson
Created 2007-05-07 14:25
Special Convention Report by the Creative Youth News Team 
California Democrats had a chance to see the Democratic Presidential candidates first hand. Members of the Creative Youth Team were present to watch and report. The reaction of the delegates was clear and decisive. All delegates interviewed stated that Dennis Kucinich gave the best presentation and received the best audience reaction. They seemed pretty unified in this impression, regardless of which candidate they were supporting for President. Delegates stated, of the candidates who spoke, he was the most powerful, the most passionate, the most energetic and the most ready to take action. With the exception of Joe Biden, all the 2008 Democratic candidates spoke at their convention. Supporters of most candidates had been unprepared for the tremendous charisma and appeal of Congressman Dennis Kucinich. His positions from choice to Iran resonated with the Democratic crowd.
Former Senator Mike Gravel spoke at the Chairman's reception on Friday. The sound system on the patio could have been better. The crowd liked him as a person but did not seem inclined to back his candidacy for President.
On the patio many spoke about the debate the night before where only Kucinich had come out in support of impeachment. What the Democratic leadership was soon to find out was that the majority of Democrats strongly support impeachment and won't settle for less.
Saturday morning, Hillary Clinton gave a very lengthy speech that had delegates walking out and looking at their watches. She walked into the audience, looking professional and friendly at one point. Delegates were impresssed with her willingness to do this. The average reaction to her speech was that it was boring.
When Obama spoke, the audience looked very restless and uncomfortable. There were a few shouts of "tell the truth" and "stop funding the war." The reaction he got was lukewarm at best. Applauses he received seemed to be out of politeness rather than enthusiasm. His supporters later admitted they were disappointed in his presentation.
The convention schedule accidentally or purposely trailed Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich. There was some speculation that leaders were hoping delegates would leave and miss the final candidates of the day. Additional speakers spoke out of turn, possibly delaying the presentations or filling the gap between Obama and the arrivals of Dodd and Kucinich.
Chris Dodd impressed a number of people in the audience. One person said he brought tears to her eyes. Others noted the teleprompter he was reading and felt that the whole thing was scripted. Others were looking for the arrival of Kucinich and did not seem to be paying attention.
Most delegates who were asked what Clinton, Obama and Dodd had said replied that they could not recall or that they weren't really listening.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed. When Barbara Lee, a crowd favorite, got up and spoke between Dodd and Kucinich, whispers spread through the crowd that they might have to demand Kucinich. They did not know if Kucinich had arrived but they did not want any more delays. Delegate after delegate prepared to stand up and call for the Presidential candidates they had been waiting to see. It is quite possible that, if he had not appeared soon, the audience would have pushed their way onto the stage. The fears and excitement added to the expectancy that something momentous was about to happen.
As Lee finished her speech the delegation broke into a chant of "Dennis, Dennis, Dennis.." The audience had taken to their feet and were demanding to be taken seriously.
Suddenly, Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth appeared and the crowd went hysterical with applause and continued chanting. They remained standing and applauding as he began his speech, appearing to cling to every word. When he asked the crowd for responses to questions, the full crowd responded loudly and in sync with Kucinich. No other candidate throughout the convention was able to create a rapport with the audience. Delegates were asked by Democratic convention staff to sit down. However, the staff could not keep the people down. As the audience continued applauding every point made by Kucinich, delegates repeatedly jumped to their feet in joy over statements made by the Congressman.
When Kucinich finished, the audience went wild with applause and resumed chanting "Dennis, Dennis, Dennis..." until he returned to the podium. When he was finished, he and Elizabeth walked tthrough the center of the crowd towards the main exit to the room. They found themselves mobbed by supporters and had difficulty moving at other than a very slow pace. It was as if they were movie stars an and the crowd was filled with fans eager to meet their favorite heroes. Dennis and Elizabeth spoke to the crowd of fans surrounding them and posed with delegates for pictures. People kept shouting out comments about what a great speech Dennis had given and how they would be supporting him. When Dennis and Elizabeth left the main ballroom, the mob of delegates continued to surround and follow them to an elevator.
Not to be defeated by an elevator, the crowd ran to staircases and escalators hoping to catch up to the couple. Those who were able to do so, joined Dennis and Elizabeth out on a convention center patio where one of Dennis Kucinich's supporters was filming the start of a Youtube video. Some of those who followed the couple chose to participate in the video, which asked Youtube viewers to reply or post responses telling about the inspiring events in their lives. After his part was filmed, Dennis was interviewed by reporters. Then, he had to prepare for his plane flight to San Francisco. As he left, delegates began to speak about the striking difference between the way the audience reacted to Dennis and how it reacted to the other candidates.
Throughout the night at the hospitality suites, delegates spoke of how inspired and moved they were by Kucinich's speech. As noted above, even supporters of other candidates agreed Kucinich's speech was the best.
On Sunday, morning a smaller crowd was present for the final presentations. That day, the favorite speaker was not a Presidential candidates. It was Congresswoman Maxine Waters. As she spoke, people rushed from the back of the center to the front to get at good look at her. She received frequent enthusiastic applause as for her courage in standing up to appropriations and against war.
Once again, the audience found a contrast. John Edwards spoke next. He received a good initial reception. Member of the audience said he seemed sincere. Some said they didn't want someone who could be fooled by Bush. Many were more concerned about what Edwards didn't say. Some commented that he didn't seem to understand the issues. On health care, a number of delegates commented that he didn't understand that the people seeking health care, and not the insurance companies, were in need of the health care dollars.
Once again, Edwards had the wrong audience with his speech. This was an audience that wanted to end, not continue, appropriations. Later, while speaking for a resolution amendment to cut the funding to military action in Iraq, a delegate pointed out that Edwards was wrong in his call to keep sending the appropriations bill back to Bush. The delegate quoted Maxine Waters with, "Not one more nickel, not one more dime..." The audience broke into enthusiastic applause in support of the amendment and the statements of the delegate.
Bill Richardson was the final Presidential candidate to speak. Many of the remaining delegates left. Late Sunday morning when most delegates were gone was the worst time for a speech.
Then came the fireworks. A resolution for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney had been prioritized and was adopted on the floor unanimously. Later an amendment came to amend a resolution for a vote on the war in Iraq. As all resolutions to cut the funding for the war had been declined by the resolutions committee, one delegate stood up and called for an amendment to add a "resolved" clause to immediately cut all funding for military action in Iraq. The audience was with the amendment and it was certain it would pass. Earlier a resolutions committee member named Ted Smith had told group of delegates that, if the Iraq resolution were pulled, there would be a quorum call. Two additional amendments were offered that the delegates seemed ready to overwhelmingly approve. The delegates spoke among themselves and agreed to back all three amendments. John Hanna, a co-chair of the resolution committee suggested suspending the rules and approving each of the amendments as a separate resolution, resulting in up to four resolutions. The original resolution was adopted.
Then it was time to adopt the other three. After delegate Mark Hull-Richter spoke for the amendment to cut the funding, Karen Wingard stood and said, as a point of order, she and Ted Smith were making a quorum call. More than 1100 delegates would have had to have been present for a quorum call. The count fell short. Some delegates claimed to have witnessed counting irregularities.
Delegates were angry and disruptive. Virtually all those left, with the excetion of Wingard, Smith and a few of their friends, were united in support for ending the funding. The delegates angry. They felt they had been tricked and that democracy had been thwarted. They took to the microphones. Delegates compared the leaders of the Democratic Party to the leaders of the Republican Party.
John Hanna reportedly left the stage and went to Hull-Richter's wife to assure her that he had not been part of any plan for the quorum call. Reportedly, Chairman Art Torres later told Hull-Richter that he had not wanted a quorum call. Karen Wingard stated she had made the quorum call so that the press would not learn that the Democratic delegates wanted to cut the funding. Members asked her to rescind her call. She made it clear that she was not willing to let the delegates vote on the amendment. Reportedly, Democratic Party Security shoved delegates trying to speak with her.
Art Torres said that he would uses Hull-Richter's words as his own in describing the sense of the body and put this on the California Democratic Party's website.
One thing was clear. The support for impeachment and cutting all funds to the war was underestimated by the Democratic leadership going into the convention. The leadership also learned that the delegates were unhappy with the leadership. Leaders came close to having a riot on their hands. The vast majority of delegates present at the quorum call left the hall speaking about corruption in the Democratic Party.
Everyone, except the Kucinich supporters, seemed surprised by the reaction to the candidates. While some delegates were afraid corruption within the Party might result in an unwanted nominee, others said if their party deserted them, they would desert their party. One delegate, who identified himself as Mike, may have summed up the convention best by saying, "This is America. People are supposed to pick the leaders of their choice and not settle for what the two parties gives them. If the Democratic leaders think the next election is about their choice for President, they may soon find their party without any voters. We are in charge. The days of top down leadership are over."
The next election may bring big surprises. Americans are finally taking a stand.
Copyright © 2007 by the Creative Youth News Team. All rights reserved.