Last weekend your fearless reporter was a first time delegate at the 2006 Maine Democratic Party Convention in Augusta.
Before I describe the problem, it was a SPIRITED, COMMITTED, EXCITED group of Americans.
We are determined to throw the rascals out.Â AndÂ may do it.
Great to be with them.
With ONE GLARING OMISSION the leadership was focused, generally not long winded, factual and inspiring.Â Thatâ€™s pretty good, really.Â
Conventions canÂ punish oneâ€™s sitting apparatus and mental alertness.Â The leaders pretty much kept us jumping up to applaud and agreeing with their rhetoric.
We have two excellent challengers for Senator Olympia Snow, probably very difficult to defeat.Â Â But either one of these two would be a great senator — Jean Hay Bright and Eric Mehnert.
We heard from party officials, Governor Baldacci, and other elected folk.Â The attorney general was magnificent.Â He is the dedicated enemy of injusice.Â (With one glaring omission.)
Senator Russell Feingold gave passionate, short, punchy reviews of what America needs to clean up the Republican mess â€“ and also significant Democratic achievements.Â (Same glaring omission.)Â However, I would vote for him for president.Â Â He may be too decent to get elected though.
So what did they do WRONG?
They forgot Abigail Adams once again.Â It is the American way.Â The way of the world.Â We are good at forgetting.
She wrote to her beloved John when he was putting together our nation, â€œRemember the ladies.â€Â He didnâ€™t.Â After just barely giving women the vote, America hasnâ€™t remembered much at allÂ
Very, very few speakers at the convention even mentioned WOMEN for heavenâ€™s sake!Â Not even mentioned.
Where was Laura Fortman, the dynamic head of the Maine Department of Labor?Â I donâ€™t believe she spoke.Â She or one of her excellent team could have electrified the convention.Â Moved us to anger and action to correct the FORGOTTEN 51% of Americans.Â (And the children they care for â€“ maybe another 20% of the population.)
One would think that a problem for 70% of Americans would get major attention at a wide awake political convention.Â
Earlier this year I had an exciting conversation with Ms. Fortman and some of her assistants about the ways in which women were still second class citizens.Â For instance womenâ€™s wages are about 25% less than for a man doing the same work.
Boy did I get my ears pinned back when I raised the question at the Hancock County Caucus after lunch.Â
It went this way.
About 75 good neighbors of mine from Hancock County were sitting idly while the votes were being counted for our representatives to the state Maine DemocraticÂ Committee. Â I raised my hand and asked if I could ask a question.Â The chair said OK.Â I said that I was a first time delegate, really impressed with what was happening.Â Grateful to be there.Â However I was concerned that I had not heard the men who were speaking raise the issue of injustice to women.Â I did not know what was in the platform.Â (Ordinary deleages do not have copies of the platform — we only vote on it.)
The chair deflected my question.Â He explained the fascinating history of the platform over the last few years.Â We could revise . . . etc etc etc.Â I heard a lot about platform and ZERO about women from the chair.
Then an amiable man who clearly has worked hard for the party kindly explained to me how I could propose anything I wanted for the next platform. I would go to the County platform committee and . . . etc etc etc.Â He explainedÂ how to get something into the platformÂ in greatÂ detail.
I thanked him but said that my question had not been answered.Â I said, â€œNobody is talking about WOMEN, the injustices they suffer.Â I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Fortman, Maineâ€™s Secretary of Labor and some of her staff.Â They showed me the deep injustices to women in Maine (and in America.)Â Why werenâ€™t WOMEN even mentioned here today?â€
A woman said to me, â€œThe Governorâ€™s wife mentioned womenâ€™s issues.â€
GettingÂ hot under the collar I said, â€œIf womenâ€™s issues can only be mentioned by women, then we have sent women back to the THE WOMENâ€™S AUXILIARY!Â We are taking the issue and saying â€˜The hell with it.â€™â€
A man near me objected to my language.
The chair was relieved to report that the counting was done.Â As it turned out we had elected two excellent women and an equally first rate man. All three will be a good influence on Maine Democrats and harass the Republicans.Â The meeting ajourned.
As I left I tried to reach the woman who had mentioned the Governorâ€™s wife to see if we could get a cup of coffee and talk it over, but I missed her.
That wasnâ€™t the end of it.
During the afternoon, I wandered around the hall, looked at the various booths and bought 10 bumper stickers, CLINTON LIED & NOBODY DIED.Â At different times during the afternoon three different women came up to me out of the blue.Â I didn’t know them from Abigail Adams.Â It was easy to find me with my bright red wind breaker.Â Each one took my hand and said something like, â€œI am so glad you raised that issue.Â Nobody else did.Â Thank you very much.â€
Hey, Democrats, WOMEN are no fools.Â They know they are getting a bad deal.Â If we Democrats want to improve American â€“ why not remember the ladies?
If we Democrats want to win elections â€“ why not remember the 70%?
If simple justice matters â€“ why not . . . etc.