I also burrowed inside the Democratic party; I ran, and won, an Assembly district delegate spot at the 2012-13 California Democratic state conventions. So in 2012, I was at a hospitality suite reception given by Congressman Sherman, and there I met Syd and Linda Liebovitch.
The more we talked, the more the Liebovitches and I liked each other. She’s from a union family; he’s from people who worked hard for their money. I told Linda about PDA, and that, as Chair, I had annual fundraising duties. She said, “ I’ll help with that.”
This spring, Tim Carpenter said he and Conor Boylan were coming to California in early June. Could I have a fundraiser then? I called Linda. She’d said yes. She’d host With a venue--the Leibovitches own the old Marion Davies mansion in Beverly Hills (so, William Randolph Hearst, the arc of history bends towards justice!)--I began phoning around, and first called Suzi Dietz, producer of the one-night, sold-out Tony Kushner play that starred me, John Glover, Charlayne Woodard and Sally Field in 2004. It was PDA’s first LA fundraiser. The script, first published in The Nation in 2003, is still online. It’s a profound anti-war play--check it out: http://www.thenation.com/article/only-we-who-guard-mystery-shall-be-unhappy.
Suzi said she’d be a co-host. As did Lila Garrett, PDA Board member and host of Pacifica Radio/KPFK’s “Connect The Dots.” As did Jim Clarke, longtime ally with SoCAL Americans for Democratic Action and staffer for Mayor Villaraigosa. As did environmentalist Sara Nichols of The Bioneers. Actor James Cromwell, came on board. (He gave PDA our first $1000 check at our founding in Roxbury, Massachusetts, 2004.)
I asked Lily Tomlin, who’d recently e-mailed an offer to do more for PDA, to speak. She said yes. I remembered James Gandolfini telling me, when we parted after filming “In The Loop” that he’d “do some of this Democratic stuff”--he didn’t say “stuff” he used another word--if I asked him. I asked him. He checked out our website first. “Your organization looks terrific” he said--and agreed to co-host. Tim asked John Nichols, Jim Hightower, AND Thom Hartmann to fly in and speak. Yes, yes, and YES.
We had a jam-packed afternoon. Where Hearst and Davies had hanky-panked there rose a new PDA banner (thank you, Michael Lighty!) which is big enough to be a speakers’ backdrop but light enough to carry on long marches as needed!
Linda Leibovitch convened us and Jim Hightower introduced his longtime friend Lily Tomlin. The brilliant Lily made us laugh--then delivered an indelible image of her Detroit apartment building from her childhood, whose ethnic, economic, and physical diversity reminded her, she said, of the radically inclusive organizing of PDA. She ended with a stunning quote from nonviolent activist/feminist Barbara Demming:
“With one hand we say to one who is angry, or to an oppressor, or to an unjust system, ‘Stop what you are doing. I refuse to honor the role you are choosing to play. I refuse to obey you. I refuse to cooperate with your demands. I refuse to build the walls and the bombs. I refuse to pay for the guns. With this hand I will even interfere with the wrong you are doing. I want to disrupt the easy pattern of your life.’ But then the advocate of nonviolence raises the other hand. It is raised out-stretched – maybe with love and sympathy, maybe not – but always outstretched. With this hand we say, ‘I won’t let go of you or cast you out of the human race. I have faith that you can make a better choice than you are making now, and I’ll be here when you are ready. Like it or not, we are part of one another."
Jim Hightower rocked the crowd with wit and trenchant criticism of democracy’s decline under corporate personhood; Linda read a message from James Gandolfini, which he sent with a check because a wedding prevented him from joining us. Lila Garrett introduced John Nichols, her frequent guest on her radio show, and John summarized the rousing argument from his latest book “Dollarocracy.”
We’ve become a nation ruled less by laws or people than by MONEY, he said. And tinkering with little changes around the edges of a broken system will do little to prevent collapse. We need big, fundamental change that takes courage: constitutional amendments and big legislation. Every progressive step forward in the last hundred years has come from radical change: ending slavery, extending civil rights, extending the right to vote
I read a statement sent by Board member Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, “PDA fills a niche that no-one else can fill.” Linda introduced her hero Thom Hartmann, who brilliantly surveyed the decline of the middle class from Reagan to the present. It’s deliberate destruction, he asserted, because unfettered capitalism can’t easily exploit an educated, economically stable, politically empowered populace. A torn rotator cuff didn’t slow him down one bit.
Tim Carpenter brought it home with his trademark brilliant flash-of-lightning review of PDA, its place in history, its Inside/Outside way of facilitating savvy political access for the burgeoning progressive movement coalescing in America’s 21st Century. He reminded us that nine years’ growth had culminated last month in 210 PDA letter drops, to members of congress. Our legislative agenda- the Robin Hood Tax, HR 676, Medicare For All, and the letter-pledge from Congress members Alan and Mark Takano to protect Social Security and Medicare--is increasingly recognized as the sane approach to restoring the nation’s physical and economic health.
Thanks to Russell Greene, who raised money and awareness at a separate event earlier in the day, and generously fed organizers at an after-party later; to Conor Boylan who, with CA Coordinators Dr. Bill Honigman and Judy Hess, lived under my roof for three days to give 24/7 help with last-minute tasks; to Andrea Miller and Kim Buchan, who provided back-up at all hours from afar; to Dan O’Neal, Allan Affeldt, and Tim’s siblings and in-laws, who flew in for the weekend; to Mrs. Carpenter, Barbara Considine, who did myriad tasks I didn’t even think to delegate; to Whitman Nichols Bottari, John’s daughter, who alleviated adult stress by gleefully performing increasingly daring flips off my swimming pool diving board.
Between the two fundraisers, PDA made $25,000. Radical inclusion was the strategy and massive affirmation was the result. My fellow PDA activists, know that we are supported, our work is admired, and our reputation is spreading.
Letters to PDA from Rep. Raul Grijalva and James Gandolfini:
From Rep. Grijalva:
I can't be with you all in person, but I'm with PDA all the way and I'm giving
We're all involved because we know they do some of the most important organizing and advocacy work in the country.
Well, they need our help to keep doing it. I know I'm in. I hope you are too.
PDA fills a niche no other group can fill. They're working with progressive Democrats to move the whole party left, and that's exactly what this country needs. They combine smarts and passion in a way we need a lot more of in this country.
You and I both know how valuable PDA is, so I'm asking you to contribute and show just how valuable it really is to you. Please join me and many others tonight to help PDA keep doing its great work.
Rep. Raul Grijalva
From James Gandolfini
I believe we have failed as generation. We have allowed things to go on the last 30 to 40 years on our watch that we should have seen earlier and worked harder to stop.
I am of that Italian peasant sensibility, instilled from my father: "Take care of the ones you love and are closest to. Do the right thing to others, and don't get involved with government or the boss. They are not your friend. They are not to be dealt with unless absolutely necessary."
But now it is necessary. So, I will help in any way I can and feel comfortable with. Please ask me to future events. I will get a $5000.00 dollar check to you guys if I can't get there.
See video highlights here:
Lily Tomlin, http://youtu.be/C2JUkzTPupw
Jim Hightower, http://youtu.be/5VpewFm6XM4
John Nichols, http://youtu.be/MFfXyXinoks
Thom Hartmann, http://youtu.be/OTU3oqsIRxM
Tim Carpenter http://youtu.be/V8sxLqWRuHM