Confessions of a delegate

Published 11:11 am Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I’m a Second Amendment guy and have been since my life was threatened for doing my job. I came to enjoy combat pistol training but haven’t done that in quite a while. Nevertheless, for me, the single most precious constitutional right is the one that lets me have a say in what actually happens in my country, in my state and in my town, and that is the right to vote. If I’m not voting, I am choosing to let other people decide what happens to me and those I love.

As a journalist in the 1960s, I watched African- American teens and adults brave beatings and threats of death to demand the right to vote. The gentlemen of the KKK spat on those courageous people, threw rocks at them and even murdered some of them, but they kept coming. What guts! What moral authority. Because I got to witness that I probably took my own voting a whole lot more seriously that I might have.

Jeff Kamen

This past weekend, I was a delegate from Buckingham to the Democratic Party’s 5th Congressional District nominating convention at the Zion Sports Center in Farmville. It was orderly, serious, focused on service and on winning the next election. The atmosphere was kind, measured and accepting. There was no anger but there was determination to replace the Republican incumbent, Rep. Tom Garrett who describes himself as being in full harmony with President Trump.

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I met Trump back in the 70s when I was a street reporter for WPIX-TV in New York City and he was a blowhard playboy liberal spoiled brat who got his first pile of cash from his daddy. I remember telling my assignment editor I didn’t want to cover the Trump-generated featured story. I no longer remember the details. It was hype. Young Trump was an ego maniac who loved to see his name and picture in the press, but really had nothing of value to say and did nothing of any substance.

I totally missed it when he steered into real politics. At first I thought he was kidding about Obama’s birth certificate— just another way to get The Donald the attention he craved When I realized what he was doing— playing on peoples’ fears, frustrations and bigotry and then expanding on that theme to run for president under the cover of “making America great again,” I kept waiting for people to catch his grift and turn their back on him. But millions love his act. For all kinds of reasons. Especially those who hated having that black guy in the White House, you know, the one who led the U.S. out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and left office after eight years without a single personal scandal.

I thought I could stomach Trump’s game, shut up and keep quiet, but I just can’t. His attack on Muslims (did you know we’ve got seven thousand of them in the U.S. military and many of them are working in the scariest places on Earth). Pumping up fear of Muslims makes my skin crawl and I’m Jewish. Watching Trump’s rallies is a still a shocker. It looks like they have to rent the handful of black people who show up there and forget about anyone wearing a hijab or a turban.

When he declared there were “fine people on both sides,” of the neo-Nazi horror in Charlottesville last August, I knew exactly what he had done. Trump had crossed over into white supremacist country and there was no way I could possibly join him on his train to hell. Because he will pay. At the polls. Before God. Who knows. Those who wield hate always lose in the long run in this country. At the Democratic Convention, I was impressed by how often Charlottesville camp up. Also Rep. Garrett’s meeting in his office with the organizer of the supremacist rally that ended with the murder of Heather Heyer by a young neo-Nazi using a car to kill. That piece of revealed truth about one part of the Trump effect sticks deep in the heart.

But the biggest issue for me as a delegate was and still is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project with its two massive pipes and a gigantic compressor station. The compressor station is set to be built in the heart of Union Hill in Buckingham. It’s an African-American community and many of them are descended from people who were enslaved right here in Virginia. Scientists warn that the compressor station and the 42-inch pipelines are serious threats to our air land and water. A rupture of a pipe could ruin the single source aquifer that fills the water wells of most private homes in Buckingham including mine. And my house is about 700 feet from where the pipeline is supposed to go. That would put my wife, the dog and me inside what they call, “the incineration zone,” if there’s a leak followed by a spark.

My candidate for Congress, the one I voted for, is Leslie Cockburn (pronounced KOHburn). Leslie, a small farmer near Cville, spent 35 years as a producer for 60 Minutes, smashing lying government officials, foreign dictators and drug lords with the truth. She defeated three white southern men to win the Democratic nomination by a landslide. Once elected, she promised she will to do everything she can to protect all of us from the ACP even if she has to, “Lay down in front of the entrance to FERC,” to get their attention. FERC is the federal agency that approved the pipeline and has a reputation for being a rubber stamp for the industry. I cannot wait to see what Leslie Cockburn does to FERC after she gets through retiringMr. Garrett. As one Democratic Party official said of the election battle to come, “Garrett will never know what hit him.” I thoroughly enjoyed the convention. It gave me hope.

JEFF KAMEN’S first presidential campaign was Johnson versus Goldwater. He says he’s older than dirt but that’s not true. You can heap praise, scorn or indifference at