TEXAS DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION
The Fight for the Future
of the Democratic Party
by Harley Schlanger
The business-as-usual atmosphere which generally characterizes the race for state chair in the Texas Democratic Party was shattered this year, as an angry insurgency has broken loose in the party. This was reflected in the balloting at the state convention in Fort Worth the weekend of June 10-11, in which a run-off was forced between the "establishment's" choice for chair, Boyd Richie, and former State Rep. Glen Maxey. Driving this insurgency were Lakesha Rogers, a member of the LaRouche Youth Movement (LYM), and Charlie Urbina-Jones, a labor lawyer from San Antonio. While Urbina-Jones fought to make the party both more inclusive, and more combative against the faction of so-called "moderate" Democrats, which has presided over the catastrophic collapse of the party in Texas, it was up to Rogers and the LYM to put the programmatic issues on the table.
It was the combined vote for Urbina-Jones and Rogers in the chair's race which led to a run-off, as neither Maxey nor Richie, the other two candidates, achieved a 50% vote in the first round. Throughout the weekend—and especially in their speeches to the more than 6,000 delegates and alternates to the convention on June 10—Rogers and the LaRouche activists put the party on notice. They insisted that the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) operatives, who have dominated the party in Texas for the last two decades, and have played a crucial role in undermining the party nationally, be booted out, starting with Felix Rohatyn.
Rogers, LaRouche, and the FDR Legacy
Rogers' speech, and those of the three who placed her name in nomination, were well received by the delegates. She introduced herself as a 29-year-old, who has "been a Democrat for the last 29 years!" I started as a precinct chair, she said, and "I've taken on the fight, which is necessary to adopt the principles to take the country back to the ideas and the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt." That FDR legacy and tradition was crucial in building Texas, she said, identifying the late U.S. Sen. Ralph Yarborough and the late Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez as two of the great leaders in that tradition. They understood, she added, "that we have to stand up to the devices of those of Wall Street and the financier interests, those who are now trying to come in and hijack and cripple the Democratic Party. Those like Felix Rohatyn, who want to destroy our party ... who want to make sure that we don't have a nation any longer."
Rogers' speech, which was interrupted frequently by applause, was a stirring call to return to that tradition, and to make the FDR legacy alive again for the voters of Texas. Her call for a policy of outreach especially resonated, as many of the delegates were voicing similar concerns. For example, many of them who are members of the graying Baby Boomer generation, have been asking why there are so few youth involved in the party. There was a crescendo of applause as she described how to address this, to return the Democrats to majority status in Texas: "I want to let you know, I am an organizer. After graduating college, I found that our generation had no future. We're not trained in skilled labor, our productive capabilities are falling! We're losing our labor forces right now."
With the question of what must be done to address this hanging in the air, Rogers continued: "We have to bring labor into discussions of the Democratic Party. We have to bring in the forgotten men and women! Why is it," she pointedly asked, "that we have almost 36 counties [of Texas] not here, represented? We should have made sure that they were here! Why is it that we don't have more young people here? I'm going to bring them in," she declared, to sustained cheering. "Why are we not addressing the needs of our farmers? We have to bring them in, now!" She finished with a rousing call to action: "I am ready to join with you, as your leader.... I'm ready to work with you, to reorganize and change this party, back to the traditions it once represented. I know I'm young; I don't know everything. But you and I, together, will take this party back. We'll take it back to the people, and we'll make sure that we win the fight to take Texas back 'Out of the Bushes and Into the Future!' And we are going to do it without DeLay!
LaRouche Revives FDR vs. Rohatyn
Rogers' speech was the culmination of a two-month organizing drive, which was launched following a discussion between this author and Lyndon LaRouche about how to reignite in the Democratic Party the "spirit of 2005," when Congressional Democrats successfully mobilized to turn Bush into a premature lame duck. That mobilization keyed off LaRouche's exposure of the role of Synarchist banker George Shultz in pushing the hapless Bush to back a Chilean-style privatization of the U.S. Social Security system. Democrats, with the open support of some Republicans, rallied the population to defend Social Security, which had been instituted as part of FDR's New Deal.
This was a major defeat for Shultz's Wall Street pirates. Instead of building on this victory, leading Democrats pulled back in early 2006, putting pragmatism and personal ambition ahead of defending the general welfare. Felix Rohatyn—like his old collaborator Shultz, a Wall Street Synarchist fascist, who came from the same Lazard Frères investment bank which supported the fascist movements in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s—emerged as a leading figure in the Democratic Party, both through his role with the DLC, and as a Wall Street moneybags for candidates who shared his hostility to FDR. Rohatyn, using the DLC as a base of operations, has attempted to sabotage the efforts of LaRouche and his co-thinkers in the party to remove Dick Cheney and the neo-cons from the White House, putting out the line that it is better to leave Cheney in office, to run against him! Rohatyn has simultaneously attacked LaRouche's efforts to pass legislation to save the auto industry's machine-tool sector, working instead as a paid operative for Delphi and General Motors in dismantling the auto industry, outsourcing its jobs while preaching that globalization is unstoppable and good for the country, and that a return to the policies of FDR is unacceptable.
LaRouche said that Rogers' campaign would offer Texas Democrats a rallying point, to go against the DLC subversion of the party. Many Texas Democrats, who had once played a leading role in winning the legislative battles for the New Deal, and who had seen their state develop as a result of such policies, have been thoroughly disgusted by the party's recent submission to the "New Democrats." The so-called New Democrats have been instrumental in destroying the legacy of FDR, with their anti-government, pro-free-trade rhetoric. The growing groundswell against them was intersected by the efforts of Urbina-Jones to turn this year's convention into a referendum.
"Ya basta!"—"enough"—was the rallying cry for those who have had their fill of the "Bush-lite" turn of the Texas Democratic Party. It was in this environment that Lakesha Rogers' campaign provided an additional spark, and served to clarify the reasons why an insurgency was necessary.
Unity Around Principle
The underlying issue, which was voiced by Urbina-Jones, and, to a lesser extent, by Maxey, as well as by a large number of delegates, is that the party has been going in the wrong direction for the last two decades. The party should concentrate on jobs, health care, basic economic issues—the usual Democratic Party "red meat"—but there was a strong response to Rogers' insistence on going beyond the rhetoric. First, it is essential that the allies of Shultz and Cheney be driven out of the Democratic Party. What good is it, she and other LYM members asked, if Cheney were to be removed, but Shultz's longtime collaborator, Rohatyn, remained a leading figure shaping the direction of the party? Secondly, Rogers emphasized that the Democrats must go deeper than seeing the fight as "New Democrat" versus "New Deal."
The real battle is over fundamental principles of economics, understanding the difference, for example, between the foolish "pay as you go" budgetary axioms, and the creation of Federal credit, which FDR used to build infrastructure and create jobs, to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression, and John F. Kennedy did to fund the space program. There were many animated discussions at the Rogers' campaign booth in the exhibition hall, as Democrats stopped to engage in in-depth dialogues with the contingent of LYM members. This battle was made concrete by the circulation of the LaRouche PAC "White Paper" on Rohatyn's role in dismantling U.S. industry (see EIR, June 16, 2006), which was grabbed by delegates, along with LaRouche's Emergency Recovery Act of 2006.
This programmatic perspective was reflected by a number of the speakers, with many calling for policies for the "common good" and the "general welfare," and repeated references to FDR. Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, invoked John F. Kennedy and the Moon mission as an example of the kind of policies needed today, to inspire a new generation. The additional factor, which represented a real change at this year's convention, was the growing recognition that LaRouche has been right, about the economy, and about the Democratic Party. There were many who stopped at the Rogers' booth to talk about past run-ins with LaRouche, to say that they met LaRouche at a meeting, or a conference, or remembered him from his address to the state convention in 1980.
His involvement in the party was referenced by former chair, Bob Slagle, who silenced a few hecklers when LYM member Natalie Lovegren nominated Rogers. Slagle, who served as the chairman of the convention, insisted that the party respect the rights of LaRouche and his presence at the convention. His statement was met with applause, and the response from the delegates, from then on, to Rogers and her supporters, was quite enthusiastic. One leading Democrat remarked that LaRouche had been right in the 1980s, when he warned of the danger of fascism in America. "We didn't acknowledge him then, but now, it is clear. People are hurting. We need his voice."
Another senior Democrat was more succinct. In speaking of the highly visible presence of Rogers and the LYM, he said, "LaRouche is back, bigger than ever." The convention ended on a high note. While Boyd Richey was elected chairman on the second ballot, he ended the convention saying that he has gotten the message, and that he intends to work with Maxey, Urbina-Jones, and Rogers. In a post-conference letter he sent out widely, he wrote, "I also want to thank Glen Maxey, Charlie Urbina-Jones and Lakesha Rogers—for running constructive campaigns that emphasized your ideas about how we can improve our Party. I look forward to working with you as we strive to ... turn out the winning margin in November."
Rogers replied immediately, pledging that she and the LYM, and Lyndon LaRouche, are ready to take on that task.