Democrats Prepare For 2008 Presidential Campaign
Democrats Prepare for 2008 Presidential Campaign
Barely a month before important state party caucuses begin in the new year, Democrats from around the country converged near Washington for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) fall general session. This was the last such meeting of Democrats before early caucuses signal who the likely Democratic and Republican 2008 presidential nominees will be.
Candidates courted a diverse set of voters at the Vienna, Virginia, session, giving speeches and meeting privately with delegates. State party officers mingled with staunch supporters of the candidates and with those who still are undecided.
"I think this is a wonderful event. It gives all of the DNC members one last chance to hear the candidates when we are all together as a committee," Kansas Democratic Party Vice-Chair Teresa Krusor said. "It's very important for those who are not committed" like herself, she said, adding that "a lot of things can come up in the remaining months that may change a person's mind."
Krusor, a party worker for 18 years, said her service is a way to contribute: "My choice is politics ... to get the right message out in our state and all across the country."
Matt Munsey, a 29-year-old open source software developer who worked for candidates in the 2007 Virginia election, where Democrats regained control of in the state legislature, also is uncommitted. "Today, I had a chance to see a number of presidential candidates speak," he said. "I wanted to be able to experience that."
"The people we elect are the people who represent us," he said, "and if we don't get involved, then we can't expect to have people who will actually represent us well. We need people that will set good policies that work for us, that really get things done. The fewer people who are involved, the more skewed representation we're going to get." Munsey said he leans toward supporting Barack Obama.
Obama's vocal group of supporters gave enthusiastic whoops during his speech and afterwards, when he met them in a room overflowing with backers. "He relates to the common person," attendee Renee Drayton said, and works "so we all can have equality together, because, like he said, it takes one person to stand up and then you get more to come along."
Supporter Pamela Edwards said of Obama: "He's enthusiastic. He's sincere."
Sincerity is why labor union officer Richard Hampton backs John Edwards. Hampton said Edwards is the most labor-friendly candidate. Political involvement is second nature to a union man: "You can't have the attitude somebody else will do it," Hampton said. The 1,800 members of Communications Workers of America Local 2222 rely on him. When bosses give his people trouble, he said, "it's my job to make sure the right thing happens." He said he wants a president who can get America out of its "major problems."
Students are essential in any political campaign. They volunteer to canvass neighborhoods, work the telephones and fill personnel gaps. Tara Malik, a government major at Cornell University in New York state, was assisting delegates at the meeting room door. She is doing a semester internship with the DNC. "I've been listening to the candidates," she said. "I'm definitely a Democrat." Malik said she still is deciding whom to support, and wants someone who will restore America's good image abroad. She wants to return to Washington and work in politics after graduation.
Kyong Lee, a Korean studying at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was in the midst of Hillary Clinton supporters. She said she was there to find out how campaigns work -- and because she likes Clinton. Lee, who will return to South Korea after she graduates, said, "American politics has a great impact in Korean politics as well, so I would like to see what happens."
Anita Sochi-Torres, a Clinton backer, said, "It's an incredibly important time and there's a new wave, and it's great to have the opportunity to participate." She thinks Clinton "promotes change and has the experience." She added that she came because "it's my obligation to be as informed as possible."
Ohio State legislator and state Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern's political career began as a student, when he "got mad" at Ronald Reagan's policies. "It doesn't help standing outside yelling; you might as well try and get in the fray," he said. "[Politics] is not a spectator sport."
"Here we are in a suburb of Washington, and a man or a woman who just worked the day shift can come in and listen to, perhaps, the next president of the United States. ... Everyone in America can get involved, whether Republican or Democrat." Redfern adds, "As Americans, I think it's our duty."