DNC: Let the Games Begin

By: KELLY JEAN COGSWELL | I watched Bush at the Beijing opening of the Olympics Games. With his binoculars and smile, he seemed relieved to finally be at an event he understood. I bet at night, instead of thinking of all those dead kids in Iraq, or Afghanistan, the tanking economy, or tortured men in Guantanamo, he dreams of owning another ball club. Where the rules of winning are simpler and there's always someone else to blame.

Yesterday, making a statement condemning the Russian invasion of Georgia, his lips were thin and pinched again. He looked depressed. Probably he has a bumper sticker over his bed: “Anybody But Bush.” At least it's almost over. He squints trying to count it out. A hundred and something more days.

The Democrats, meanwhile, know the schedule down to the hour and are already practicing their walk to the podium in a historic year of firsts. Clinton was the first woman to take a state in the primary, then dozens after. Obama, already the first black candidate to head a major ticket, will be the first black US president. Walls tremble and tumble as he breaks through to join the celebrated ranks.

Symbolically powerful, I wonder just how much change his firstness will bring to the US, or even his intransigent Democratic party. Does Obama have coattails? And for whom? In an 8,000-word New York Times article asking, “Is Obama the End of Black Politics?,” not one of the dozen politicians interviewed, old guard or new, was a black woman. Donna Edwards, the new African-American House member from Maryland, appeared just as a mention. Unsurprisingly, Michelle Obama's actually pledged to be mom-in-chief if her husband's elected. Here's a hod of bricks. Get out the trowel to wall the women back in.

As a consolation prize, Clinton's scheduled to give a speech the night of August 26, the 88th anniversary of the day women finally won the vote, though it doesn't extend as far as the Democratic Party, which may not give the delegates she won the right to vote for her.

Likewise, Stonewall Democrats trumpet 350 plus queers at the Democratic National Convention, a record number of participants making it onto the floor, while the words “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” or “transgender” have yet to make it into the platform. What we get instead are vague references to fights against discrimination. The platform did condemn the Defense of Marriage Act, though not particularly for its bigotry, but for its potential to divide us Democrats.

The only place the platform seems enthusiastic to have us is in Iraq. “At a time when the military is having a tough time recruiting and retaining troops, it is wrong to deny our country the service of brave, qualified people.” Especially when otherwise you'll be faced with reinstating the unpopular draft.

That's about what you can expect from a party led by Howard Dean. He's an affirmer of heterosexual marriage. Recently, a former DNC employee, Donald Hitchcock, brought suit against him, claiming he was fired from gay outreach after his partner, Paul Yandura, publicly urged gay donors not to give money to Dean's increasingly faith-based Democratic Party.

And just why should we hand over our votes or our cash? Democrats have done very little since they've been in control of Congress. Guantánamo is still going strong. Diplomacy is still nixed in favor of military spending. The Constitution continues to disintegrate in the name of the endless War on Terror. Just a couple of weeks ago, Democratic votes actually helped expand government surveillance powers with FISA. New York Senators Clinton and Schumer voted against. Illinois Senator Obama was one of several Democrats voting for.

Why? To look tough for election 2008 and appeal to all those right-wing voters? If we swallow that, what will his excuse be next? Reelection? Are Democrats never accountable? The standard we set for them is so low it takes a Jules Verne craft diving into the center of the earth to reach it.

Reforming them from the inside has proven nearly impossible, as queer “gains” attest. And outside, the Democrats, as the Republicans, are literally keeping demonstrators as far away as they can. Neither seen nor heard. So instead of focusing on what they might want to demand from Democrats, protesters at the convention will be fighting for their basic right to protest.

This week, meanwhile, Bill Richardson, once in the running for the Obama's VP spot, highlighted the uncertain Democratic grasp of foreign policy by immediately blaming Bush for the Russian invasion of Georgia. Putin apparently never declared the collapse of the Soviet Union, “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” or expressed the desire to restore Russia to its once-dominant role in the region and the world.

If Richardson's any indication for Democrats 2009, they'll be taking the easy road whenever possible, blaming the Republicans, and hoping for the best.