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Paul Rolly: No more Andrew Jackson for Utah Democrats

Published June 16, 2013 4:31 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Without much fanfare and virtually no press attention, the leaders of Utah Democratic Party have dumped "Jefferson-Jackson Day" as the official name of the party's annual fundraiser, largely because they can no longer honor the racist and genocidal legacy of Andrew Jackson.

The new name of the event is the Taylor & Mayne Awards Concert and Celebration, which takes place Thursday at the Gallivan Center.

It is named for Todd Taylor, the executive director of the Utah Democratic Party for 22 years — making him the longest tenured political party executive director in the country before he died last year, and Ed Mayne, the longtime president of the Utah AFL-CIO and Democratic state senator, who died in 2007.

Speaking of the decision to dump Jefferson-Jackson, which traditionally is the name of local Democratic Party fundraisers throughout the country in honor of the two presidents credited with founding the modern Democratic Party, State Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis said it was the unanimous sentiment of the State Central Committee that Jackson's name had to go.

"We have to judge people based on the prevailing attitudes and culture of their time, but with Jackson, it's hard to justify his policies no matter what time in history it was," he said.

Jackson, a blatant Native American hater, enforced the infamous Trail of Tears, the forced march of about 150,000 members of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations from their homes in the southeastern United States to what is now Oklahoma. More than 60,000 died of starvation, disease and exposure along the way.

Utah's Democrats are not the first to become too uncomfortable with having Jackson as a party standard-bearer. Wisconsin Democrats previously changed their fundraiser from Jefferson-Jackson Day to Founders Day.

The modern Democratic Party bears little resemblance to the 19th century party of Jefferson and Jackson, which defended slavery in the name of states' rights against the oppressive federal government.

The Republicans, meanwhile, proudly call their annual fundraiser the Lincoln Day Dinner in honor of the president who usurped states rights in favor of a central government that fought for civil rights for minorities.

Seeking voters everywhere •Dabakis has come up with a creative way to register more voters and, hopefully for him, more Democrats.

The party has sent volunteers with clipboards and registration forms to stand outside state liquor stores and sign up patrons as they leave.

"We've done it twice so far at stores in Taylorsville and West Valley City, and the effort has been very successful," Dabakis said, adding that another liquor store voting registration day is planned for July.

Dabakis said the party asked permission from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) to stand "on public property outside the stores and register voters. It took them a long time to give us the approval, but they finally did."

The chairman said the liquor store strategy is part of a larger effort to improve Utah's poor record of voter participation. "We'll go anywhere, anytime to get as many people registered as possible," he said.

prolly@sltrib.com