Editor's note: Starting today, we're posting a series of questions that we've asked the four candidates for DPO party chair. Their emailed answers are posted after the jump, in the order they were received. We encourage you to join the conversation, ask follow-up questions, and debate their answers. The election for Democratic state party chair is on March 10.
Oregon Democrats used to have a lengthy party platform - dozens of pages of intricate policy language. Today, the party platform is a short one-page statement of principles.
Do you support the short platform concept - or do you believe that the party should re-engage the activist grassroots by debating policy details and writing an extensive platform? Do you support the 2006 platform in its entirety - or are there meaningful changes you would make in 2008? If so, what are they?
After the jump, answers from Dan Carol, Mac Prichard, Meredith Wood Smith, and Carol Voisin...
As director for the 1992 Clinton-Gore platform, I have specific views about how to get Democratic issues and values distilled from our hearts and into the minds of voters – be they Democrats, Independents or Republicans of Conscience.
First, a reality check: few candidates, in Oregon or elsewhere, run on the platforms that our passionate debates produce, whether short and snappy or not. Studies show platforms often box in our candidates politically, are never read except by a few, and create unfortunate internal riffs during debates.
But hey, we are passionate folk who care deeply about policies and principles!
So I envision a multi-year strategy to expand debate over the party’s platform, build a powerful brand called Oregon Democrats AND create the conditions where candidates might actually “run” on our platform. Because candidates are ultimately THE VOICE for Democratic values – not the DPO.
This means (1) using BlueOregon, DPO’s Rural Caucus and other venues to conduct a wider discussion around our core values”; (2) creating an actual constituency who support our brand; (3) most of all, building a winning electoral operation at the DPO, because if we build it, not only will candidates come, they might start running on our platform.
As a grassroots leader for Governor Howard Dean in Oregon and Iowa, I’ve seen firsthand how ideas can motivate activists. Like many of the Governor Dean’s supporters, I was inspired to work for him because of his opposition to the war in Iraq, his ideas on health care, and his support for fiscal responsibility.
I support the DPO platform and also think it’s a terrific vehicle for tapping into the kind of grassroots energy Governor Dean attracted. The current process, which starts at the county parties and leads to a state convention producing a short platform and Democratic principles and actions, is a good one. That second document is an especially effective way to engage activists because it includes 13 detailed principles and dozens of specific state legislative action items that matter to our members and provides our elected officials with a roadmap for change.
We can always do more, however, to encourage participation in creating the platform, not only by the grassroots, but also by our state legislators and other elected officials, union members, and important community leaders. As chair, I would work with the platform committee to identify ways to involve these and other groups.
Meredith Wood Smith:
Actually the Platform is two pages and I am proud (and support) the work of the DPO’s Platform and Resolutions Committee under the leadership of Jill Thorn (a Vice Chair candidate) in creating a well written and concise statement. It provides us with a foundation for the Democratic “message” we must carry to all corners of the state.
The Democratic Principles (and Legislative Action Items) document also produced by the 2006 Convention gives more detail on the issues and policies brought forth by the convention participants. We currently have a committee that is working with our Legislative leadership in implementing many of the recommendations.
The length of the Platform does not limit the debate, it is the process. In developing the 2006 Platform, we engaged Democrats from all over the state in an open and full process and I would continue and build on that process. Debating policy and issues is part of the Democratic heritage and it draws many people to the Party. If the underlying question here is whether we are the Party of issues and debate or of electing Democrats—it is both, and to pit debate or electing Democrats against each other is divisive and unproductive.
Our platform is the “state of the union and of Oregon” presented by the Democrats of Oregon. The short platform is clear and concise. The introduction of the platform is an invitation to keep reading in order to discover what is on the hearts and minds of Oregon Democrats. It needs to be short so it’ll be read.
Democracy depends on our party to constantly work towards economic and social justice for all. We give a name to injustice and to the common good in our platform. We also put before all, any threat we see to our democracy or to our rights. A platform is essential for our party.
As a candidate I found direction for my platform from the DPO platform. Candidates need it. After all, it is our “state of the union” message.