Outside the Capital Hilton hotel Saturday night, a small group of abortion opponents carried signs in protest of the Americans for Democratic Action convention inside.
"We call them the Americans for Death Advocates," said one picket.
"We're mainly here to protest Father Robert Drinan," said Olga Fairfax, PhD, of Human Life International. She handed out sheets of paper with pro-abortion quotes from Drinan. Their signs read: "A Real Priest Would Perform an Exorcism on the ADA and Drinan: How About an Abortion Freeze?"
Inside the hotel, Drinan, president of the ADA, ignored the group. "I have no comment on that," he said. The night before, during a speech, Drinan had been interrupted by one protester who walked into the room shouting obscenities at him. Drinan, however, was not at the convention to talk about abortion, but about President Reagan's Central American policy.
And on Saturday night, the issue was simply the liberal cause, in addition to honoring economist and former ADA president John Kenneth Galbraith for his "distinguished service" to the organization.
"It's going to be a fun night," Drinan said. "We've got the true believers here."
The lineup of the Democratic faithful included Patsy Mink, Honolulu City Council president and banquet emcee; Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.); newly elected UAW president Owen Bieber; and Missouri state senator Harriett Woods, the fireball feminist who lost the U.S. Senate race to Republican John Danforth but is now running for lieutenant governor.
In all, there was little mincing of liberal words. Woods called her speech "Orwell, Reagan and You."
"I thought it sounded provocative," she told the 500 or so delegates seated at round tables for the roast beef dinner. She spoke of George Orwell's "1984," "about the doomed hero of a futuristic totalitarian society," ruled by an omniscient "Big Brother." Alias Ronald Reagan, to Woods.
"Today's brainwashing is a lot more subtle," Woods said, "but the objective is the same: to say one thing while doing another. Americans are mesmerized by Ronald Reagan's versions of the book's Newspeak, which I've decided to call Nonspeak--short for Nonsensepeak," she said. "Nonsensepeak, or Nonspeak, invests and envelopes words in such a bath of patriotism, morality and sincerity that listeners really believe deeply in the words and assume they accurately describe reality."
Woods cited Orwell's leaders as being masters of deception--able to put on a good show.
"So does the president," Woods said. "He talks to us with all the engaging warmth of a TV salesman pitching senior citizen health insurance."
Reagan's communication, she said, "is brainwashing. It's designed to play on the average American's decency and patriotism, using Hollywood techniques and TV hucksterism."
Woods' pep talk for the liberals didn't stop there. "It's time for truth and courage," she said. "It's time to stand up, like the common people in the fairy tale, and tell the emperor that he isn't wearing any clothes." The crowd loved it.
And while all the speeches talked the evils of conservatism, Galbraith warned specifically against the "cold war rhetoric of Ronald Reagan and Caspar Weinberger."
Last to speak was Bieber, new head of the UAW, who said that while his recent election did mark the end of longtime president Doug Fraser's term, it did not mean the end of the union's support of the Democrats. He said it was "too early" to say which Democratic candidate the UAW would support, but spoke of the presidency in general.
"I believe we can recapture the White House," Bieber said, "and replace the ultraconservative, insensitive Reagan administration with a liberal one committed to deal efficiently with America's many problems at home and abroad. We are ready to work with liberals inside and outside the labor movement toward achievement of the goals we have sought togeter in the past. The hour is late and the task before us is great."