Democrats’ platform debate runs out of time |

Democrats’ platform debate runs out of time

by geoff dornan

LAS VEGAS – With the time to act fast running out, the Democratic Party Convention bogged down Sunday in disputes over the platform.

The platform committee recommended holding the platform debate until August’s central committee meeting in Tonopah. But after it was pointed out that that is later than the July National Party convention in Boston, the delegates who hadn’t already left town voted to try complete the statement of party positions. They were told the meeting would end at 1 p.m. because, after that, Riviera Hotel had another convention booked there.

But as noon approached, individual delegates held action on the first eight of more than 300 planks – all dealing with reproductive freedom of choice.

In all, half the 31 planks in the first section of the draft platform — dealing with civil rights – were held for objections by different delegates.

Other controversial planks dealt with access to medical care for undocumented aliens and their children’s access to schools.

Several other planks received applause, including one calling for repealing the Patriot Act, opposing the Bush administration’s “faith-based initiatives” as a threat to the First Amendment, and supporting the right of those in civil unions – including same sex unions – to get privileges, including insurance, inheritance and making medical decisions.

As time ran out, the convention had only gotten halfway through the 38- page document. Delegate John Cahill finally moved to accept everything completed up to that point and to approve the rest of the document as printed in order to finish the platform.

The vast majority agreed, despite complaints from a vocal minority that many items toward the end of the platform hadn’t been fully discussed by the platform committee – which also ran out of time.

Myram Borders, co-chairwoman of the platform committee, said tit didn’t even get to the Infrastructure section, three-quarters of the way through the draft platform brought to the committee Friday. But earlier she had said that draft was created by putting together the 17 different county platforms which were approved and sent to the state.

While several delegates said they were outraged by not getting to debate all the planks, longtime party official and veteran political activist Harriet Trudell said it wasn’t unique.

“I’ve been coming a long time, and we’ve never finished one,” she said. “So if you’re outraged, it’s because you’ve never been here before.”

The convention adjourned just after 1 p.m. with a vote that, before the next state convention, the platform be prepared for delegates a full week in advance.

Included is a plank calling for the impeachment of President Bush “for lying to Congress and the American public about the reasons for invading Iraq.” That plank was suggested Friday by state Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas. He said it would let Congress get to the bottom of the controversy over the difference between what the administration knew and what it told Congress and the public to support the invasion. He said President Clinton was impeached for lying to Congress, and the same treatment is appropriate for Bush.

Bruce Mason of Las Vegas held most of the planks supporting freedom of choice, including one that would add the right of reproductive freedom to the Constitution.

“I am a pro-life Democrat,” he said, arguing there is a significant percentage of Democrats like him. He asked that the planks be deleted as divisive to the party.

The vast majority agreed with a female delegate who said, “For a man to be standing up there and telling me what to do with my body is outrageous.”

The comment drew loud applause from the women delegates.

Before the platform reached the floor, the committee removed a contentious plank to remove the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Several elected officials told the platform committee that was a no-win issue and shouldn’t be in the document.

One by one, those planks, including to add reproductive rights to the U.S. Constitution, were approved.

The platform called for reinstatement of usury laws to protect Nevadans from “predatory loan practices” – a reference to loan centers across the state which often charge several hundred percent interest rates for instant loans to people in trouble.

It supports limiting monopoly media ownership and ownership of both print and broadcast outlets by a single business in a market.

It urges a halt to legislative interference with judicial sentencing – but simultaneously supports maximum penalties for criminals convicted of violent offenses.

It urges the immediate transfer of Guantanamo “detainees” to the criminal court system, where they would be afforded full due-process rights.

It supports requiring that all parts and equipment for the military be manufactured in the United states.

It calls for the repeal of Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. School districts say the act will cost them more than $100 million because it doesn’t pay for the mandates it imposes. Others have objected to federal interference in local control over public education.

It opposes banning state and other public employees from running for Legislative office, but supports banning lobbyists from the floor of the Legislature.

It opposes creation of a nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain and supports research into other ways of disposing of reactor and weapons waste. It also supports ending government funding of existing nuclear plants and decommissioning of plants with safety problems.

It supports efforts to protect and preserve natural areas, including Lake Tahoe, the Truckee and Carson rivers.

It opposes privatization of Social Security and the protection of that system and Medicare.

It demands that members of Congress be governed by the laws they enact and bars them from exempting themselves – including a requirement that they participate in Social Security, rather than their own retirement program.

It calls for development of universal, national health care.