Thursday, March 30, 2006

Summit in Summit, Pt. 5

I'll finish up my recap of Sunday's grassroots summit with ODP Chair Chris Redfern's speech. PDA Tim Carpenter also talked, but I'm not sufficiently interested in what he said to post it. You can catch up with him on the PDA blog.

Redfern is following Cindy Sheehan:

I've never been so honored as sitting on the same panel as Cindy Sheehan. We don’t need the likes of Jean Schmidt and Rush Limbaugh to define patriotism.

In 2004 we worked harder than ever before. Then progressives were told there was no room at the table for you.

Democratic party in Ohio pushed you away. Told you there was no room at the table for the Progressive community. That changed when I became party chair.

Excited about Sherrod Brown as next Senator. Next gov will be a guy named Ted Strickland.

We're making significant progress. Central Ohio coalition adopting a night to phone bank. Need to push back.

Stonewall D's welcomed back.

Progressive community is always the first to help. But the party has said after the election there's no place for you.

Howard Dean ended speeches with "You have the power.” This is your party. Party used to be soft. No more.

Standing O.

Analysis. When Redhorse saw Redfern, he was talking about the 88 county strategy. This speech underscores the difficulty of that strategy. One of the supreme ironies of modern politics is that conservatives, many of whom hold beliefs they believe are absolute and God-given, are better able to compromise and work for piecemeal progress. If conservatives acted like liberals do, they would do nothing but flog the Human Life Amendment year after year. Instead, they pursue strategies that slowly build support in the soft middle, while liberals overreach on issues like gay marriage.

So Redfern's challenge is to build a party capable of making a difference in 88 counties, while at the same time keeping liberal absolutists in the fold.

He certainly hit some sweet notes. He's right that progressives -- for that matter, grassroots activists generally -- feel shut out between the elections.

He also did about as well as he could have following Sheehan. He certainly couldn't have openly questioned the wisdom of comparing GWB and OBL if he wanted to get out of the auditorium alive. The point he makes -- that Sheehan's defense is a form of patriotism -- keeps the crowd happy but gives him an out if he's asked if he's pressed on whether he actually agrees with her.

I don't envy Redfern the task ahead of him, but the evidence so far indicates he at least appreciates the magnitude of the challenge.