In the afraid new world of COVID-19 and Trumpian politics, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party threw a well-produced, almost seamless virtual party that exceeded expectations and wove woke entertainers and honorees into delivering the same critical message: vote November 3rd as if your life depends upon it — because it does.
The election is so important, an otherwise problematic slip of the tongue by presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during his video appearance was ignored in a chat room populated by strong Democratic activists. Silence = Shrug. Just another Biden gaffe.
On the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, the July 25 LA County Democratic Party (LACDP) JFK Awards honored four significant women. California Sen. Kamala Harris and comedienne Kathy Griffin were spotlighted with JFK Profile in Courage Awards, having fearlessly taken on and withstood attacks from President Donald Trump and his cult-like minions.
Legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta, 90, the Latina civil rights icon who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with fellow organizer Cesar Chavez in 1962, received the Miguel Contreras Award from the late labor leader’s widow, Maria Elena Durazo, now a California State Senator. Dolores Huerta recalled how she recruited Contreras to the farm workers movement.
April Verrett, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 2015 – the nation’s largest longterm care union representing 400,000 California home care and nursing home workers, was gushed over receiving the Kam Kuwata Partnership Award, named for the late veteran political consultant. The honor was particularly poignant since that Saturday afternoon the LA County Department of Public Health confirmed 3,628 new cases of COVID-19.
Roz Wyman, another LA political icon, first acknowledged the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis then said of the two young Democrats she chose to receive the Roz Wyman Democratic Youth Leadership Award — Erica Liepmann and Matthew Contreras — “they’re our future.”
The nearly two-hour show opened with an admonition from gay LACDP Chair Mark Gonzalez that “the fight for true equality is a continuous struggle” and a pledge that the local party’s 2.9 million Democrats will fight for the party’s endorsed candidates and ballot measures.
The indomitable Rep. Maxine Waters — fresh from the viral video showing her stopping to ensure a Black motorist was treated well during a traffic stop – underscored the message that “the future of this country is at stake” in these elections. Out Assemblymember Evan Low followed Waters, the first of a slew of Asian American participants.
Out LACDP Executive Director Drexel Heard II was the “live” host, casually connecting the Live Streamed presentations, produced by Jonathan Moulton, with humor and message repetition, underscoring not only voting for Biden but for down-ballot candidates, such as Christy Smith running against Trump super fan Rep. Mike Garcia in the 25th Congressional District.
Sec. of State Alex Padillia reminded viewers that “the right to vote is sacred.” Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed out before the Nov. 3 election.
“Will & Grace” star Eric McCormick cracked the best joke of the night when congratulating Dolores Huerta: “I wish I could play you in a movie, but they’ll probably offer it to Scarlett Johansson.”
Griffin assumed that viewers knew about her frightening long battle with Trump and emphasized the importance of down-ballot voting by recalling the anti-LGBTQ religious right fanatic Kim Davis, who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple as an elected – and subsequently defeated — Kentucky county clerk.
There was some speculation before the virtual event that Biden would announce that he was selecting Harris to serve as his vice president. Harris had been friends with Biden’s late son Beau when the two served as attorney generals for California and Delaware, respectively. Harris sent shock waves through the political establishment by challenging Biden over his civil rights record during a Primary debate.
Biden and Harris made up and she has since been an ardent and outspoken Biden supporter.
She has also continued to speak out about hard truths, as she did at the LACDP event, talking about America’s two systems of justice — one for convicted felon Roger Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by his friend Donald Trump, and one for Breonna Taylor, a Black ER technician in Louisville, Ky. who was shot by police in her own bed last March as they executed a search warrant. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Taylor was still alive, struggling to breathe for at least five minutes after she was shot and received no medical attention for more than 20 minutes. Those officers have not yet been held responsible for her shooting, sparking more protests in conjunction with the police murder of George Floyd.
Though Biden may have let go of the debate contretemps with Harris – just as Obama got over Biden’s criticism of him in 2008 — the former vice president’s inner political circle remains beyond upset with Harris.
The behind-the-scenes squabbling became public arena on July 27 when Politico published a story about former Sen. Chris Dodd’s “stunned” reaction to Harris when he interviewed her during the VP vetting process. Politico reported:
“She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse,” Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the exchange to POLITICO on condition of anonymity.
“Dodd felt it was a gimmick, that it was cheap,” the donor said. The person added that Dodd’s concerns about Harris were so deep that he’s helped elevate California Rep. Karen Bass during the vetting process, urging Biden to pick her because “she’s a loyal No. 2. And that’s what Biden really wants.” Through an aide, Dodd declined to comment. Advisers to Harris also declined to comment.”
Perhaps sensing that Biden might have a Woman Problem after the Dodd leak, the Biden campaign released a policy platform on women.
Few paid attention. Online posts and the Twitter-verse were filled with disgust and reprimand over Dodd.
“If anything, Harris’s lack of ‘remorse’ should recommend her for the job. She is an able debater, and a tough inquisitor in Senate hearings. Harris also has the perspective that comes from growing up as a nonwhite woman in this country,” wrote Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty. “This reported anxiety about Harris, however, suggests a different standard for women as running mates. They are apparently supposed to be window-dressing — demure and apologetic.”
Former Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards picked up on that and tweeted: “Women are sick of being expected to ask forgiveness for every damn thing.”
BlackWomenViews Media did a little fact-checking: “I wonder if Chris Dodd’s abhorrence to Kamala saying it’s wrong to praise segregationists has anything to do with his praising a former KKK who voted against the Civil Rights Act ‘cannot think of a single moment…where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country,’” referring to former Sen. Robert C Byrd.
Writer Rebecca Traister was furious. “When your pals help you pick your lady VP based on how contrite she is about having challenged you in a debate. No no no no no nope this is gonna be the thing that ends me,” she tweeted, alluding to Dodd’s past accusation of sexual assault.
Women noticed. Just as people with HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ historians may have noted that while Biden tweeted about the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which he cosponsored, recalling the late Sen. Ted Kennedy – Biden failed to mention that Kennedy’s fight was to get HIV/AIDS into the ADA. The effort succeeded but was constantly challenged. It took four more years to make it final. “In light of the immediacy with which the virus begins to damage the infected person’s white blood cells and the severity of the disease,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, “we hold it is an impairment from the moment of the infection.”
Daniel Zingale, then-executive director of AIDS Action, called the ADA “the most important legal victory for people with HIV in the history of the epidemic.”
Biden didn’t mention HIV/AIDS at all in his longer paper on the ADA though, during the recent International AIDS Conference, a new World Health Organization report noted that “COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the LGBTI+ community worldwide,”
Apparently, Joe Biden does not have a senior advisor who grasps cultural competency. How else explain Biden’s choice of Dodd as a VP vetter, his failure to remember that HIV/AIDS is still an epidemic, and his startling gaffe during the LACDP event?
“We need leadership that strives to finally deliver on the Founding principles — ensure that all men are not only equal at their creation but treated equally throughout their lives,” Biden told the LACDP audience.
The look on Biden’s face suggested he knew something was off with that “all men” sentence. But he plowed ahead. And no one on his team caught it and suggested another take. It would have been simple to add the “wo” to “men,” as presumably the speechwriter intended. Instead Biden’s two-minute video for a Democratic event honoring women decried the inequality of men.
Biden’s little Freudian slip may be no big deal but it raises questions about Biden’s thinking process and who checks him. With so much at stake, such preventable gaffes can turn off and dampen the enthusiasm of voters he needs to defeat Trump.
That makes Biden’s choice for his vice-presidential candidate all the more important.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez tells the Los Angeles Blade, “It’s a difficult time for Americans and it’s our job to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to represent and support working families all across LA County.”
The JFK show is posted at the LACDP website: www.lacdp.org/jfk2020