To prepare and invigorate Democrats for the upcoming election season, party leaders delivered rousing talks during the annual Franklin Roosevelt-Fannie Lou Hamer dinner. Rocking the house at the Woman’s Club, nestled in Mission Canyon, on Saturday night, April 10, party leaders including Hilda Zacarias, Hillary Blackerby, and Susan Rose—who were honored for their dedication to public service—gave speeches focused on renewing and remembering Democratic platforms, stances, and standards.
Democrats are preparing for battle and looking for change, according to the speakers. They are leaning away from centrist policies which make both parties virtually indistinguishable, and instead adopting a more progressive platform, beginning with support for the controversial health-care reform, which they said provides human rights and is a moral as well as fiscal issue. Quoting sharecropper and voting rights activist Hamer, former California State Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Jackson added, “Nobody likes to pay taxes, but it’s a duty to the public.”
The keynote speaker, Karen Bernal, chair of the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, lamented, “Campaign finance is the means by which a system is gamed,” perpetuating pro-corporate bills. She said that campaigns should not be based on opposition to Republicans—that “Not Republican is not enough.” Bernal urged candidates to remember that they stand for something, and that therein lies their power.
Representative Lois Capps urged Democratic candidates to maintain their integrity during campaign season rather than letting debate degenerate into bipartisan bickering, with issues and public concerns left in the dust. Capps said Democrats will avoid low blows and that their discourse “will be civil and respectful of all.”
Local supporter Marty Shapiro said that he attends such gatherings in order to remain excited and involved with political goings-on which seem so distant and dismal on the television and radio. He said that he “felt galvanized by the event,” and his wife, Marian, said that she was “thrilled.”
Daraka Larimore-Hall, chair of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, said that the biggest challenge is constituent lethargy. Republicans are “energized by the fact of being out of power,” he said, “and are thus organized. We, on the other hand, are lazy [due to having representatives in power]—and if we hold that, we’re screwed.”