Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Convening for change

Georgia’s delegates embrace Obama’s message at the 2008 DNC

By Leigh E. Rich

This November change is the only option, say the Georgia Democrats, who promise they can’t—and won’t—finish what they believe the Republicans started.

Themes of change, hope, unity and public service dominated the 2008 Democratic National Convention last week, as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, now the Dems’ presidential candidate, emphasized “the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.”

Unlike 2004, the 2008 election isn’t about wedge issues, says retired Lt. Colonel Bill Gillespie, the Democratic candidate for Rep. Jack Kingston’s 1st CD seat in Congress.

“When I go out in the district, I don’t hear about wedge issues anymore: God, guns, gays, abortion—all important and very emotional. We’re at the point where we’re talking about the economy, we’re talking about education, we’re talking about health care. And that hasn’t happened in Georgia politics for a long time.”

At stake in the upcoming presidential and Congressional elections, former President Jimmy Carter told the Georgia and Alabama delegations Wednesday in Denver, are “the basic moral values of our country.”

These include restoring the U.S. economy, protecting the environment, and repairing the country’s reputation as a world leader, according to Georgia’s delegates.

“Everything is just going up,” said Eben Barnett, III, a Clinton delegate from Albany and a father of four. “The wage hasn’t.”

Barnett works for Miller Brewing Company and says he is lucky to have a good job. “But I shouldn’t be struggling. … McCain is definitely not the answer.”

“We’ve lost our primary manufacturing jobs,” Gillespie said, adding that once “there was a company town in every one of our counties” in the 1st CD.

Since manufacturing jobs pay five times more than service, according to Kinston’s opponent, Gillespie promises his first bill in Congress would be the South Georgia Alternative Energy Initiative, a plan to make Georgia a world leader in wind, solar and biodiesel energy.

“Let’s market something to the world. To be great, you’ve got to make something and you’ve got to sell it to the world. … We have Georgia Tech, we have the University of Georgia, and they specialize in … photovoltaic cells and cellulosic biodiesel.

“We should be the number one distributor in the world.”

Erin Glynn, an Obama delegate from Peachtree City, agrees. She worries about Georgia’s two proposed coal plants and Georgia Power’s plan for two new nuclear reactors.

Glynn believes the Obama campaign will lead the country and her home state to a cleaner energy future.

“Why is Georgia still making decisions” that are bad for the environment, she asked. “These issues affect us and we affect these issues. Let’s get our local leadership [at the forefront] rallying our causes.”

We “can change the ‘light bulb,’” Glynn said.

Jessup resident and Clinton delegate Beverly Leaphart urged incoming leadership to focus on the education of America’s children.

“Education affects the economy. It affects everything we do. And I think if we don’t get down here at a lower level and start working with these kids, reform our education system, the economy’s going to continue to suffer. Everything’s going to suffer.”

What hasn’t changed is the Democrats’ focus on the middle class – a term that may be surpassing “weapons of mass destruction” as a political favorite.

“People across this country and in Georgia want change,” said Jim Martin, the Dem candidate for Saxby Chambliss’ U.S. Senate seat. “They want somebody to stand up for the middle class and working Georgians.

“It’s about the price of gasoline, the price of food, the concern about the economy, the enormous [number] of deaths we’ve run up, the fact that we’re spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. All those are things that the people in Georgia I talk with” deem priorities.

As a nation, an immediate concern is the United States’ international reputation. Nearly every DNC speaker—both those in primetime and those at various convention-related events throughout the week—advised America to change its bullying ways.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who spoke to the Denver Press Club on Thursday, called for changes in the war on terror. Deeming it a war, she said, creates “mythical warriors” out of terrorists and gives credence to “murderers.”

But the United States must take some responsibility, too, she added. “The war in Iraq has given democracy a bad name. … We can promote democracy but not impose democracy, which is an oxymoron.”

Albright is the author of Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership.

President Carter also had words of advice for the next commander in chief.

“He can begin his inaugural address by saying, ‘When I’m president of the United States, we’ll never again torture prisoners. When I’m president of the United States, we’ll never again start a war unless our own security is directly threatened. When I’m president of the United States, the United States of America will be at the forefront of protecting the environment of the whole world. When I’m president of the United States, we’ll be raising once again the banner of human rights for the whole world to see.”

Georgia delegates concurred.

Dennis Marks and Brian Peterson, both alternate delegates from Valdosta, want the administration to focus on America’s “moral standing” and “how we’re viewed in the world.”

It’s time to “get back to real values at home and abroad,” Marks said.

And it’s clear who they think is the man for the job.

“The Obama team can restore us to a place of prominence in the international community,” said Laverne Lewis Gaskins, a pledged Obama delegate from Valdosta. “I think that’s crucial and important for America’s growth.”

But working with other nations does not necessarily translate into being soft on defense.

Miguel Camacho, an alternate delegate from Savannah, says he wants to see “bipartisanship” in Washington. But “even though [Barack Obama’s] very high on diplomacy, it does not mean he’s not going to be tough in the defense of our nation. It’s just diplomacy first.”

It’s really rather simple, Georgia’s Dems purport.

“Help the middle class people in every aspect, in the health care, economy and housing,” said Savannah City Councilwoman and Obama delegate Mary Osborne. “Basic needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy. Let’s get to the basics.”

Rich, L. E. (2008, September 4). Convening for change: Georgia’s delegates embrace Obama’s message at the 2008 DNC. The Inkwell, p. 2.

Comments are closed.