Was it Stolen? 'Only Answer is Yes,' says Schakowsky who Claims DCCC to Announce Steps Soon to Avoid 'Repeat Performance'
EXCLUSIVE: Complete Text of Prepared Remarks from today's 'Take Back America' Conference...
By Brad Friedman on 6/14/2006, 6:54pm PT  

I just got off the phone with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) who reportedly wowed 'em a few hours ago during her speech (posted in full below) on the closing afternoon of the "Take Back America" conference being held in Washington D.C.

In her remarks, Schakowsky apologized for "not taking seriously enough the allegations that the 2004 election was stolen." She now feels it was, and claims that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) will be launching an initiative. From today's speech:

I apologize for not taking seriously enough the allegations that the 2004 election was stolen. After reading Bobby Kennedy's article in Rolling Stone, "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?", I am convinced that the only answer is yes. He documents how 357,000 Ohio voters, the vast majority Democrats, "were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted...more than enough to shift the results." Watch for the DCCC to take some very public steps in the near future to ward off a repeat performance. In the meantime, there needs to be a citizens' effort starting now to assess the machines, the ballots, the registration process within each and every election jurisdiction in each and every swing district and state, in the case of Senate races. Where the situation looks perilous, go to the media, raise a stink, demand changes. This is a great project for the many of you who have been diligently working to guarantee fair and accurate elections.

Raise a stink? Can do. So can you! Sign Velvet Revolution's petition declaring "No Confidence" in the Busby/Bilbray race!

(Hat tip to my buddy Peter B. Collins, who is in DC to cover the conference, for his quick phone call alert after Schakowsky's speech earlier this afternoon!)

Schakowsky's prepared statement from today's Take Back America conference speech follows in full...

TAKE BACK AMERICA CONFERENCE - June 14, 2006

Remarks of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

My topic today is "Closing the Deal." Closing the deal. I believe that on November 7, Democrats can be in the majority in the Congress - both Houses. And I believe that the activists and leaders who are here today can make it happen. I am optimistic - cautiously optimistic.

At long last, nearly everyone in our country sees what we've seen for a long time. Let's just tick off a few of the problems of their own making that the Republicans face, beginning but not ending with the calamitous war in Iraq. During the time of this panel - one hour - your tax dollars will have contributed to the $11 million the U.S. spends in Iraq every hour - 24/7. And between Iraq and Afghanistan , the equivalent of one battalion of soldiers (600) is killed or injured each month. Move on to gas prices, heating costs, unaffordable health care, the Medicare Part D disaster. Katrina, Guantanamo Bay, Halliburton, Abu Ghraib; college tuition, the NSA spying on everyone (and proud of it), tax cuts just for the Paris Hiltons, drilling in ANWR, global warming, the 9/11 Commission failing grades, Dubai ports deal, stagnant or falling wages, everyone around the world hates us, Jack Abramoff, relentless attacks on women's reproductive rights, labor unions, affirmative action, gays and lesbians, civil rights and civil liberties. You know, after a while it starts to add up. These guys have got to go.

It's no wonder the President's approval, even after getting al Zarqawi, continues to slip. I don't know if Bush is the worst President in history. I'm not an expert on the Presidents. As far as I know, there may have been less intellectual Presidents. There may have been more incompetent Presidents or one or two with worse judgment or more reckless or less curious. I don't know about Chester Arthur or Millard Fillmore. Herbert Hoover was certainly delusional about the economy and James Polk allegedly manufacturing the war with Mexico.

But it never mattered as much as it does now. The decisions of the President of the United States, you know, the Decider, have never been more consequential than they are today. While military misadventures of the past certainly claimed many innocent lives, it is only in recent times that the result could be worldwide death and destruction. There may have been Presidents more contemptuous of science, though I doubt it. But nothing else ultimately matters if our planet becomes incapable of sustaining human life. Even the most upscale gated communities can't protect him and his friends. In the most profound ways, this President and his rubber stamp Congress are proving that elections really do matter.

You would think that the real question is how can we lose? The answer is we've already proven it can be done. Even when we win, we lose. Fool me once...or whatever the President tried to say. This is no time to play the fool. We need to close the deal. Our challenge, particularly the challenge of the progressives and activists here at this great conference, is not crafting the overarching thematics of the campaigns. Fortunately, the big theme is change, and the goal to put this failed President on every ballot, so far, seems to be working.

For us, it must all be about execution.

1) First, we must not allow the Republicans to steal the election-again.

2) We have to mobilize the voters who are already with us, and run picture perfect, aggressive, leave no voter behind GOTV, Get Out the Vote campaign.

3) We have to persuade the persuadables. (I'll go more into each of these.)

4) We have to travel. I'll tell you about the Committee of 100 in my district.

5) We need to keep our eyes on the prize - beating the Republicans.

1) Stealing: I apologize for not taking seriously enough the allegations that the 2004 election was stolen. After reading Bobby Kennedy's article in Rolling Stone, "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?", I am convinced that the only answer is yes. He documents how 357,000 Ohio voters, the vast majority Democrats, "were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted...more than enough to shift the results." Watch for the DCCC to take some very public steps in the near future to ward off a repeat performance. In the meantime, there needs to be a citizens' effort starting now to assess the machines, the ballots, the registration process within each and every election jurisdiction in each and every swing district and state, in the case of Senate races. Where the situation looks perilous, go to the media, raise a stink, demand changes. This is a great project for the many of you who have been diligently working to guarantee fair and accurate elections.

2) GOTV: "Intensity equals turnout." That is one of the political truths that we must NOT rely on. The Republicans learned about grassroots organizing from us and learned it well. We must count on their willingness and capacity to drag out their voters. There is a reason that they are throwing red meat at their base - Constitutional Amendments on same-sex marriage and Flag burning, and demonizing immigrants. They are attempting to motivate and mobilize their base voters. They also successfully targeted individual Republican voters in Democratic precincts, not just relying on larger demographic data. Their operation was often more sophisticated than ours. But we know how to do mobilization. It's grassroots, door-to-door campaigns that enable us to beat them on the ground. Air strikes - radio and TV, just get you so far; the personal contact drives home the point. As great as job as we did in 2004, we need to do it more and better.

3) PERSUASION: In 2004, the Republicans left no constituency untouched. Their goal was to shave off just enough points from Jewish voters or Hispanic voters. For the first time, they won the majority of Catholics. Why did we lose Catholics? They had a Catholic strategy, and we didn't. I'm told that Karl Rove met with selected Bishops and lay leaders on a weekly basis. Millions of "Voter Guides for Serious Catholics" were distributed both inside churches and, if that wasn't an option, outside the churches. It says, "This voter's guide identifies 5 'non-negotiable' issues and helps you narrow down the list of acceptable candidates, whether they are running for national, state, or local offices. Candidates who endorse or promote any of the 5 non-negotiables should be considered to have disqualified themselves from holding public office, and you should not vote for them." "It is a serious sin to endorse or promote any of these actions: 1. Abortion 2. Euthanasia 3. Fetal Stem Cell Research 4.Human Cloning 5. Homosexual "Marriage." Who produced and paid for the distribution of these Voter Guides? Religious leaders? Forget it. This campaign was run by political operatives, armed with political money to defeat John Kerry and other Democratic candidates.

Well, we know how to produce voter guides. We know how to pass out voter guides. I'm no expert on Catholic teachings, but I didn't see anything here about poverty, or health care or the dignity of work. Shame on us when we don't compete at all.

4) We have to travel. If you live in a safe Democratic district like mine, you need to consider every candidate in every winnable district as our candidate - at least adopt one or more of those candidates as your own. Let me tell you about an effort I'm helping build in my district called the Committee of 100. It started in 2004 with a group of activists, many first time activists, who called themselves the Kerry Travelers. Since Illinois was solidly blue, we were able to send over 1200 people to various cities in Wisconsin to go door-to-door for John Kerry, helping to put him over the top. No moping for them after the November election. They created the Committee of 100, 100 people who each agreed to contribute between $100 and $250 to a Congressional candidate and go work in a swing district - mine being blessedly safe. We just met last Sunday. So far they have recruited 200 people and are aiming for 1,000 by election day. Representatives from the campaigns of 4 Democrats running for Congress in Illinois came and made pitches for their candidates. Canvass days were announced for each of them, and people signed up to travel to their districts. Much of the organizing for the Committee of 100 takes place on the internet, but this is no virtual community. You can do it too, and my young political director, Alex Armour, would be happy to help you get started.

5) Finally, we all need to resist, as hard as I know it is at times, griping about the Democrats, one, because it's takes time away from the real work of defeating the Republicans, and two because it's counterproductive, demoralizing the very people we need to be engaged and enthusiastic. I am not necessarily talking about staying away from primaries. I refer to the time spent complaining about this or that performance, how we're not tough enough, we're not articulate enough, we are too wishy-washy. I agree that those critiques are often true. But keep in mind this one thing. Right now we are winning! We are not doing everything wrong.

I refer you to an article in the May Washington monthly by Amy Sullivan, called "Not as Lame as You Think, Democrats learn the art of opposition." Let me read just a few lines. "...the truth is that Newt Gingrich and the Contract loom so large - and today's DC Democrats seem so small - largely because of the magic of hindsight. Back in 1994, Republicans were at least as divided as Democrats are now, if not more so...As for unity of message, the now-revered Contract with America didn't make its debut until just 6 weeks before the election." She goes on to say that "On virtually all of the major slips this White House has made in the past year, there have been unnoticed Democrats putting down the banana peels." She gives as an example the Dubai port deal. "If you read the press coverage of the story, you would have thought the issue surfaced on its own. In fact, however, the story was a little grenade rolled into the White House bunker by Sen. Chuck Schumer...who had been tipped off by a source in the shipping industry." After it became a story, the President went on TV and asked the American people if they really thought he would support any deal that would pose a threat to our country. And Americans answered with a collective, "Yeah."

When someone starts griping to you, remind them we are winning and ask them to think of one good idea the Republicans have come up with. But if you just have to vent, pick a griping buddy and do it late at night or early in the morning when you are not working on winning.

Let me end with this. On Memorial Day, there was a Washington Post political cartoon by Tom Toles reprinted in the Chicago Sun-Times. It shows an old military veteran reading a newspaper with the banner headline that reads Security Bungle, and articles including Domestic Spying, Data Lost, Official Lying, America Loses Its Friends, and Inequality Growing. The Veteran is saying, "My country's identity has been stolen." I love this country. I know that what motivates you to be here at this conference, and to do what you do back home is a love of our country and its promise of justice and freedom, unfulfilled though it may be. This is a room full of patriots - true patriots, the real patriots. I DO feel as if our American identity has been stolen, but I believe that working with you we can, beginning in a mere 5 months, Take Back America.