NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

For the first time ever, the Washington State Democratic Party held its convention virtually

Yes­ter­day, del­e­gates from across Wash­ing­ton state met (vir­tu­al­ly) for the 2020 Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­ven­tion. The del­e­gates were pri­mar­i­ly meet­ing to decide on the party’s plat­form going into November’s gen­er­al elec­tion.

After greet­ings from par­ty offi­cials and trib­al lead­ers, acknowl­edge­ments of the vic­tims of police vio­lence, and praise for the emer­gency work­ers respond­ing to the ongo­ing nov­el coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, the con­ven­tion got down to busi­ness.

Con­duct­ing a Zoom meet­ing with almost 2,000 par­tic­i­pants is a her­culean task, and that is per­haps why no one sought to take on the unen­vi­able role of Per­ma­nent Chair of the con­ven­tion before the dead­line.

The lack of inter­est guar­an­teed that Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki would get the job, which she car­ried out with impres­sive cour­tesy, grace, and pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

After Pod­lodows­ki had gaveled in the meet­ing (or rather, thud­ded her cof­fee cup down in lieu of a gav­el), the del­e­gates began con­sid­er­ing sev­er­al amend­ments to the par­ty’s gov­ern­ing doc­u­ments, which con­sist of a char­ter and bylaws.

These pro­pos­als, a pack­age of house­keep­ing mea­sures to ensure the par­ty could con­tin­ue to oper­ate dur­ing times of emer­gency or make do with­out precinct cau­cus­es (which have tra­di­tion­al­ly been held in past pres­i­den­tial cycles), were devoid of con­tro­ver­sy. After approv­ing all but one of them, the del­e­gates turned to the main mat­ter of the meet­ing: amend­ments to the party’s plat­form.

Nine pro­posed amend­ments to add planks to the par­ty plat­form were con­sid­ered by the assem­bly. For each amend­ment, del­e­gates pre­sent­ed five-minute argu­ments both for and against adopt­ing the planks.

The nine amend­ments heard were all backed by a minor­i­ty of mem­bers of the Plat­form Com­mit­tee and pre­sent­ed as minor­i­ty reports (where­as the unmod­i­fied plat­form as a whole was pre­sent­ed as the major­i­ty report).

The first minor­i­ty report called for lan­guage to be added that would call for inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tions of police killings – the idea being that out­side inves­ti­ga­tors are more objec­tive than the local pros­e­cu­tors who have to rely on the police they are inves­ti­gat­ing in oth­er aspects of their work.

The sec­ond minor­i­ty report called for the par­ty to sup­port the elim­i­na­tion of the “per­son­al belief” exemp­tion for vac­ci­na­tions. The exemp­tion was already elim­i­nat­ed for the measles, mumps, and rubel­la vac­cine by the 2019 Leg­is­la­ture, but the exemp­tion remains in place for oth­er vac­ci­na­tions.

The third minor­i­ty report called for Democ­rats to get seri­ous about the issue of stu­dent loans: it called for lan­guage sup­port­ing the can­cel­la­tion of stu­dent debt and putting caps on the inter­est rates of stu­dent loans.

This amend­ment was bril­liant­ly pre­sent­ed by Jes­si­ca Ines, who effort­less­ly dis­man­tled the tired argu­ment that stu­dent debt for­give­ness is “wel­fare for the rich,” and called on del­e­gates to imag­ine the mas­sive eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus that would result from mil­lions of Amer­i­cans being lib­er­at­ed from their debt bur­den.

Four minor­i­ty reports focused on the envi­ron­men­tal plank of the plat­form, and all dealt with nuclear pow­er. In order, these amend­ments:

  • Called for a cost-ben­e­fit analy­sis of nuclear pow­er against increased invest­ment in renew­able ener­gy
  • Called for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to ful­ly fund cleanup of the Han­ford nuclear site (a nuclear weapons facil­i­ty that dates back to the Man­hat­tan Project). The Trump Admin­is­tra­tion has tried to de-fund cleanup efforts, despite the sig­nif­i­cant radioac­tive waste that plagues the area.
  • Called for a mora­to­ri­um on new nuclear plants
  • Called for an end to gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for the nuclear indus­try.

These amend­ments to the plat­form were stu­dious­ly opposed by Steve Ver­hey, who uti­lized videos, graphs and even memes to illus­trate his points.

Anoth­er minor­i­ty report pro­posed adding lan­guage to the Labor and Eco­nom­ic Jus­tice plank of the plat­form, advo­cat­ing for a thir­ty-two-hour work­ing week.

Both speak­ers made com­pelling argu­ments for the eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of the pol­i­cy – odd­ly, both used France (which has a thir­ty-five-hour work­ing week) as an exam­ple to high­light their side of the argu­ment.

The final minor­i­ty report was intend­ed to tack­le envi­ron­men­tal racism. The amend­ment would add lan­guage to the plat­form oppos­ing the restric­tion of low-income hous­ing to areas that suf­fer from pol­lu­tion (such as areas near­by high­ways or indus­tri­al areas). The argu­ments on both sides were nuanced, and the issue is one that Democ­rats should con­tin­ue to exam­ine thor­ough­ly.

All nine amend­ments to the plat­form were approved by the del­e­gates, who then went on to over­whelm­ing­ly approve the plat­form with its amend­ments.

While del­e­gates vot­ed on each amend­ment (the vot­ing usu­al­ly took between twen­ty and thir­ty min­utes), the con­ven­tion heard from Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates and office­hold­ers. For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden promised the con­ven­tion that he would restore “real lead­er­ship” to the White House, but remind­ed Wash­ing­ton Democ­rats of the neces­si­ty of hold­ing onto the House and win­ning the Sen­ate.

Many of the speak­ers remarked exten­sive­ly on the twin crises cur­rent­ly fac­ing Amer­i­ca: the anti-racist protests in the after­math of the death of George Floyd, and the ongo­ing coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Tom Perez, the chair­man of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee, told lis­ten­ers that “civ­il rights is indeed the unfin­ished busi­ness of Amer­i­ca,” and com­ment­ed on how bad­ly the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion is deal­ing with the pan­dem­ic: “Don­ald Trump and Her­bert Hoover are in a pitched bat­tle to see who can have the worst jobs record!”

Many state lev­el office­hold­ers addressed the con­ven­tion, includ­ing Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, every Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of the state’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion except for Den­ny Heck (who is a can­di­date for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor), both of Washington’s U.S. sen­a­tors, and NPI’s own Gael Tar­leton, who is run­ning to replace Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman.

Tar­leton promised to “defend every vote and every vot­er,” remind­ing del­e­gates of the vio­lence the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion has met­ed out to peace­ful pro­test­ers.

After the plat­form was vot­ed on, Chair Pod­lodows­ki gaveled/­cof­fee-cupped out the con­ven­tion gen­er­al ses­sion, bring­ing the state par­ty’s 2020 cau­cus and con­ven­tion cycle to an end. (There did­n’t end up being any cau­cus­es due to the pan­dem­ic; del­e­gate selec­tion was con­duct­ed using an online vot­ing sys­tem… the results of which can be audit­ed because the bal­lots cast were not secret.)

Wash­ing­ton Democ­rats are now free to focus on the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, which will take place in about two months, as well as the mon­u­men­tal­ly impor­tant gen­er­al elec­tion in Novem­ber.

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