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A Liberal Democrat guest at Democrats Abroad International Conference

April 24, 2013 5:02 PM
By Barry Coward, President Gainsborough Constituency Liberal Democrats
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party organization for the millions of Americans living outside the United States. It works to advance the principles of the Party by spreading the Democratic message to Americans abroad and encouraging them to vote for Democratic candidates back home.

From April 12 to 14 their International Conference was held in London. Although not on the conference agenda the star speaker was Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Party Leader of the House of Representatives. She served as the 60th Speaker (the term used for the majority party leader and not to be confused with the role of Speaker in the House of Commons), from 2007 to 2011 and as such was the first woman to hold the office. Mrs Pelosi is the highest-ranking female politician in American history. She spoke for 30 minutes without benefit of notes.

Mrs Pelosi spoke of matters currently passing through Congress. These included immigration, mainly from Mexico, and a bipartisan gun bill - the need for very strong background checks. "Public sentiment is everything" and Mrs Pelosi is hopeful the bill will be passed if the public show support for it. Finally she spoke of the fight to get the President's "values based, job creating, deficit reducing" budget which "is about the future" through Congress. She said "nothing brings more money to the treasury than educating the American people. What is more important in lifting everyone up than education in a democracy?" You can listen to her whole speech at http://youtu.be/6XXkEpC-tcQ.

Mrs Pelosi called for political funding to be restricted. She reminded the conference that the founding fathers wanted government of the many not the government of the money. She called for disclosure of political donations and to limit the time waiting to vote to one hour.

Mrs Pelosi explained that Republicans have to try to stop President Obama as he is very bipartisan.

Talking with delegates they are clearly sympathetic to Liberal Democrat objectives. They have difficulty understanding how we formed a coalition with the Tories. Although coalition is something strange to both US and British national politics they do understand that on some issues bipartisanship is needed, after all President Obama is heavily bipartisan in his strategy and planning even if the Republicans hate him for it. Although US politics is one step to the right of ours Democrats do seem to equate the Tories with Republicans and UKIP/BNP with the Tea Party.

I did have the opportunity to spend Sunday morning on a phone bank calling Americans in Australian asking them to request a postal vote for the forthcoming by election to replace John Kerry in the Senate, as Kerry is now the Secretary of State replacing Hillary Clinton. The response was almost wholly positive and one soon became infected with the buzz you get from canvassing. However it did become clear that in terms of technology Democrats Abroad do not benefit from a data management system as advanced as Connect which is strange as the software company running both systems is the same.

The Democrats Abroad International Conference was hosted by DAUK who hold social gatherings and meetings, mainly in London. It seems to me that it would be to our mutual benefit if there were contact and assistance between Liberal Democrats and Democrats at local level. One area which is a problem for Democrats is reaching American students outside of those universities that have traditionally attracted Americans (such as London, Oxford and Cambridge).