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MPR reporter Dulcie Lawrence summarizes events at the DFL state convention.

The convention endorsed Sen. Walter Mondale for U.S. senator. It passed controversial planks in the party platform: legalization of marijuana, unconditional amnesty for war resistors, a guarantee of full civil rights for homosexuals. The homosexual rights plank eliminates discrimination in jobs and housing, restores full veterans rights to all those discharged for homosexual activities, asks for a repeal of laws against homosexuality, and redefines marriage as a civil contract between two adults.

Perhaps the single most memorable feature was the vast number of people under thirty-five. DFL party secretary Bob Meek, under twenty and youth caucus leader, was re-elected as secretary even though he was not on the nominating committee’s recommended slate. Bob Meek believes issues are important but that the young DFLers have a lot to learn about party processes.

Included are excerpts from Mondale's speech, and comments from Sixth District Rep. Terry Montgomery, leader of the gay caucus Jack Baker, and youth caucus leader Bob Meek.


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SPEAKER 1: I pledge Walter F. Mondale in nomination for the United States Senate. He has never broken his ties with the DFL party or the people of Minnesota. He has stayed in contact with party leaders. He has returned to this state to take soundings on the thoughts and feelings of his Minnesota constituency.

SPEAKER 2: As a farmer and rural Minnesota businessman, I am very grateful to Senator Mondale, efforts on behalf of the people of Minnesota.

SPEAKER 3: We delegates are fortunate to have the opportunity today to express our appreciation to Senator Mondale for his courageous leadership in the Senate.

SPEAKER 4: It is a pleasure for the chair to declare that Senator Mondale is endorsed.

WALTER F. MONDALE: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. There may be places in this country where a politician is faced with a choice between party and conscience. But we face no choice, such choice here for the DFL party has been the conscience of both Minnesota and the nation for over 50 years. We ask the trust of Minnesotans not because we have a right to public office-- no one has that-- but because we want to serve the cause of peace and justice and humanity. Above all else, whatever happens this year, we must end the tragic war in Vietnam.


DULCIE LAWRENCE: The endorsement of Senator Mondale was one of the few items of business to be settled without procedural wrangling. Later that afternoon, the delegates passed two controversial planks, legalization of marijuana and unconditional amnesty for war resisters. Both these issues could force some lawmakers to make the choice between party and conscience that Mondale referred to. Sixth district chairman representative, Terry Montgomery, predicted that most DFL candidates would disavow the platform positions in their campaigns.

TERY MONTGOMERY: I've concluded that I must not accept the platform planks adopted by the DFL convention. I believe that those planks are not representative of the point of view of the rank and file and DFLers in the sixth district. I do know the position on marijuana that I could have accepted would have been to reduce the penalty by the user. The only way I would accept amnesty is on the conditions that the prisoners would have been returned and the troops removed and then compensatory public service for the person who has evaded military service.

DULCIE LAWRENCE: Biggest surprise was the election of Black university instructor Earle Craig as national committee man. The nominating committee had recommended David Lebedeff, Governor Anderson's 1970 campaign chief. The convention endorsed representative Bill Walker, Pine River farmer and newspaper publisher for public service commissioner. And it reelected Richard Moe as state party chairman. Constitutional changes demanded by the Women's Caucus passed easily. The unpaid state chairwoman job was thrown out. Instead, there will be a salaried associate chairperson who will have authority to speak for the party. Ruth Kane of White Bear Lake, who was supported by the liberal coalition, was elected to that job.

Another surprise was the adoption of a Plank guaranteeing homosexuals full civil rights. Leader of the Gay Caucus, Jack Baker, said its goals are almost identical to those of the Women's Caucus.

JACK BACKER: We're both going after the elimination of the dominant white male heterosexual. And I think the women are after that same thing. They no longer want to be subjugated and put into certain roles. And they want to enter into a relationship on an equal basis. And they're essentially tearing down and rejecting the male chauvinism and of course, so is the Gay Rights Caucus. And we seek for everyone the right to love according to the needs of the individual.

Unfortunately, the platform committee chose to emphasize the sexual side of same sex love, which in our minds is less important than the free, open, and honest expression of emotions. So we take the gay rights plank directly to the floor. We're talking about a contract between two individuals in a respect and dignity under the law. And we demand that the state recognize our relationships as equal to any other relationship. The Gay Caucus is a one issue caucus. Just as soon as gay liberation becomes less of a controversial issue throughout the country, as far as I'm concerned Minnesota, it will cease to exist.

DULCIE LAWRENCE: The homosexual rights plank prohibits discrimination in jobs and housing, restores full veteran's rights to all those discharged for homosexual activities, asks for a repeal of laws against homosexuality, and redefines marriage as a civil contract between two adults. Jack Baker said a desensitizing process took place over the weekend. And when the vote finally came Sunday night, the planks passed by a 70% majority. Although Baker failed to win election as a national delegate, he said he may challenge Minneapolis Seventh Ward Alderman John Buford's seat on the city council.

Perhaps the single most memorable feature was the vast number of people under 35. DFL party secretary, Bob Meek, is under 20. He was Youth Caucus leader and was re-elected as secretary even though he was not on the nominating committees recommended slate. Bob Meek believes issues are important but that the young DFLers have a lot to learn about party processes.

BOB MEEK: The convention as a whole, a lot of people learning how to work together. And as we go on, things are getting better. However, there are probably 70% of the delegates are new to a convention. And I think some of the things that have delayed the platform being presented and adopted have been because they don't quite-- they're a little suspicious. They don't trust the process. And I think in the end, this is probably going to hurt because I think the platform will have to be sent over to the state central committee for adoption in probably August or somewhere. It's the issues.

I also think that there's a feeling of trying to see whether what a political party is, whether it's possible to work within. A lot of these people are committed to individual legislative candidates at the local level, and they're going to find themselves working there. The concept of a party and what place they can play in a continuing role has been damaged by the way this convention has been handled.

DULCIE LAWRENCE: The young liberals have had an ideological impact on the state DFL party. But whether they will transfer the energy shown at the convention into the nitty gritty that builds a strong party and wins elections, that remains to be seen. This is Dulcie Lawrence with Rosemary Dahlen.


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