August 18, 2000

A Growing Rift Exposed During Shadow Convention Within Democratic Party During "Prosperity and Progress" Day

Los Angeles, Aug. 14 /U.S. Newswire/ — Former Speaker of the California Assembly and L.A. mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa sharply criticized America's growing economic inequality and the impact of the war on drugs on minority communities.

Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa

"We've heard an awful lot about morality over the past few days, Villa-raigosa told an energetic crowd of activists and reporters. "But morality is not just about what goes on in the bedroom, it is about who we leave behind. When a young person goes without health care, when we incarcerate more people than anywhere else in the world, when our schools are like prisons, when we engage in a systematic process of deforestation and environmental abuse, it is immoral and it is wrong."

"The Democratic Party used to be known as the big tent... We have to build coalitions because only then can we begin to have an impact," Villaraigosa said pointedly.

Villaraigosa's remarks come at time of a growing rift within the Democratic Party between liberals — one quarter of whom will be voting for Nader, according to last week's Public Policy Institute Poll of California voters — and moderates and conservatives who have pushed the party to compete with the Republican Party for contributions and adopt many traditionally Republican positions.

As the fundraising activities by the Democratic Party win nearly as much media attention as the Convention itself, Villaraigosa said "We must take back America so that it is not just for the rich or privileged."

The Shadow Conventions are highlighting three issues that Shadow organizers say neither of the two parties are addressing: the persistence of poverty in the midst of prosperity and the growing wealth gap of the new economy, the failed war on drugs, and the influence of big special interest money in politics.

Villaraigosa was joined by Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) in using a discourse of values to frame their speeches.

Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, declared: "We are here at the Shadow Convention to recognize that the Democratic and Republican parties have failed to deliver upon the basic rights of citizens."

"Imagine the day," Jackson said in closing, "and it is soon coming, when corporate America is locked out of the convention and we the people are inside determining our nation's destiny. This is the last convention that we are locked out.

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