The times, they are a-changin’.
Last weekend, the Union-Tribune editorial board called out the leadership of the county’s Democratic Party for enabling men who sexually harass women. You can’t know how weird it felt to have read the dead tree version of this editorial and having to admit it read like something I could have written.
In years past, I would have just chalked up such criticism to the urgings of the UT’s Republican masters looking to stir the pot. By putting their criticism in the context of what’s been happening nationally with high profile cases of sexual harassment and boorish behavior, the UT showed me this was more than partisan sniping.
Jessica Hayes, the current chair of the county’s Democratic Party, had resisted previous efforts to boot Kasparian, saying he deserved due process. But local union leaders and some local Democratic officeholders have remained silent — and Kasparian remains a highly influential power broker.
Even now, the need for due process should be undeniable. But leading Democrats who have kept quiet because of Kasparian’s clout need to search their souls — because men have behaved wantonly for too long while others have feared speaking out.
My point is they’re right, and if the UT can see it, it’s time for big changes in the local party.
This can happen two ways; the current leadership can admit they’ve had a problem and announce steps to prevent such things from happening in the future. OR they can face the prospect of a lack of enthusiasm in a year where winning election battles is entirely possible. Doing nothing is not an option.
The not-so-invisible thumb on the scale favoring the same-old, same-old needs to go away. It needs to be a political standard for every candidate, regardless of gender, to speak out on the issues of oppression as a pre-requisite for party support. And this isn’t possible when the organization’s leadership is complicit with the taint of sexual harassment.
Something BIG is happening in the political zeitgeist and simply assuming voters will ignore the local party’s tone-deaf (at best) response to #Metoo in their own backyard is foolhardy.
Daniel Donner at Daily Kos took a look at the women already running for legislative positions in DC in 2018:
A record-shattering number of women are planning to run for the House or Senate in 2018 as a major party candidate, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. And it is no surprise that this surge is coming entirely from the Democratic Party. The numbers are still climbing, but as of this writing, there’s 337 Democrats planning to run for Congress in 2018 compared to 205 in 2016 and 162 in 1992’s Year of the Woman. For current numbers see here; past cycles can be found here.
In the months following the 2016 presidential race the non-partisan organization, She Should Run, heard from 13,000 women interested in running for elected office.
Emily’s List, a PAC focusing on electing pro-choice Democratic women to office, saw a similar spike in interest, as this quote from the Huffington Post demonstrates:
Emily’s List has seen an “unprecedented” amount of women interested in running for political office, the group’s president Stephanie Schriock told The Washington Post on Friday for a story about Democrats challenging Republicans in traditionally red districts during the midterm elections.
“During the 2016 cycle, her group spoke with about 900 women interested in running for school board, state legislature or Congress,” WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe and Mike DeBonis wrote. “This year, they’ve heard from more than 11,000 women in all 50 states — with a few dozen seriously considering House races, she said.”
An article in the Atlantic says this enthusiasm has led to significant wins in down-ballot contests:
Among other spotlighted wins, Seattle chose its first woman mayor since 1926. Manchester, New Hampshire, and Provo, Utah, elected their first female mayors ever, as did tiny Milledgeville, Georgia. In New Jersey, Ashley Bennett, a first-time candidate, won a spot on the Atlantic County legislative board by unseating a guy who had irked her with his sexist Facebook posting about the January Women’s March. (Mock the pink hats at your peril, gentlemen.) The hot storyline out of this first election of the Trump administration: “Revenge of the Fired-Up Woman.”
Although, to be more precise, it was “Revenge of the Fired-Up Democratic Woman.”
Whether you’re talking candidates, activists, or voters, the action among the ladies is on the blue side of the electoral divide, observed Kelly Dittmar, a scholar with the nonpartisan Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “It’s pretty clear the energy is partisan,” she told me.
A Washington Post profile on Michigan gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer says at least 79 women are running for governor or seriously considering it, according to a tally by the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University.
The Trump era has seen a new burst of political activism among women, beginning the day after the inauguration, when they turned out by the tens of thousands in cities and towns across the nation, for what is thought to have been among the largest single-day political demonstration in U.S. history.
Female candidates are stepping up at every level of the ballot. Of the 15 seats that Democrats picked up in the Virginia House of Delegates, 11 were won by women — and the number could grow, depending on how the continuing dispute over another race is settled.
There is a real possibility in Michigan that Democrats may offer female nominees for every statewide elected office — something that doesn’t worry Whitmer. In this environment, she said, “people look at that as an asset.”
In California, there are 39 women running for statewide offices and US Congress.
On Monday, hundreds of artists, actresses, directors, and entertainment industry leaders in Hollywood issued a “unified call for change” to end the crisis of sexual harassment and assault that exists “from movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms” nationwide.
The #TimesUp coalition published an open letter via full-page ads in both the New York Times and La Opinion along with launching a new website, filled with resources for working women. The group also announced the creation of a legal defense fund, providing subsidized legal services for those subjected to workplace harassment and abuse.
A Union-Tribune public records request reveals the number of complaints of sexual harassment by San Diego city workers rose to a new high in 2017. The last spike in complaints was recorded in 2013 in the wake of Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation, an event some Democratic party leaders have yet to come to terms with.
In light of overwhelming evidence of a progressive/feminist shift in the culture and politics, the San Diego County Democratic party needs to assert leadership on these issues, something it can not credibly do without confronting its own role in enabling sexism and covering for harassment.
This is particularly ironic when you consider the predominance of women among local party activists. The current and past party chairs are women. Yet the institutional weight of the organization has come down on the side of male oppression.
The twisted logic used by Party Chair Jessica Hayes to preserve Mickey Kasparian’s insider role as revealed in a December 25 Union-Tribune article along with her persistent attacks on those who dared to question his role is the most obvious evidence of a tilt.
Emails surrounding the decision to move the Democratic Party’s monthly meetings to a new location as revealed in a November 14 Voice of San Diego account also point to a lack of credibility. The willingness of Hayes to attribute protests by supporters of women making accusations of sexual harassment and retaliation to union rivalries shows poor judgment at a minimum.
And then there’s the “off the record” boasts and snideness towards dissent within the party displayed during the County Democratic Convention in October. Do Hayes and her cohorts really think none of their remarks were overheard? Only a commitment to protecting sources keeps me from going into a full-fledged rant.
Is the San Diego Democratic Party leadership willing to sacrifice a powerful advantage among female voters as America is about to enter an election year? What is the difference between their indifference towards oppression and outright support of Trump’s agenda?
To be clear, what I am arguing for in a larger sense is not a blind commitment towards candidates of a particular gender.
I am advocating for fairness not blinded by the influence of perceived power and financial prowess, something that should be a core value of any political organization seeking to appeal to progressives.
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