Three Lane County Young Democrats, Andrew Becker, Steven Coatsworth and Celine Swenson-Harris, are embarking on a “Great American Adventure” Aug. 24 in a well-worn 1989 Honda Civic freshly painted with stars and stripes. The three are traveling cross-country to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Becker and Coatsworth are among the youngest delegates elected to represent Oregon at the DNC, while Swenson-Harris will be filming interviews for their video-blog KeepingAmerica.org, according to their friend Chris Wig, a UO grad student who left this week to work for the Obama campaign in Ohio.
Coatsworth, the Young Oregon Democrats of America (YODA) national committeeman, says the vlog is a universally American project. “The tough problems facing us are not the problems of any political party,” he says. “They’re not North, South or coastal problems. They are American problems, and they need American solutions.”
The team plans to interview anyone along the way who is willing to talk about “the everyday struggles of everyday Americans and highlighting their views on the state of our nation,” Coatsworth says. The project is in part motivated by what he sees as the inability of cable news networks to accurately depict Americans’ views. They also plan to stream footage from the floor of the convention.
Becker is the secretary of the Democratic Party of Lane County and YODA, and he views their journey as a repudiation of the political paradigm propagated by the funders of the Tea Party. “Patriotism has been hijacked. It means a lot more than waving a flag. It’s supporting the struggles the flag stands for,” he says.
Swenson-Harris is YODA vice president and community action chair for the Democratic Party of Lane County and a recent graduate of South Eugene High School. She will be voting for the first time this November, Wig says. She was drawn into politics in 2011 during the Strong Schools, Strong Eugene campaign. “I realized my high school was dying from lack of funding. In one of my classes, I had to literally sit on the radiator every day because there weren’t enough seats in our 60-student classroom.”
The three will distribute information about Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to delegates from other states. To that end, they have drafted an organizer’s guide, “Bring Vote-By-Mail Home,” which details how to implement the system.
Fundraising for the trip has been part of the political experience, and they have not yet covered all their expenses for gas, food and shelter. “The Democratic Party is not known for its billionaires, but for its people-powered politics which pushes us to find pragmatic, grassroots solutions,” Coatsworth says. Donations thus far have come in all shapes and sizes, many in checks for $20.12. Contributions can be made online at keepingamerica.org