Saturday, November 17, 2007

John Hanna melts down in the happiest place on earth

I'm completely shocked at the turn of events at the California Democratic Party Executive Committee meeting in Anaheim today. The following is from Julia Rosen of the Courage Campaign, explaining what happened when she and Eden James carried a sign into the room that indicated the number of people (over 30K) who are demanding the censure of Dianne Feinstein over her recent voting record.
I entered the California Democratic Party Resolutions Committee meeting room with Eden James, Courage Campaign's Managing Director, bearing our sign and easel. We found a free space at the front of the room and set up the sign.

Almost immediately, Resolutions Chair John Hanna approached us, demanding that we remove the sign. Eden politely asked if there "was a rule" against signs in the meeting rooms. Hanna replied "yes."

Kathy Bowler, CDP Executive Director, then calmly approached me, stating that the sign should be removed because the room was getting full and she had staff she needed to get into the room.

John then grabbed ahold of one side of the sign, attempting to remove it from Eden's hands. Eden, maintaining his hold on to the other side, repeated the question to John about whether a rule existed against signs inside the meeting room. John said "yes"again and Eden asked to see the rule, saying that if there was an actual rule against signs inside the room -- he would respect it.

Increasingly angry, John threatened to call security. Eden, surprised, calmly responded that John "should go ahead if that's what you want to do."

Suddenly, Hanna then shoved his side of the sign and Eden at the same time, forcibly pushing Eden backwards. Eden held on. John shoved again, then pushed Eden's shoulder back with the palm of his hand.

Stunned, Eden let go of the sign as John ripped it from his hands and threw it to the floor. An unknown person then picked up the sign and sprinted it out of the room, taking it to the staff room (according to Kathy Bowler).

What the hell? There's just no excuse for that kind of behavior. In my experience, there are some people in positions of political power, no matter the party, who are very angered and threatened by the recent increase in citizen participation in our democracy. They love their activists, just as long as they toe the line and keep their opinions to themselves. When you step out of your proscribed boundaries, they flip out. They're control freaks, imo. This isn't the first excessively angry and inappropriate response to respectful and peaceful disagreement that I've seen. And despite what the punditocracy might think, it's not a battle between the "moderates" and the "far left". It's more of a conflict between the insiders and the outsiders who are knocking on the door, demanding to be allowed entry.

Chairman Art Torres gave a speech last night where he mentioned his opposition to the censure Feinstein resolution, but he was respectful and mentioned that dissent, discussion and differences play an important role in the Democratic Party. We're not Republicans, afterall. Maybe Hanna was in the men's room during that part, so here's the clip:

The attitude that would allow someone like John Hanna to behave the way he did gives me a sense of deja vu. You may or may not know that much of my activism since 2000 has been peace activism. Hanna's ugly, angry behavior is emblematic of the way anti-war activists have been treated for years now.

In the early years of George Bush's administration, nearly all of the peace activists I knew and worked with were average, middle class, mostly professional women. Navy wives. Brownie troop leaders. School teachers. Nurses. Lawyers. Government workers. Mostly well-educated moms and grandmas. Many of them were women who were Democrats, but not particularly politically active until they were roused to action by their fear of the consequences of Bush's actions and disgust with what was being done in our name around the world. Those years of being treated with disrespect and disdain, even by their nervous Democratic representatives, is a part of what radicalized some of them, and totally disengaged others from the Democrats. The Dem Party has pretty much lost many of the peace activists I know.

It's simply amazing to see the netroots being treated much the same way. Despite an enormous diversity of age, income, occupation and opinion, bloggers and online activists are marginalized as single-minded troublemakers with a megaphone, just like peace activists were marginalized as "dirty hippies" that shouldn't be taken seriously. That makes it oh-so-easy to disregard what they have to say. The reality is, just like those peace moms, the netroots represents a wide and diverse voice. If you're paying any attention you will find online, an amazing cross-section of engaged, concerned citizens who want to be a part of the political process. I've long been under the impression that when you're unhappy with the way things are going in a democracy, it's our duty and responsibility to speak up. (They used to teach that in America's public schools, ya know.) These are your constituents you're ignoring, Ms. Feinstein. These are advocates for your party that you're pushing around, Mr. Hanna. You may not agree with some of what they say, but it's your JOB to listen and to behave like a responsible, professional adult. Not hide in the back of the office from the peace activists as I've seen DiFi do, nor physically intimidate party activists that you find annoying, as John Hanna did today.

Personally, I'm extremely thankful we have this nifty new technology called the Internet that allows us to have a public sphere again! It gives us "outsiders" a fighting chance against the "insiders" who want to maintain the status quo, and just use their activists as the envelope-stuffing, fundraising arm of the party.

Good luck with that.

(edit) Eden has posted a diary at Calitics to let it be known that he and Hanna had a coversation after the resolutions committee meeting, and both private and public apologies were made. I'm glad to hear it.


Rick Jacobs has posted his comments on the impact of the resolution to censure at Courage Campaign. Censure Killed; Point Made.


Blogger Eden James said...

Hi Terry -

Thank you for your support.

I spoke with John Hanna after the meeting adjourned.

You can read about it at Calitics:


11/18/2007 02:54:00 AM  

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