Santa Ana activist Tim Carpenter rallied his fellow delegates for Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. Wednesday with a rousing speech from the podium of the Democratic National Convention that criticized party leaders for being "disrespectful" to the former California governor.
Officially, Carpenter was speaking in favor of a pair of resolutions proposed by Brown's delegates. But the comments from Carpenter and a few other Brown delegates also represented a victory for supporters of the ex-governor who feel that they have been shut out of the convention by Democratic leaders trying to avoid any appearance that the party is not united behind nominee Bill Clinton.
Brown spoke to the convention Wednesday night, but only after party leaders backed down from their prerequisite that he first endorse Clinton.
"I regret to say, and I'm sorry to say, that my party, our party, the Democratic Party, has continued to be disrespectful to Gov. Brown and his 4 million-plus Democratic voters," Carpenter said. "It's not fair and it's not democratic."
Carpenter called himself a loyal Democrat and said he will work to help Clinton win the election in November. But as the party reshapes its traditional image to reflect Clinton's centrist politics, Carpenter warned that Democrats risk alienating many of the liberal activists that it needs to win elections.
Carpenter recalled his Orange County roots during the four-minute speech, referring to former Irvine mayor and long-shot presidential candidate Larry Agran.
"Neither Larry Agran and his 1,000-plus Democratic supporters nationwide, nor our candidate Jerry Brown and his over 4 million Democratic supporters nationwide should be pushed out of our party," Carpenter said.
He added, however, that he believes Clinton's reforms to the party are intended to find "common ground" among Democrats. "And I hope he succeeds."
But as the party shifts away from liberal planks, Carpenter warned, some party members might seek alternatives to the Democratic Party. He named four minor parties that are preparing to organize or are growing in membership.
"Ross Perot is not the only independent movement in America," Carpenter said. "These new parties may not seem threatening now, but given the well-known level of voter discontent, in four years, these new parties, if they begin to coalesce, may draw millions of new voters out of our party, the Democratic Party, and help elect even more Republicans."
Carpenter is the Southern California whip for Brown at the convention, meaning he has spent much of his time plotting floor strategies and chants and shuttling intelligence between the delegates and the Brown campaign.
Carpenter, who was hoarse during his speech from two days of screaming on the convention floor, started the 1992 campaign as the manager for Agran's presidential bid. He left Agran shortly after the New Hampshire primary.
His political activity dates back to the 1972 McGovern campaign when he was 12 years old. Afterward, he became a peace activist and anti-nuclear protester. He was a Jesse Jackson delegate at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.
As he closed his speech, Carpenter held up a red sign saying: "Save Our Party." At the same time, dozens of Brown delegates held up identical placards.