Party Conventions Will Have Shadows

Party Conventions Will Have Shadows
Posted by FoM on July 24, 2000 at 11:39:11 PT
By Robert Salladay, Examiner Capitol Bureau
Source: San Francisco Examiner
Voters turned off by the relentlessly scripted and conformist Republican and Democratic conventions may find themselves twisting a cliché next month: It's not what's on the inside that counts, it's what's on the outside.Take your pick: an anarchist collective of popular outrage raising serious questions about global trade, or a satiric collective, including the likes of Arianna Huffington, Warren Beatty, Al Franken, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raising equally serious questions about poverty, race and politics.
Many dropped-out voters may easily pick the second choice, at least as more entertaining if not more substantive.The Shadow Convention 2000, a doppelgänger meeting orchestrated by commentator and writer Huffington, is, perhaps happily, threatening to draw attention away from the real convention floor and protests in Philadelphia, where the GOP is meeting next week, and in Los Angeles, where Democrats meet in three weeks."There is a vacuum, and we're filling it with the best minds. Real people," Huffington said about the three-day shadow conventions in both cities. "The critical question is: Why aren't the two conventions saying, 'We're going to put the spotlight on those left out of the system'?"The shadow conventions might get their own shadow as well.Comedian and commentator Al Franken says his role is simply to needle Huffington and be a "turd in the punch bowl." Even though he's a staunch Democrat, Franken says he'll still be at the shadow convention or inside the regular convention providing commentary for CNN."Normally, that's what I do, is I give her crap," said Franken, who may revive his 12-step addicted Stuart Smalley character for the convention. "That's my job. I'm going to be the official party pooper."Congress Members, Nonprofits:It's not just comics and movie stars in an intellectual hot tub bemoaning the establishment, but members of Congress and nonprofit groups decrying the growing gap between the rich and the poor, talking about drug policy reform and criticizing the pervasiveness of money and corporate wealth in politics.U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell of San Jose, a moderate Republican, said he wants to attend the regular GOP convention and the shadow conventions at the University of Pennsylvania and Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles. Three U.S. senators, seven congressmen and New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who favors legalizing drugs, also are expected at one or both of the shadow conventions.McCain's attendance at the Philadelphia shadow convention promises to add legitimacy as well. The former presidential candidate is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at both Philadelphia events.He also is likely to carry a huge phalanx of reporters for several days leading up to the first and only appearance of the presumed nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, on the last day of the GOP convention.Another participant will be Jonathan Kozol, an education reformer and author of "Amazing Grace" and "Savage Inequalities," two well-received books about how America treats its children. Kozol said he plans to vote for Democratic Vice President Al Gore, whom he has known since Gore was a congressman in the late 1970s.Kozol also said he'll attend the Democratic and Republican shadow conventions talking about something else."I've been troubled for years by the degree to which virtually all poor people are excluded from the political process nowadays — not only by the devious way that campaigns are financed but also by the savage inequalities that deny poor children a chance to learn basic literacy and skills when they are still in school," Kozol said.3 largely Ignored Subjects:The three days of each shadow convention will roughly be divided into the three subjects Huffington and others believe are ignored or given short shrift by the two major parties: campaign finance reform, the way that the drug war unfairly targets minorities and the growing gap between rich and poor.They plan to invite speakers from the families of drug users locked away for decades. They plan to bring in family members of people who have died of AIDS. Kozol said he hopes to bring students from the Bronx to talk about education. A panel of clergy will discuss the impact of the drug war.Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause, said he hopes to discuss the corporate influence on politics and the need for serious campaign finance reform. Both presidential candidates have virtually ignored the issue, he said."Until the system is reformed, good people in the system are going to be tainted by it," Harshbarger said. "Just look at the conventions themselves. Each of the host committees will have $70million donated by corporations and wealthy individuals to wine and dine leaders of the parties. Those folks are going to have access."Huffington said she finds it astonishing that Republicans have refused to address the issue of poverty, particularly if they are Christians. She believes Republicans are turned off because any talk of the poor smacks of liberalism. And, of course, the poor don't have well-funded lobbyists to advance their causes.The Philosophy of Jesus:Bush, Huffington notes, has said Jesus is his favorite philosopher."Conservatives should at least be following the admonition that we will be judged by how we treat the least among us," Huffington said. "There is more in the Bible about poverty than about gay rights. In fact, there is nothing in the Bible about gay rights. But why are gay rights more important to conservatives than fighting poverty? It doesn't make sense."Most of the shadow convention speeches are scheduled to be over by 2 p.m., allowing the networks and even delegates to attend before heading to prime-time events at the regular convention.Patriotic Hall, the site of the L.A. shadow convention, is near the Staples Center, where the Democratic National Convention will be held.Organizers want to have skits and music to punctuate the panel discussions. There is, predictably, a Web site devoted to the shadow conventions — The shadow conventions are being funded in part by philanthropist George Soros, who also helped get a drug policy reform measure on the California ballot in November. Nonprofit groups devoted to poverty and jobs issues are donating time and money."Poverty was a campaign issue up until the Reagan era," said Chuck Collins, co-director of Boston-based United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit group and sponsor of the shadow conventions. "Even Richard Nixon ran on this idea of a guaranteed family income. Now he would be considered so far to the left. The debate has dramatically shifted, and poverty and inequality have been lost in that shuffle."New Vietnam in Colombia:Campbell said he'll speak about U.S. military and political involvement in the Colombian drug war, which he likened to another failed U.S. endeavor, Vietnam. He shuddered at the terminology being used: The U.S. is sending "advisors," for example."The problem is, both parties have signed off on it, so it's not going to be an issue at the conventions," Campbell said. "Are we going to get involved in another Vietnam? We are taking the side of a government in a war. ... The only thing missing is (former Secretary of Defense) Robert McNamara's signature on the orders."Most of the real Democratic and Republican conventions will take place in a world where, with robotic synchronism, TV cameras automatically pivot toward any minor sign of protest or disruption because the activity on the floor can be so stultifying.A Gallup Poll released Wednesday found 70 percent of those surveyed considered the conventions boring, while about the same percentage of those surveyed considered them informative.Only CNN plans full-time coverage of the politics, but would the major TV networks devote more time to Philadelphia and Los Angeles if they had substantive agendas?"If the other two conventions had not drained away the politics and all real debate," Huffington said, "absolutely. ... But it has turned into a trade show where you can see your friends."Kozol said that if the shadow convention were not taking place, he would be sitting in New York "with my golden retriever refuting every shallow slogan coming out of the official convention.""And my dog would probably share my views and snarl at the screen," Kozol said. "She has good instincts." Contact: letters Published: July 24, 2000Copyright: 2000 San Francisco Examiner Related Articles & Web Sites:United For A Fair Economy: To Renewal: Campaign: Cause Conventions: Conventions: Shadow of Seattle:'ve Got To Change The Political Wind: Conventions: Articles On The Shadow Conventions: 
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Comment #1 posted by eco on July 24, 2000 at 12:03:06 PT
Philadelphia Direct Action Convergence begins! 
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