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June 2, 2006

The Democratic Convention

Posted by David Postman at 8:33 AM

Democrats convene in Yakima this morning for their party convention. And I know they, and the media, will be watched carefully by Republicans to see what potentially embarrassing nuggets show up in the party platform that will be approved tomorrow. Which constitutional amendment do you think Democrats will say has been misread for a century?

In some ways I can imagine Democrats reading the paper this week and deciding the best thing they could do is come out with a benign platform that would keep the heat on the Republicans. But that's not been their style. Over the last couple of years the two big parties have taken far different approaches to their platforms.

I thought Democrats were restrained in their reaction to last week's Republican convention. They can send out a four-page press release attacking a 30-second radio ad, but issued nothing on the GOP call to deny citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants.

That's in part because Republicans were fighting among themselves. And it also may have something to do with living in a glass house. Several years ago, former Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt switched convention strategies and decided to let the freak flag fly free in the platform.

In 2000 Democrats met in Spokane and amended the proposed platform to call for complete legalization of marijuana so it could be sold in cafes, bars and state liquor stores. Berendt was out of the room when it happened and I remember chasing him down on deadline to get his reaction, which was mostly a shrug. Rather than manage the platform to come out with something inoffensive, Berendt decided it'd be better for the party to let the core base have their way with it.

"If you really want to get people fired up, it's better to give them freedom to put in the things they care about," Berendt said.

Compare that to Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance's work in 2004 to come out with a platform that included "nothing incendiary or controversial or ... weird." The platform was adopted in a single vote, without the drawn out debates Democrats went through that year.

I'll leave soon for Yakima to see what happens and will post here through the weekend as news happens.

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