Athens—spiritual home of democracy—felt the perfect site for the EMEA meeting. Our backdrop was the Parthenon. On Friday, DA Greece member, Bradly Keisling, an archeologist, author and former diplomat, led a walking tour of the Parthenon. On Saturday, International Chair Julia Bryan gave a positive and hopeful summary of where DA is today and the tasks ahead. The Mission (not impossible!): Flip the Senate to Democrats, Flip the White House and do not neglect the state and local races.
Key battleground states: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
Encourage Democratic voters to vote the entire ticket—not just President.
If DA members vote in our Global Primary (March 3-10), they can and must still vote their state ballot insofar as possible. (But of course they cannot vote for the presidential candidate on the state ballot, if they vote in the DA Global Presidential Primary.)
Julia’s quote for the day came from Thomas Paine: “The times have found us.”
The main takeaways from Julia’s presentation: Voting from Abroad has grown exponentially—mainly due to the efforts of DA—as Republicans Overseas does virtually nothing--and the government programs (FVAP) are weak—at least with civilian populations. Only a small proportion of Americans living abroad vote—but it’s improving due mainly to Democrats Abroad and VoteFromAbroad.org/. Voting from abroad overall was up by 147% at the midterms in 2016 from the 2014 elections. When it comes to CIVILIAN votes, it was up 322%! DA itself grew by 600% from the 2014 election levels. Votes from abroad often provide the critical margin in close races. Julia says 1 in 25 election are WON by a 1% margin—so that means we can really make a difference--if we get out the vote. DA can already document elections where a Democrat won back in the USA won thanks to absentee ballots from Democrats. The most recent was for a Florida state election—and the Florida State Democratic Chair now views DA in a new, respectful light!
Another major topic was the DA Global Primary which starts on March 3rd, Super Tuesday, with one week to run in-person voting centers. The main takeaway: Every chapter must have an in-person voting center —ideally on March 3rd (Super Tuesday in the USA)— taking advantage of the enormous publicity around that day. But also have asecond in-person day—like the following Saturday—where those who suddenly HEAR or read about the Global Presidential Primary late can still come and vote in person. Although DA voters can cast their ballot on-line, the thinking is that many people enjoy going to a voting center and doing it in person, bringing their children to watch democracy in action. We think Republicans will be watching and ready to jump on anything that isn’t correct. If in doubt about anyone’s right to vote, that person can vote a provisional ballot.
The Power Point presentation is here: https://wiki.democratsabroad.org/display/EMEA/Athens+WebEx+sources and click on GPPworkshopintro.
We spent time looking at how to recruit and KEEP volunteers. Some of the comments included:
Kathleen Cronin, DA UK
Meredith Wheeler, Connie Borde and Susan Vaillant,
Speaking of the Caucuses, Ann Hesse gave a presentation about the value of having a caucus. As a reminder, DA also has a Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, LGBT Caucus, Youth Caucus, Veterans and Military Families Caucus and Progressive Caucus. Why isn’t there a Donald-Trump-is-driving-me-mad caucus? Does your country committee or chapter have any caucuses? If someone has a keen interest in Women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, Vet issues, etc., it is a way to encourage involvement. Here is the presentation about caucuses : https://wiki.democratsabroad.org/display/EMEA/Athens+WebEx+sources & click on CaucusesByAnn.
Then we had a breakout session and in our Veterans and Military Families group, we talked about advocacy and several new issues came up like substituting opiate prescriptions for medical marijuana and also the new tax for moving military households abroad. We also learned of a major show of NATO force planned next year with 27,000 American troops in Lithuania/Poland.
Finally, the Sunday morning speaker was excellent! Brady Kiesling is an author, archeologist, former diplomat and ex-DA Greece Secretary. Quoting a great line of his:
"Looking up at the Parthenon we are reminded of one fact: Everything ends in ruins."
Bradley gave a fascinating talk on the history of democracy in Greece—and what a revolutionary idea it was in a world where monarchs and tyrants largely ruled traditionally ruled the roost (Women, slaves and foreigners were not allowed to vote!). Earlier in his life, he resigned his position as Chief of the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy in Athens to protest the impending war with Iraq. His resignation letter to Colin Powell went viral--and is worth reading. All he predicted in it came true.
“...until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer. The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been merica's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security. “Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet?"
His books, which may interest political buffs, include Diplomacy Lessons: Realism for an Unloved Superpower, (about the bureaucratic and political “habits" that led to the greatest foreign policy disaster of our lifetime—the war on Iraq). His second book, Greek Urban Warriors, looks at the history of far-left political violence in Greece since the 1967 dictatorship.
Paul Hickman Vet from DA Greece
As an aside, he also mentioned the effect Michael Dukakis had in Greece when he ran for President in 1988. The Greeks’ national pastime, Bradley says, is "avoiding taxes". Thus when immigrating to the USA, they were usually drawn to the Republican Party. That changed when Michael Dukakis won the Democratic nomination for President. The DA Greece group suddenly had 1500 new members! Dukakis’ entry in Wikipedia: Dukakis’ father was a Greek immigrant from Lesbos. Michael Dukakis, the son, rose to become the longest-serving Governor in Massachusetts history and the second Greek-American governor in U.S. history, after that dreadful Republican criminal, Spiro Agnew. This son of a Greek immigrant rises to be the Democratic President nominee in 1988. That story highlights the values and ideals of America that we all uphold—and why the vilification of refugees these days is so disgraceful and anti-American.
Dukakis was a graduate of Swarthmore (like Brady Kiesling!) and a Harvard Law School grad—but the Republicans disparagingly referred to him as “Zorba the Clerk” due to his stoic demeanor (so Trump didn’t invent the strategy of giving opponents disparaging names — the late Republican dark campaigner, Lee Atwater, was there first). Michael Dukakis teaches now—and supervises a program aimed at attracting young people to public service. (And BTW, his cousin is Academy Award-winning actress, Olympia Dukakis.)
Finally, if you’d like to browse more photos from the event, there is a joint album on Google Pix.
by Meredith Wheeler and Anna Marie Mattson