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haydenconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES — While the California Democratic Party's most fervent members opened the party's annual convention Friday with an "evening of Cumbia and cocktails" and a "funkfest" billed as "the convention's hottest hospitality dance party," the disillusioned assembled over coffee and desserts at a café on Flower Street.

The host was the Progressive Democrats of America, the featured speaker Tom Hayden.

"I wouldn't say this is like an AA meeting, but this is an unusually sober oasis in the middle of a Democratic convention," the former California lawmaker and legendary activist said. "People actually speaking and thinking. I don't know how long this can last."

Hayden's audience consisted of about 150 activists, most of them liberal Democrats frustrated with a party they complain has become too moderate on issues including the environment and healthcare.

"Let me start by really sharing what I'm depressed about, so that you can start drinking afterwards," Hayden told them. "What I'm really concerned about in the long run is the lack of real understanding of the crisis that our youngsters are facing. First of all, the evidence is that they will live shorter lives than their parents. Secondly, they will have more medical afflictions and health problems than their parents. Third, they will be the first generation that anyone can remember to experience downward economic mobility - downward. And when they listen to us, and they listen to scientists, the message that comes across is that the world as we know it is going to be fundamentally altered if not destroyed by climate change. So the world will end while you're getting sicker and living shorter."

It was not all so sour. Hayden, who was involved in protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, urged the activists to continue working to push the Democratic Party to the left, and he said progressive traditions of social justice can be kept alive.

"I have confidence that this generation will rise to the occasion in ways that I can't predict," he said. "But it is going to be a bad time."

PHOTO: Tom Hayden, the former California lawmaker and legendary activist, speaks at an event in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders



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