Think Outside The Political Box 

Think Outside The Political Box 
Posted by FoM on August 22, 2000 at 20:37:23 PT
By DeWayne Wickham
Source: USA Today
When Tom Campbell, a Republican, rose to speak, few of the 15,000 journalists covering the Democratic National Convention listened.His early evening address went largely unreported by the mainstream media. Most of its members probably were trolling for news at one of the many parties that daily served as the opening act to the Democrats' prime-time program at the Staples Center, the cavernous arena that housed this past week's gathering.
Campbell appeared on a different stage. He addressed the ''Shadow Convention,'' an eclectic meeting of maverick intellectuals, combative politicians and forlorned grassroots activists assembled inside a sweaty auditorium in an aging, unreclaimed section of Los Angeles a short walk from the Staples Center.The Shadow Convention was the place to hear talk of revolutionary, not evolutionary change. No one offered up more of that than Campbell, a quirky California congressman making a long-shot bid this year to unseat Dianne Feinstein, the state's senior U.S. senator. While those who spoke at the Democratic convention -- and at the Republican's national meeting in Philadelphia earlier this month -- hewed closely to the orthodoxies of their party, Campbell's speech was political sacrilege.He labeled this nation's drug war ''a failure.'' He complained that while most drug users in this country are white, the vast majority of those who have been jailed for drug crimes are Hispanic or African-American. And he worried aloud that incarceration, not treatment and education, would continue to be this nation's major approach to fighting the drug war.Another Slippery Slope?That's pretty revolutionary talk for a Republican in the throes of a campaign. But Campbell is nothing if not different. For instance, he compares this administration's deepening involvement in Columbia's drug war to the way this country was drawn into Vietnam:''We are entering a civil war, in a Third World jungle, with roots at least 30 years deep. We are creating strategic hamlets into which those living in the countryside will be concentrated. We are sending U.S. military advisers. We are encouraging a Third World country to soak its citizens in toxic herbicides from aerial spraying. This is our policy in Colombia,'' Campbell said to raucous applause. ''All that is missing is the signature of (former Defense secretary) Robert McNamara.'' The Shadow Convention, the brainchild of Arianna Huffington -- the one-time conservative commentator who found a heart -- is the Boston Tea Party of our times, a flagrant attack on the threadbare belief that mainstream politicians have the corner on good ideas. Huffington drew a long list of political curmudgeons, rebellious commentators and counterculture heavy thinkers: two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and his son Jesse Jr., an Illinois congressman; writer Gore Vidal; Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; actor/director Warren Beatty; and former Democratic senator Gary Hart. Another Republican in attendance was New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson, who, like Campbell, thinks the drug war championed by most of their GOP colleagues is a sham.Time For Some Unconventional Wisdom:For too long, political debates have been dominated by the conventional wisdom of the leading political parties. The pre-eminence of their thinking on issues is seldom seriously challenged. Many who try are deserving of the fringe to which their ideas are assigned.Not so Tom Campbell -- at least, not when it comes to his position on our domestic drug war and his worries about this nation's growing involvement in the one being waged in Colombia.Campbell's speech could have been an awakening for millions of Americans who have been convinced that the billions of dollars we spend on jailing drug users is a good investment. That a wider audience did not hear it is proof of the constraints our two-party system puts on the free flow of ideas. That it was heard at all is a testament to the value of Huffington's Shadow Convention.DeWayne Wickham writes weekly for USA TODAY. Source: USA Today (US)Copyright: 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.Contact: editor usatoday.comAddress: 1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22229Fax: (703) 247-3108Website: Articles & Web Sites:The Shadow Conventions Convention 2000 News Board Speaks To National Audience Articles On The Shadow Conventions: CannabisNews Articles On The Shadow Conventions: Shadow Speech by Rep. Tom Campbell: "These Shadow Conventions were created with three purposes in mind: to discuss the corrupting influence of money in politics, to raise the awareness of poverty and inequality, and have the courage to admit what neither party will Ė that the nationís Drug War has been a failure. Thereís something else that applies to all three, and thatís healing Ė a healing that can begin here in California, a healing thatís necessary in the wake of Prop. 187. Yes, I am speaking to Hispanics and African Americans and Native Americans and people of all colors who canít buy their way into the convention halls. Iím talking about economic fairness and social justice, and Iím challenging us all to demand more of our leaders."Read More
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