BOSTON -- The Boston Social Forum was a weekend of open discussions about militarism, genetically altered foods, truth in politics, healthcare, and many other issues. Sean Donahue, media contact of the Boston Social Forum, estimated a $200,000 price tag for the weekend event.
By contrast, the Democratic National Convention has an estimated cost of about $95 million -- according to the Campaign Finance Institute -- half will be footed by city, state, and federal taxes. The Convention is a closed forum. It is a strategic, televised presentation of a party platform to the American people. Because there is no discussion of the issues at the Convention the press covers the horse race: how the party is presenting those issues as opposed to their validity. The platform of the Democratic party either skips the topics so passionately discussed at the Social Forum or modifies them due to what many would call, 'political realities' and what others would call, 'corporate interests.'
While one in eight Americans are under the poverty line and one in ten Americans do not have health insurance, at this convention -- reports Broadcasting and Cable, a trade publication -- 'Independent party planners will throw nearly 50 blowouts costing $100,000 or more each.'
This is not merely grotesque because of the amount of money involved, it is outrageous because the money is an investment that will likely pay off. It is no wonder the Democratic Party Platform does not include a call for universal healthcare. If the 40 million uninsured Americans could throw a $100,000 party or pay $1,000 to have dinner with John Kerry then maybe things would be different. As is, money for these events has purchased access for corporate donors and business fat cats.
Thousands of young democrats got a primer on moneyed access Sunday night at what was supposed to be one of the hottest tickets in town: The Jumpoff, organized by Rock the Vote and Democratic Gain.
As hundreds of passionate, excited young democrats from around the country stood outside the club -- well over a thousand did not get in -- those lucky enough to be inside ended up waiting hours for a chance to see the headliners of the event: Bill and Hillary Clinton.
After chanting, 'we want Bill,' to an empty stage for more than an hour, Lauryn Hill, an unannounced young popular singer came on stage to cheers and told everyone to quiet down, saying, 'Listen to the lyrics, listen,' and sang a song about how politicians will always let you down. Moments after she left someone went to the microphone and said Bill wasn't coming because of scheduling conflicts, he didn't mention that the conflict was a thousand-dollar-a-plate fundraiser.
Across the street, John Kerry was getting nationally televised face time during a surprise appearance at a Boston Red Sox game. He threw out the first pitch. It was no surprise that it came up short -- hitting the ground in front of the plate.
Unfortunately, taxpayers are billed for keeping our politicians safe from the poor, the uninsured, and the passionate youth. This is because their access to political voice is through marching and demonstrating. The $95 million for the convention wasn't just for computers, telephones, chairs, and rental space, it has also helped purchase the elimination of dissent: a protest cage with razor wire, f-14 overflights, thousands of police, and the added feeling of security that comes with seeing military police wielding automatic weapons as you enter the Fleet Center, where the convention is taking place.
On the first day of the Boston Social Forum, Dennis Brutus, an anti-apartheid activist who broke stones on Robin Island with Nelson Mandela -- while serving time as a political prisoner -- spoke about the 'free speech zone.' 'The real danger is, if they can get away with it here, they can get away with it anywhere,' he said. This morning, Michael Moore also commented on the protest pens as he walked around the floor of the Fleet Center, saying: 'They're bad.'
With this ultra-contentious election gaining steam, the left has been coming together behind a candidate that few truly believe in. The divisions between delegates and Kerry run deep. A recent Boston Globe poll shows that 95 percent of the delegates now oppose the war in Iraq and 63 percent want all troops out within two years. Kerry originally supported the war and now questions the way Bush has handled it. However, he hasn't taken a strong position.
As a protester with Veterans for Peace said, 'I will vote for Kerry but he doesn't have my full support even though he's a vet. He's not talkin' like one lately.'
The rallying point is therefore a difference over Bush's policies as opposed to passionate support of Kerry's positions. Thus, the convention often seems like more of an anti-Bush rally than a pro-Kerry convention.
This is not a winning formula, but enough people are angry with Bush that it likely won't matter. America, and the world, will be better off when John Kerry wins the election in November. But we cannot fool ourselves into believing that the corridors of power will be closed to those with money, just a little less so than with Bush.
Read moreUtne.com Democratic National Convention coverage
Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor
Like this? Want more? Subscribe to Utne magazine