AS ONE OF THE MEMbers purged from the national board of Americans/Youth for Democratic Action at the recent ADA/YDA convention, I have been disheartened and chagrined by Loose Lips’ series (8/20, 8/27). Much of what the Washington City Paper columnist has written is, unfortunately, true, and it saddens me to belabor the matter, but certain perceptions fostered by some of my former colleagues on the board in LL’s “ADA Wars, Part II” compel a response.
That some board members assert that they “became alarmed at…[Sam] Smith’s effort to make himself the Svengali of Youth for Democratic Action…and incorporate it into his band of mischief-makers” is both ironic and disingenuous; more startling, it reveals publicly the ageism that pervades ADA’s national board.
It is ironic because, through its collegiate internship program, ADA’s national leadership installed 12 very bright and ambitious young people who, if not “obedient” (as LL put it), are to some extent beholden to them for the opportunity afforded to participate in a vigorous, worthwhile internship experience.
It is disingenuous because it would be a futile effort for Smith or anyone else to play Svengali to a YDA board that has included in its ranks a presidential pollster, an international lawyer, public relations consultants, and a county prosecutor.
The Svengali notion is insulting because it suggests that younger adults are incapable of independent thought; moreover, as provocative as Smith can be, I’ve never observed a hypnotic talent in him.
Finally, ADA’s national leadership has for years resisted entreaties to change the name of its 30-and-under division from Youth for Democratic Action to Young Americans for Democratic Action, or to grant enough resources and autonomy to pursue an agenda that is different stylistically, yet consistent with ADA’s mission of social and economic justice for all. Such changes would replace an air of condescending paternalism with mutual respect.
LL opines that this chapter in ADA’s 45-year history is reminiscent of “the Carter years, when liberal Democrats spent their time fighting each other.” I don’t agree. Liberals are a contentious lot, but the lessons of the ’70s and ’80s were well-learned.
I have every confidence that ADA, with steady hands like the legendary Leon Shull still guiding the ship, will progress beyond this and steer us away from joining the far right on the fratricidal course they have set.