By Doug Porter
Democrats gathered in Sacramento this past weekend for their annual convention, and there were–surprise, surprise–disagreements. Based on the angst woven into some news accounts of the event, you’d think some of these writers had never heard the comparison made between organizing Dems and herding cats.
Foremost among the hand-wringing coverage were stories about the competition for chair of the California Democratic Party. Kimberly Ellis, widely considered to be an insurgent candidate symbolizing the aspirations of the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, lost to Eric Bauman, Male Vice Chair and Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair, by 62 votes.
Ellis may have lost the vote, but as Los Angeles Times reporter Cathleen Decker noted, a significant generational shift took place, with the party’s traditional leadership displaced by a new, more activist vision.
To outsiders, they were the West Coast liberals whom conservatives love to hate — stereotyped as chardonnay-sipping, tree-hugging, near-socialists who, were it geologically possible, would push the state so far left it would plunk into the Pacific. In truth, they have exerted a moderating force on Democrats here.
Their reign effectively ended at this weekend’s state party convention, part of a shift both generational and ideological that is altering power across the country and in the nation’s biggest Democratic state. Whoever fills the vacuum will answer defining questions: How far left will the California Democratic Party now go? Will its movement backfire?
Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ages 79 and 83, respectively, didn’t show up at the convention. Former Sen. Barbara Boxer, 76, who left office in January, skipped it as well. State party chief John Burton, 84, was heralded in large part because he was leaving for retirement.
The activist insurgency was, at times, loud and boisterous. Welcoming speeches on Friday night were interrupted by protesters demanding universal health care and chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, corporate Dems have got to go.”
Outgoing Party Chair John Burton singled out a demonstrator carrying a sign advocating for universal health care, saying “Put your fucking sign down, man. We’re all for it.”
Burton and various elected representatives pushed back against a resolution endorsing a quicker path to impeachment proceedings for President Donald Trump.
From the Sacramento Bee:
“Grass-roots Democrats and our representatives in Congress share the same view that Donald Trump is incompetent and dangerous,” said Rose Kapolczynski, a veteran Democratic strategist from Los Angeles.
“The difference might be one of the reality of what impeachment takes: We have a Republican-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate, and that is the body that brings impeachment changes and tries them.
“It isn’t something that we can accomplish by signing petitions.”
Viewing the differences aired at the party convention as being strictly Bernie supporters vs. the establishment or even a generational struggle needs to be tempered by understanding an older and often overlooked division in California politics: North vs South.
Santa Barbara Democratic activist David Atkins, a Sanders supporter who voted for Eric Bauman, explained the geographic split in a post at Daily Kos:
To understand what actually happened in the battle between Bauman and Ellis, it’s important to know a bit about the party’s structure and its history. To make a long story short, the state party’s membership stands on three basic legs: 1) elected officials and their appointees; 2) county central committee members; and 3) members elected in caucuses held in each assembly district in January of odd-numbered years. As with most caucuses, these assembly district caucuses (known as ADEMs) give the greatest advantage to grassroots organizers. A huge wave of Berniecrats swept these caucuses across the state with the help of Our Revolution in January.
The other important piece of information is that California’s population and sphere of influence has gradually been moving southward from Northern California to Southern California. But party leadership, including under recent chair John Burton, has been held primarily in the north, much to the frustration of the party’s growing base in the south. Many party elections are contested on an ideological or identity basis, but regionalism tends to play a far greater role. The party chair has outsize influence, holding control of much of the party apparatus and standing committee appointments…
…There were two regional establishments in conflict, with some identity issues in play as well. The Sanders-versus-establishment narrative came in late and was overlaid on top of that. But the other downballot races show that the ideological divide was secondary to the other considerations that drove most of the votes.
In any case, two things are clear: 1) the party is badly in need of unity and healing from all of its leaders, 2) and the influence of Sanders supporters is positive, widespread and a force for change to be reckoned with both now and in the years to come.
Sadly–I think–some of the hardcore Bernie-types are threatening to take their marbles and go home. Hopefully, they’ll remember that a key part of Resistance is Persistence.
From the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage:
RoseAnn DeMoro, a national progressive leader who is the executive director of the National Nurses United union, told Ellis supporters that the loss was a “blow. It’s wrong. And you know it’s wrong. And you know it’s going to hurt the Democratic Party.”
But she also praised the activists for taking on the establishment and coming close to winning.
“For you to come, and us to come, this close is pretty amazing,” DeMoro said. “Don’t feel discouraged. You showed tremendous power and strength. These votes mean that you can take out just about any Democrat in the state if you continue to organize.”
The Democrats final results:
- Chair: Eric Bauman
- Female Vice Chair: Alex Rooker
- Male Vice Chair: Daraka Larimore-Hall
- Secretary: Jenny Bach (Won run-off on Sunday)
- Controller: Daniel Weitzman
Hold the Mayo. Carl Demaio managed an appearance in Scott Lay’s column about the Dems convention at Fox and Hounds:
State Senator Josh Newman, who is facing a recall over his vote for the gas tax in the transportation plan, took the stage, wearing his famous bear costume head. The recall petitions are still in circulation, with the effort being led by former San Diego councilmember and radio talk show host Carl DeMaio. DeMaio may be setting himself up for a run for governor, as Newman’s district is not in the target area for KOGO-AM, the station on which his show is heard.
Nationally, a meltdown on the right– The promised land for supporters of Trump is increasingly becoming out of reach, leading to a variety of disparate responses.
The President’s visit to Saudi Arabia has been a source of much angst for some right wing supporters. His speech calling Islam a “great faith” and omission of the term “radical Islamic terrorism” led to a meltdown on Twitter, the word ‘neutered’ often used and Roger Stone broadcasting “This makes me want to puke,” under a picture of Trump bowing before the Saudi king.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared on CNBC to boast about the absence of any protesters in the Saudi Kingdom, apparently unaware of the practice of beheading enemies of the regime.
Exhaustion overtook Trump on the second day of the trip as his daughter appeared in his stead for a youth forum on terrorism in social media.
A summation of the Trump tour thus far: lack of respect for human rights and democracy is included in both domestic and foreign policies of the administration.
How Bad Is It?
Pravda Fox News has been doing its best to play down the scandals engulfing the trump administration.
They’ve found their own ‘scandal’ to promote, a bit of fake news so odious as to turn my stomach. The only redeeming part of this is the steadily falling ratings at Fox news evening lineup, now in third place behind MSNBC and CNN.
When comedian Michael Che said “nothing matters anymore” on SNL last week during his faux interview with President Trump, it shouldn’t be downplayed or taken merely as satire. In some respects, it’s just the reality of contemporary political discourse.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appeared on “Fox and Friends” on Sunday morning, only to use his platform to further promulgate the previously debunked conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was assassinated because he was the source that provided Wikileaks with tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails.
The Fox affiliate in Washington DC aired a clip of legal commentator Rod Wheeler claiming to have a “big break” in the investigation. That report turned out to be pure puffery. The dead man’s family has disavowed the reports, asked people to stop, and is threatening legal action.
This hasn’t stopped Fox News’ Sean Hannity from continuing to “cover” the story.
The Russian embassy has also jumped on this fake news bandwagon. And it appears as though Putin’s bots have joined the fray.
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) May 22, 2017
Coming This Week
Doom and Gloom. It’s a good thing the President’s annual budget request is just a wish list, as we’ll learn when it gets released on Tuesday. The thing to remember is the budget submitted by the executive branch is a starting point for negotiations in the House. Trump’s crew will go waaay off to the right of anything ever seen before in the hope of getting the most reactionary budget possible.
Get your popcorn ready. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score on the Healthcare bill is coming on Wednesday, which may kick it back to another vote in the House.
The investigation continues. While there is a 100% certainty there will be more damaging revelations in the coming days, there less assurance about Congress continuing to do the right things. I don’t agree with the conspiracists out there in the interwebs about #RussiaGate bringing down the Trump administration in the near future. Having lived through Watergate–I was in DC and in the thick of politics back in those days–I know these things take time.
What does work, though, is constant, steady pressure on our members of Congress to keep focused on the investigation. Indivisible has a handy-dandy tool kit to help citizens communicate with their Representatives and Senators on this subject.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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