Ron and I posted quite a bit of news coverage of John Kerry’s speech to the DLCC on Friday, August 19th (news coverage here and here). Some of our readers expressed they would like to read the speech. I’ve just received a copy from his KeepingAmericasPromise PAC…
Seattle, Washington – Senator John Kerry addressed the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee at its Annual Luncheon today. Kerry was greeted enthusiastically by the crowd of more than 700 in the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Seattle. His speech focused on the importance of state and local elections to the Democratic Party.
The DLCC is made up of Democratic state legislators from around the country who are committed to the goal of winning and maintaining state legislative chambers. The group’s most recent successes include Oklahoma, Washington and New Hampshire.
The complete text of John Kerry’s speech to the DLCC, as prepared for delivery, follows:
“It’s great to be sharing thoughts with a group of public people who really know what the front lines are like. Thank you for the privilege of being here. I can’t thank you enough for your extraordinary efforts to help Teresa and me these last years. You showed guts and you sacrificed. You did everything: opened your living rooms – worked phone banks – raised money – knocked on doors – built crowds. You campaigned in your districts, states and in some cases across the country. You did everything, except move to Ohio.
“And while we came up short and that’s frustrating for all of us – the upside of what we did together should encourage everyone. Together, Democrats united to run the strongest grassroots campaign the party has seen for generations. We involved more volunteers in cities, towns and precincts across the country than any modern democratic effort.
“Up and down the ticket we won seats across the country – Chambers in New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont and other states – Democratic Governor in Montana, in New Hampshire, and here in Washington state, where we beat George Bush and elected a fantastic Democratic Governor, Christine Gregoire.
“And the reason we did this is because you and a lot of others came together and led in your communities, making grassroots work. But that’s not enough. Here’s the simple reality: we have to build on our work last year and create a sustainable grassroots organization for the Democratic Party across the country. Most important, we have to get our grassroots even better and we have to fight even harder for what we believe in. The last thing America needs is a second Republican party.
“Frankly, you know this better than anyone because you hear the concerns of your constituents more intensely and repeatedly than Washington. Unlike any other time in all my years in public life, America’s future is being hijacked by politicians whose interest in exercising power, pursuing a narrow ideological agenda, winning elections and helping their friends takes precedence over any legitimate effort to solve real problems and offer an honest vision for the future.
“How else do you explain that throughout America basic demands crying out to be addressed are not even being talked about? It’s stunning.
“You are all struggling with federal mandates on education and despite all the rhetoric – despite the competition from other countries – China and India turning out hundreds of thousands more engineers – despite the desperate need for a skilled workforce in America, No Child Left Behind remains consistently underfunded. That’s not responsible. It’s short-sighted, and it’s stripping America of its economic future.
“Across America children are denied a clean environment. In 44% of America’s lakes rivers, and bays kids today can’t swim or fish. In 28 states you can’t even eat what you catch.
“Maybe worst of all, a shocking level of dishonesty has corrupted the public discourse – such as it is – and it does a disservice to the values and principles our troops fight for in Iraq.
“The EPA issues reports with scientific facts altered or eliminated. A Medicare actuary is forced to lie to Congress and fudge the numbers to keep his job. Our nation actually goes to war on false pretenses and now is offered its third rationale for young men and women dying and killing. The President’s top advisor leaks the identity of covert operatives for personal political gain.
“Every one of you knows there is a more responsible way to govern America. Every one of you knows we can do better than this. You’ve proven it in legislatures across the country.
“In California where you led on auto emissions. In Massachusetts and Illinois where you led on children’s healthcare. In Kentucky, where a democratic bill recently authorized the first electronic medical records system.
“Year after year, you run tough races, going door to door, town meeting to town meeting, and then you go into session and are forced to spend too much time cleaning up a mess of Washington’s making. Instead of deciding who to help, you’re forced to decide who to cut. And the fact is none of us ran for office just to stop bad things from happening.
“I remember when I served as Lt .Governor. I saw first hand an alternative, better way to govern, where federal and local government work together to help people. Back then we had 90% of federal – 10% state match for water treatment partnerships. States could never have done on their own what we achieved for our citizens.
“In 1994, I helped lead the fight to bring down the crime rates in communities across America by putting more cops on the street. The 100,000 cops we put into communities reduced crime – raised the standard of living. Today, there is no partnership on water treatment facilities. The cops program is being cut – along with after-school programs and Medicaid health care for children. They’re even passing a budget that could kick 120,000 children out of key Head Start programs by 2010.
“Their strategy is: shift as much of the burden as we can to the states; pass as many unfunded mandates as we can we get away with; strain state budgets as far as possible before they bust.
“It comes down to this: the people who run Washington have completely lost touch with the real mainstream values and priorities of the American people.
“Forces outside the mainstream now seem to effortlessly push Republican leaders toward conduct the American people don’t want from their elected leaders: Abusing power. Inserting the government into our private lives. Injecting religion into debates about public policy. Ignoring the real problems that keep American families up at night – the real consequences of this narrow, ideological agenda in Washington.
“The constituents who can no longer afford the gas to drive to the pharmacy to buy the drugs they can no longer afford. The teachers and parents who were promised federal funding for their schools but never got it. The veterans returning from the front lines to find their healthcare under-funded by $1 billion at VA due to incompetence in Washington. Those are your realities.
“You deal with the military families struggling to get body armor to their loved ones, struggling to pay the bills, struggling to get a straight answer from this Administration on an honest, realistic plan for success in Iraq. Our troops deserve all the support in the world, and they get it from the American people. But I’ll tell you, what they really deserve, above all else, is civilian leadership that is equal to their sacrifice, and tells the truth to the American people.
“And Republican leaders today have the nerve to couch their failure in the language of values. As though somehow it makes up for their failed leadership. As though somehow we’re supposed to believe their values actually represent the people. As though for some reason we should be defensive. Well, let me tell you, I don’t think we should be defensive. We should welcome a debate on values because we’ll win it.
“Let’s talk about the values of the Republican Party in terms of the real life consequences to the working people who line up outside our offices. Whose values are represented when Republicans give tax cuts to millionaires instead of healthcare to children? Whose values are represented when oil companies get huge giveaways, but America gets no hope of energy independence?
“Let me tell you, those aren’t American values, and there’s no definition of patriotism and no religion that comes close to justifying these values choices, which have such devastating consequences for our constituents. Their values are the values of power, not of the American people. And I’ll put our values against there’s any time.
“So what are we going to do? Very simple. We have to pick up where we left off in 2004, realizing that where we did organize – where we did grassroots mobilization – where we took the truth out into the community – we won.
“What we must do is re-create accountability through the political process the way you have been doing it in the DLCC.
“The time has come for the President to get it right in Iraq and to start to do right by our veterans coming home from war.
“America is starting to demand some answers from their Commander in Chief about what is happening in Iraq and why our veterans and military families are struggling to get the help they deserve when they come home.
“It’s not just politicians raising concerns which the President and Washington Republicans can try and brush off as partisan – it is parents – all over the country.
“The Administration has some important opportunities to show leadership in coming days and to provide answers to the American people –when they speak to the VFW and travel the country – before they return to Washington. It is an accountability moment and they need to provide answers. They have been avoiding accountability for months.
“The truth is you have more accountability locally than federal officials do. Nationally, legislators have been able to fake it. They can vote directly against constituent interests, and most people don’t have a clue because they don’t have time to follow it, and what they do get is camouflaged by special interest advertising and shortened, superficial and yes – even biased news coverage.
“Our mission now is literally to organize at the local level like never before to help you win your races. We need to listen to your advice about what your community wants.
“We have to do what we did in the 1970’s when people got tired of seeing the Cuyhoga River light on fire. On one great day 20 million Americans marched all across this land. Politicians had no choice but to take notice. Eventually 12 congressmen were labeled the Dirty Dozen, and soon after seven of those dozen congressmen who voted against common sense were kicked out of office by the voters. The floodgates were opened. We got the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection, Clean Drinking Water, and Coastal Zone Management. We created the EPA. The quality of life in America improved because 20 million concerned citizens made their issues matter in elections.
“And we all have to remember a little bit of history. Women wouldn’t have gained the right to vote if they hadn’t fought for it. No one gave blacks civil rights out of the goodness of their hearts – they demanded it. Remember, most great change has happened through the grassroots, at the local level, when Americans made their issues the voting issues of this nation. That’s why your organization is so important.
“Frankly, I think every Democrat in Washington needs to pay more attention to what you all have done at the DLCC. The fight to take back our country starts in local races. And the way to strengthen this party and win across America is to realize the power of the grassroots. We can do this by supporting you and investing in state parties and local organizing efforts. That’s the key to building the grassroots organizing capacity of our party to connect citizens to local and national debates so we can win them.
“You have proven that you can win the tough races. If they’re smart, other Democratic campaign organizations will learn from you. Under your watch, we gained control of 10 chambers, including red states like Colorado, Montana and North Dakota. I think that’s incredibly impressive.
“And let’s be honest about what’s at stake here. Karl Rove has been concentrating on state legislative races for years because of one word: redistricting. Twenty of 36 states where legislatures control redistricting are within four votes of changing hands. If we ever want to win back a sustained majority, our commitment must match and exceed Republicans’ incredible commitment to state legislative races.
“The DLCC is winning races where other Democrats aren’t coming close. If we improve communications, and win the key redistricting battles, and support the state parties, and build the grassroots – we will set up our entire party to have the success you’re already having.
“Every voter I’ve talked to recently, Republican and Democrat and Independent, is ready to listen. The Republicans have been exposed for being dishonest and not doing the people’s business. We have all the ammunition we need to be successful in 2006.
“You know, I recently visited some of the sites from Lewis and Clark’s epic journey across America. Those two men were blessed with vision and courage, two gifts we all admire, and two gifts which so powerfully capture the spirit of the American people. Teddy Roosevelt showed that courage when he stood up to the corporate giants. Thomas Jefferson showed that vision with the Louisiana Purchase. Abraham Lincoln showed it all when he saved our nation.
“Today, courage and vision are nowhere to be found in Washington, but we cannot allow Washington to rob our generation of this great American legacy. That’s why we have to focus on the grassroots, and welcome the debate on values, and fight for every seat up and down every ticket – because together we’re going to restore courage and vision in America’s leadership. And we’re going to win a lot of elections. I look forward to fighting with you.”
Paid for by Keeping America’s Promise, Inc.