Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Little Resolution That Could

Normally, Nevada State Democratic Party Central Committee meetings are not exciting. There are no conspiracy theories. There are no endorsement hijinks. And there are no ideological "purity" battles that are part of a larger intra-party civil war.

No, Nevada Democrats typically don't have to worry about that kind of drama. But yesterday, something interesting happened. An uprising occurred. A grassroots movement was heard. And once the voting was done, something surprisingly wound up with the party's seal of approval.

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Yesterday, the state party had a resolution to vote on. And it wasn't just any resolution. This was to have the party formally endorse The Education Initiative (TEI).

Oh, yes. That's right. The party was confronted with the very initiative most state legislators didn't want to confront at all.

But yesterday, everyone at Central Committee had to confront reality. And the one & only Dan Hart (from the TEI campaign) showed up to start the reality check.

He attempted a "pre-buttal" of opponents' arguments that TEI is some "job killing TAX!!!" and/or "flawed measure" that's "poorly designed". If the "low tax/no tax" official mantra of this state really works in creating jobs and building a good economy, then why isn't it working? And if TEI is such a "flawed measure", then why has no one else offered a realistic alternative tax plan?

And that returned the audience's attention to the other elephant in the room: the many broken promises of tax reform. Some opponents of the resolution even seemed to agree with TEI supporters that public education is "grossly underfunded" in this state. But then, they pivoted to argue that TEI is somehow "fatally flawed" and/or "job killing" and/or "too divisive for the party to take sides on". And some suggested that we just nip this inconvenient initiative in the bud so Carson City can have a chance to get it right next time.

And that's when the fireworks really blasted off. Local parent Erin Neff reminded the audience of what's happened every time we left this to Carson City. (Here's a hint: Nothing.) She also called on the Democrats in the room to remember their party's spirit of social justice & platform of progressive values.

Throughout the day, opponents of the pro-TEI resolution tried just about every parliamentary tactic available to sink it. They asked to delay the vote until the June (state party) convention because "we need more information". They called for a vote to move it to the platform committee so it can be "considered there" until the June convention. They even attempted to nullify the results when their motion to move the TEI resolution to the platform committee narrowly failed.

Despite all the attempts to manipulate Robert's Rules of Order into killing the pro-TEI resolution, education activists refused to relent. Even as the Central Committee meeting dragged on and people were becoming frustrated & exhausted, activists managed to keep enough members in the room to defeat all the hostile amendments and motions. And finally, local teacher Lisa Muntean channeled her inner "Norma Rae" and made a compelling, passionate case for the resolution (and for TEI).

Needless to say, it worked. After a dragged out battle over Skype spanning from the IBEW 357 union hall in Las Vegas to the Washoe County Democratic Party headquarters in Reno, the Nevada State Democratic Party Central Committee voted 92-78 to endorse TEI. Despite all the big money and numerous parliamentary maneuvers used to stop this little resolution that could, it nonetheless passed.

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And now, the Nevada State Democratic Party is on record supporting a ballot initiative based on a tax reform plan that Democratic leaders in Carson City proposed less than three years ago. And it's a plan that's far from "extreme". And it's only going to voters this year because a critical mass of citizens finally became sick & tired of the status quo in Carson City.

It remains to be seen where this little resolution that could will go next. Perhaps it will give hope to the little ballot initiative that could? At the very least, it's reminding Nevada Democrats that a little excitement at Central Committee meetings isn't always a bad thing.

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