DPO Candidates: Our First Question

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...

Dan Carol:

Dancarol_1As 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.

Mac Prichard:

Macprichard_1As 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:

Meredithwoodsmith_1Actually 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.

Carol Voisin:

Carolvoisin_1Our 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.

  • LT (unverified)

    As someone who was part of the debates decades ago which led to the short platform, I support having a Platform general enough that all running can agree with it.

    In a previous decade, there was an issue which divided coastal residents and the rest of the state, and a sharp debate about whether the party should take a stand one way or the other. To my mind, the goal is to elect as many candidates as possible. Using that example, if a party really wants to elect legislators from the coast and the rest of the state, a platform should not take a stand on such a geographic issue.

    A friend of mine (rural Oregonian on the National Platform Comm. 2 presidential elections in a row) said he thought the platform should be short enough to be printed as a one page ad in rural newspapers with the caption "Want to know what Oregon Democrats believe? Here is the Democratic Platform".

    Even in the 21st century there are voters, esp. in rural areas who have no computer, no Internet access at home, or only a dialup connection. A platform convention which produces both documents can provide a forum for those interested in debating issues. I say this as someone who once carried a resolution into the state platform.

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    I've been a "Short form believer" for several years, so I guess that I'm aligned with all of the candidates and LT on this one. There are plenty of opportunities for activist input under principals and actions, as Meredith and Mac both pointed out........

    When I first started looking around the State Party apparatus and participated in a platform convention, the whole deal was pretty much out of control, with rival flying squads of activists inserting more and more minutiae while the Big Picture kids fought a failing rear guard action to retain some coherence.

    Recent efforts have vastly improved the situation IMO.

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    I too join in the others is saying that keeping the platform concise and more focused on principles than detailed policy minutia is a far better thing than having a laundry list of hyper-detailed proposals. This allows local candidates and parties the ability to frame local issues into the language and topics which are relevant to their communities. Developing the large,r overarching umbrella or "theme" if you will which leverages and builds out and supports the deeper level specific policy points at the campaign and local levels is vital.

    Developing the both the tools and a bidirectional approach to the broader content of message which allows candidates and the local parties to be the key communicators of that, but targeted at the specific circumstances and issues that are important at the local (i.e. voter) level is important. Making the DNC, DPO and the county parties a RESOURCE for party members, PCPs, candidates and campaign volunteers to become key communicators is crucial. This means providing tools and infrastructure, and larger broad stroke platform outlines, to then be honed and fleshed out by the campaigns and local party members and activists to the voting public at the local level.

    In other words, craft the larger narrative, but provide it in general terms and with the tools to craft and deliver the more tangible policy position "bricks" that build into, and support that larger narrative. Ideally, every specific policy position a candidate or campaign stakes out, should work WITH and flow into that larger narrative of principles.

  • dddave (unverified)

    The platform could use some better definitions, let's clear this up a little.....

    1) Oregon Democrats: Our Responsibilities and Rights as Individuals and Family Members

    * Shelter, Food, Health Care, and a Living Wage: Securing the Basic Necessities of Life THEREBY removing any incentive to work hard and support yourself.
    * Human Rights: Guaranteeing Equal Rights for All People WHICH means gay marriage and illegal aliens.

    2) Oregon Democrats: Our Responsibilities and Rights as Members of a Community * Public Education: Taking Responsibility to Prepare the Next Generation, WE KNOW THE REPUBLICANS DIDNT... * Revenue Policy: Paying a Fair Share and Endowing Future Generations WITH A HUGE PERS BILL.

    3) Oregon Democrats: Our Responsibilities and Rights as Workers and Business People * Business and Economic Development: Creating a Sustainable Economy that Enriches Everyone THAT WORKS FOR GOVERNMENT. * Forest, Field and Range: Supporting Oregon’s Small Farmers, Ranchers and Foresters as They Provide from the Land AND WE DONT MEAN MEASURE 37. * Labor: Ensuring that Hard Work Is Rewarded and Includes Retirement Security REGARDLESS OF YOUR PERFORMANCE.

    4) Oregon Democrats: Our Responsibilities and Rights as Active Citizens.......we therefore condemn the accelerating secrecy practiced by the federal government. THIS IS JUST BS. SO MAKE ALL STATE AND LOCAL DEPARTMENTS BUDGETS AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET.

    * Election Reform: Opposing Privatization of The Vote and Guaranteeing Transparent Elections that Reflect the Will of the People MEANING AN END TO THE INITIATIVE PROCESS.
    * Public Safety, Justice, and Civil Liberties: Preserving Our Personal Freedoms, While Ensuring our Safety
    * Government Reform: Demanding Honesty, Integrity and Competence in Government  LIKE 43% OF THE NEW CIG TAX FOR THE CHILDREN ACTUALLY GETS TO THE CHILDREN

    5) Oregon Democrats: Our Responsibilities and Rights as Global Citizens

    * Ecology and Natural Resources: Providing for Our Needs, While Preserving the Earth MEANING TED LIKE KYOTO.
    * Energy and Transportation: Practicing Conservation While Tapping Human Ingenuity to Fuel the Future MEANING TRACKING DEVICES ON YOUR CAR AND TOLL ROADS
    * Foreign Policy and National Security: Engaging the World through the Strength of Diplomacy, Justice, and the Rule of Law MEANING WE WANT TO HAVE A SAY IN INTERNATIONAL ISSUES, BUT WONT RUN FOR NATIONAL OFFICES THAT HAVE THAT RESPONSIBILITY.
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    If I had the money I'd go give a donation to the DPO right now in response to the comment above. But what I can do is encourage everyone to come to the No Speeches Auction on St. Patrick's Day (March 17th). It is sure to be a lot of fun, and it is a great way to support the state party and get some great items as well. There is a lot of work to be done in 2007 if we want to be successful in 2008, and that takes money and time from all of us in 2007. Can't come? Consider becoming a Grassroots Democrat. It's an easy way for those like myself who don't have a lot of money to give to support the party. I give $10/month (taken automatically from my checking account), and combined with other donations helps to pay for all the activities the DPO does.

    Now on the topic of the platform...

    I've been participating in the platform process longer than I can vote-- first in Texas and now here in Oregon. I've seen really long platforms, and I've seen really short ones. And I really like the one we have now. The one complaint I have it in grouping health care together with shelter, food, and living wage.

    Health care is a huge issue and needs to be pulled out separately as it has been done in the past. There are many issues surrounding access to health care and maintenance, mental health care, prescription drugs, etc. With a limit on the number of legislative items we can do, it squeezes out anything on some really important issues: shelter, food, and a living wage.

    Having sat it this platform group at the 2004 and 2006 platform conventions, I see these three issues as being hugely important here in Oregon. We have a large homeless population, people who go to bed hungry every night, and many people not making a living wage even though they're working 60+ hours a week. There are things that need to be done here in Oregon to improve the situation, but as long as they are grouped together with health care, they're going to be pushed out by health care issues.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    As a member of the Platform and Resolutions Committee I'd like to thank the candidates for their kind words. We worked real hard on that document. To answer Jenni, of necessity some things were lumped together, we tried to keep them coherent and consistent. It was a steady battle to keep the document size down, many topics were deserving of their own sections and expansions, but if we had followed that course it would have blown up again.

    The DPO is a group of activists and every activist has some one issue they feel most strongly about, so we tried to be inclusive without either nailing candidates' feet to the ground or having a 20 page platform, or ... We knew we were doing some compromising, we tried to do it with a consensus rather than arbitrarily. We tried to build a document that was useful for more than occupying space on a shelf somewhere.

    I'm proud of the work the committee did, on the Platform and also on Resolutions and the minute I knew Jill Thorn was interested in Vice-Chair I gave my whole hearted backing.

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    Thanks. I appreciate all the work the committee has done-- the 2006 convention was an improvement over 2004 as far as I could see. There were still some problems, but that happens. I was volunteering behind the scenes during the convention, so I know there was already work being done to try to fix it and keep it from happening in 2008.

    I just think that health care is such a huge issue that it needs to be on its own. Four of the six legislative items were on health care. That left two to be split between shelter, food, and a living wage. It took up so much of the time during the meeting that we didn't get to hardly discuss anything outside of health care.

    I understand the issue of it being short, but I also understand how important of issues these are -- they're the basic necessities in life.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)


    I'll make a donation to the DPO for you. I encourage everyone to join me.

    I like the short platform. The long platform presents three problems: 1) it's so long no one actually reads it. 2) it provides a lot of fodder for Lars Larson and his ilk. 3) by enumerating detailed positions in one area, it implies that the lack of enumeration in another area means we don't support any specific policies in that area.

    It's fruitful to compare our platform to the Republican platform. Our platform is two pages (or thereabouts). Their platform is incredibly long and inexplicably concerned with sex, homosexuality, and sexual diseases (maybe Philip Roth wrote it).

    In other words, their platform is silly. It reads like it was cobbled together by a large committee of sexually repressed paranoiacs who couldn't agree on a verb tense, much less a coherent policy.

    It would have been funny if Saxton had run on this platform. "The problem with public education in this state, " he could have said, "is the public schools are prescribing drugs and performing abortions on our children wihtout our consent. Well, that and they promote homosexuality too much. As your governor I will direct the schools to stop prescribing and administering drugs and surgeries, and to cut back on instruction in gay sex techniques and positions."

  • GT (unverified)

    Both parties are filling with a bunch of bumbling idiots! The GOP is overly concerned with things that don't matter and the DNC wants to radically increase the size and scope of the already incompetant and extremely wasteful government. I want a new party. Something that's actually progressive and gets things done - this stupid asinine quibbling over things of no substance has gotten ridiculous!

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    DNC wants to radically increase the size and scope of the already incompetant and extremely wasteful government.

    And you are basing this absurd assertion on what precisely?

  • Ron Morgan (unverified)

    I am deeply disturbed when party leaders use the term "branding" to describe what should be a process of participatory democracy. When I think of branding, I think of Coca Cola, the ultimate brand, which promises happiness and fulfillment but is in reality just flavored sugar water, empty calories. Is this what we ant the Democratic Party to become, flavored sugar-water on which voters can project their desire, empty and vapid? We have been indoctrinated over the last thirty years by market forces determined to transform us from citizens into consumers. Think of the ad for Walmart that seriously intones that the two thousand some-odd dollars the big-box giant allegedly saves individuals "buys a lot of freedom." To actively work to "brand" the democratic process is, I suppose, the last step in this process. "Branding" the Democrats is the buzz term du jour, replacing the flap-doodle over Lakoff's "frames" from a few years ago. I can't imagine "branding" exercises will be any more successful than "framing" was, outside of a handful of consultants and pitchmen who sell the concept to candidates and campaign managers. What works, I mean truly engages people, energizes them and motivates them? Neighbor to neighbor, door to door. Old school Saul Alinsky organizing. Ask people what gives meaning to their lives, their hopes, their obstacles. Leave "branding" to the Coke executives and the Republican corporate plutocrats. Please.

  • GT (unverified)

    "And you are basing this absurd assertion on what precisely?"

    Take Tri-Met and Amtrak as two "for instances". What companies could still survive, offer depolorable service, and still stay in business?

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    What companies could still survive, offer depolorable service, and still stay in business?

    Comcast, Verizon, Verizon Wireless, PGE, Wal-Mart, Lowe's Home Improvement store, Walgreens (I worked there as a pharm tech).... the list goes on and on. There are plenty of private businesses that offer bad service, treat employees and customers like crap, and are making millions, or even billions, in profit every year. Many of which are grossly over charging their customers.

    But we digress off topic.


    <h2>Thank you very much. Being now unemployed the grassroots donation I already do is about as much as I can afford until I'm working again.</h2>
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