This weekend I attended the annual meeting of the Wake County Democratic Party as a delegate. The main purpose of the meeting was to elect new county officers and select representatives for the Congressional district meetings and various planning boards, and to go over a bunch of resolutions that make up a quasi-platform.
Democrats in Wake County are probably not as demoralized as Democrats nationwide. Raleigh has a progressive Democratic mayor, who was in attendance and is well liked (he’s up for reelection in 2005). Wake County is split among three Congressional districts, all represented by Democrats, and in North Carolina the Democrats expanded their majorities in the State House and Senate in 2004. North Carolina’s Democratic governor was reelected in 2004 as well. Even though Bush carried North Carolina, and the absurdly popular (among Democrats) Erskine Bowles lost his Senate election to Richard Burr, Democrats in North Carolina have a lot to be proud of.
The election of officers was uneventful. The main players headed off any actual voting by creating a power sharing agreement where the two candidates for chairman agreed that the party insider candidate would be Chairman and the up and comer (a Howard Dean supporter) would take one of the vice chair positions. So the entire slate of officers was elected by acclamation.
As for representatives to the district meetings, there are so many slots that every county delegate gets to be a district delegate. There were eighty-something resolutions to consider, ranging from recommendations for Social Security to minute changes to how the county party is run. I have no idea what happens to them when all is said and done, but given how they were treated, I think very little. A speaker read the names of each of the resolutions (we were supposed to read the resolutions themselves before we got there), and if anyone at the meeting objected to a resolution, it was dropped. I think 10 successfully made it through without objection.
Wake County is split among three Congressional districts, and all three seats are held by Democrats, and each of the House members was there to give a speech. David Price, whose tone is almost professorial, talked about “arrogance of power” among Republicans and lambased the Republicans for their all out assault on the Judicial Branch. Tom DeLay was mentioned, of course.
Brad Miller was the next speaker, and his speech was mainly about getting the Democratic old timers and the new people to work well together. He reminded everyone that most of today’s old timers were impassioned newcomers in 60s, and that everyone could work together to elect Democrats.
The third Congressman, Bob Etheridge represents a rural, agricultural district that happens to include the southeast corner of Wake county. So his speech was more about how the Republicans are riding roughshod over the middle class, and focused on Social Security, the bankruptcy bill, and the fact that our deficits are being financed by China. He also picked out some scary things from the proposed federal budget, like cuts to rural health care, that would play well in his district. His speaking style reminds me of a country preacher, with plenty of pauses for emphasis.
North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall was the other elected official who gave a speech, and hers was almost entirely a defense of federalism and the importance of state’s rights. For my entire life, I thought that state’s rights was a Republican issue, but now I see that it’s a power issue. The party in power in Washington wants to exercise that power, and the opposition at the state level wants to prevent it. So now we’re in a situation where Republicans want to expand the power of federal government, and Democrats at the state level want the federal government to butt out. I think this is the reason for the clash between Republicans in Congress and the federal judiciary. The conservatives in federal courts haven’t gotten the memo that the Republican party no longer cares about federalism, and the Republican Congress will not accept checks or balances.
The one thing every speech had in common was complete avoidance of any issues related to foreign policy or the war in Iraq. Democrats as a group seem to have decided not to get into it. (There were several resolutions about Iraq, but all of them met with objection.) I think that’s probably OK for Democrats running for House seats in 2006, but somebody is going to have to deal with it by 2008.
One other thing that really stood out is that the party activists are a tight group. Everybody seemed to know everybody. Even I, who have been to very few events, saw several people who I had seen before. I plan on going to the district meeting in May, which covers the North Carolina 2nd District, and I’ll report back from there.