Monday, August 25, 2008

Cruising Caucuses and breaking news of a possible assassination plot

Breaking news from the Denver Post -

Federal authorities have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday afternoon amid reports that a fortunate traffic stop by Aurora Police may have disrupted an assassination attempt against Barack Obama.

KUSA-TV is reporting that two men have been arrested on weapons charges after the traffic stop early Sunday.

The first man, identified by the station as Tharin Gartrell, 28, was charged with suspicion of being a felon in possession of a weapon after police found two rifles, a high-powered scope and methamphetamine in his car after the traffic stop.

There is a press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon; more details as they become available.

Spent the day sitting in on caucus meetings.

First up was the First Americans Caucus, a gathering of Native American Democratic leaders from across the country. This year marked the largest group of participants yet in one of these caucus meetings, which coincides with the growing influence of Indian voters. As DNC Chairman Howard Dean said in his address to the caucus "[t]here are five U.S. Senators who would not be where they are today without Indian Country votes."

Caucus chair Frank Lemere, co-chair Kalyn Free, and the rest of the speakers tended to focus on the need to remember that "all politics is local." In other words, while Indian Country voters are exercising a growing influence nationally, they need to find and elect candidates who can help turn back efforts in various states and localities to undermine tribal sovereignty.

While the "tribal sovereignty" concern was different from what grassroots activists deal with, the need to focus on local races such as school boards, city councils, and the like was not. I was struck by how many of the concerns of Indian voters (ensuring a quality education for their children, health care that's accessible and affordable, clean energy and more) are the same concerns that most Americans have.

While at the meeting, I had the opportunity to speak to Christopher Deschene, an Obama delegate and a candidate for AZ State House in LD2. He's a graduate of the Naval Academy (eventually rising to the rank of major in the USMCR), and has both a law degree and a masters in engineering from ASU. He's currently a practicing attorney. He wants to bring strong leadership and a voice for rural Arizona to the lege. He is also very concerned about the coming budget battle over next year's deficit.

Chris Deschene

Second on the agenda was the Senior Caucus. Led by former Montana Senator John Melcher, the speakers stressed the differences between Barack Obama and John McCain. Mostly the discussion centered on Senator Obama's strong support of both and Social Security and Medicare, and of Senior Americans in general, and McCain's strong and consistent efforts to undermine SS, Medicare, and the economic and health security of those same Senior Americans.

Former Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly, currently the Chair and CEO of The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, spoke passionately, rousing the crowd before summing up simply "Barack Obama will save Social Security."

The third and final caucus meeting that I attended on Monday (there were many more that I couldn't make it to) was the Rural Caucus; actually, the Rural Council of the Democratic National Committee. The meeting got off to a slow start due to some technical difficulties.

The mic on the podium didn't want to work, in many ways mirroring some of the difficulties facing Democrats as they try to communicate their message to Rural Americans.

So naturally they dealt with it the same way in the caucus meeting that they do in the town councils and community meetings in rural areas.

They shouted until the mic was fixed. :)

Guest speakers included Jim Hightower, populist and contemporary of Molly Ivins, and Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America. They were both excellent speakers, though they chose different tacks to put forth their messages.

Hightower used folksy but blunt humor, like his line "the water won't clear up 'til we get the hogs out of the creek" describing efforts to clean up the messes made by the Republicans, or how "John McCain's idea of a farm program is 'Hee-Haw'. "

Roberts was more of a crowd energizer, speaking like life-long union organizer that he is. He spoke with a firey and heartfelt passion, occasionally shouting and pounding his foot on the podium.

If he had been born in another place and time, he'd have been a tent revivalist, and a good one at that.

While they took different approaches to their addresses to the caucus, everything the speakers said led back to the same point - Barack Obama has a plan to protect and nurture Rural America; John McCain only intends to corporatize it (at best!).

It was a bit of a long day (though not as long as a delegate's day :) ; time to finish watching the main show on CSPAN and get ready for tomorrow.


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