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Party nominee may be set, but Oregon Democrats still have a voice.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Jaelle Dragomir For The Register-Guard

It is difficult to quarrel with many of the facts and observations in The Register-Guard's May 2 editorial, which rightly notes that, even though the voting here comes late, "Oregon's May 18 primary still has relevance. Oregon Democrats will communicate a message... ."

Unfortunately, the editorial then takes readers along a meandering path where logic, facts and arguments continually stray in opposite and contradictory directions. It concludes by giving them one choice: Rubber-stamp the decisions of Democratic voters in other states and support the party's presumptive nominee, Sen. John Kerry.

If Oregon's Democratic voters feel insulted or dismissed by that kind of advice, it would not be surprising. What would be surprising is if voters sheepishly took that advice and failed to seize the power to change the direction of the Democratic Party. That opportunity is represented by the last remaining Democratic challenger: Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

The Register-Guard acknowledges that "there is a difference between these two Democrats," and goes on at length to explain them: "Kucinich favors single-payer health insurance, wants to terminate multilateral trade agreements such as NAFTA and favors a military withdrawal from Iraq. To people who support those positions, Kerry looks like Bush lite: he supports only incremental changes in the health care system, is a committed free-trader and believes the U.S. must stay in Iraq until security responsibilities can be internationalized."

The editorial goes further, conceding that Kucinich appeals to Oregon Democrats who feel that the party is too "centrist," who want the party to take "a more ambitious agenda into the fall campaign against President George Bush," and who think the front-running campaign has been unimpressive. Some want a chance "to stir things up" by voting for Kucinich.

Excellent observations. These are the very reasons Kucinich has continued to fight a long and uphill battle through state after state, outlasting every other candidate except one, carrying the same, consistent message from Oregon to Florida to Maine. The Democratic Party - his party - will be stronger in November and better positioned to win if it has the courage to stand for something more substantive, more inspiring and more hopeful than "not Bush."

The Democratic Party, Kucinich argues, should stand for peace, not for war and a never-ending foreign occupation that costs more lives every week. It should stand for health care for all, not for modest tinkering with a system controlled by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and their corporate colleagues. It should stand for individual freedoms and civil and human rights, not for laws like the so-called USA Patriot Act that trample on those rights. It should stand for social and economic justice and full employment, not for corporate-sponsored trade agreements that put millions of Americans out of work, force families into poverty, and enslave and oppress workers in other nations.

The editorial argues that it is too late for Democratic voters to express "buyers' remorse." The Democratic Party, says the newspaper, "has already cast its lot, for better or for worse." Many of us, here in Oregon and all across this country, respectfully but strongly disagree.

Oregon voters haven't "bought" anything yet. The Democratic campaign has not yet even begun in Oregon, and the platform has yet be written. Party leaders have not ventured here to talk with voters, listen to them, or answer their questions. Why should voters base the most important political decision of the year thus far on a few television ads that represent nothing more than long-distance, remote-control attention to this state?

Kucinich has been here, time and again, in city after city, addressing the tough issues and answering the tough questions. He has praised the people of this state for their independence, their progressive views, and their pioneering spirit. He has shown Oregonians the respect they deserve as they prepare to make a decision that will affect not just our nation, but our world.

With the primary election less than two weeks away, Oregon has the opportunity to be the conscience of the Democratic Party. Voters can cast their ballots based on what they believe by voting for a candidate who believes those same things.

"No one in New York City or Washington, D.C., will pay much attention to the results of the Oregon Democratic primary ... if the presumptive nominee wins," the editorial concludes. Not true. Every vote will count. And every vote will be noticed. Now, more than ever.

Jaelle Dragomir of Portland is Oregon director of the Dennis Kucinich for President Campaign.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:May 6, 2004
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