I attended the California Democratic Party’s annual convention in Sacramento along with 2,998 other delegates, a record. It was contentious from the start.
Progressives (essentially, Berniecrats) showed the old guard (essentially, Hillaryites, corrupted by corporate money) they could not be ignored. At the opening reception, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez’s speech was drowned out as well-organized progressives paraded through the lobby to chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate Dems have got to go!”
At the Berniecrats’ dinner, former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, stated a common theme: Trump became president because Democrats “did not stand for anything.” In future, candidates would have to “earn our votes.” Victory did not depend solely on money. In Richmond, Chevron’s favored candidate lost despite campaign expenditures of over $3 million.
The convention’s crucial event was the race for Party chair. Longtime Vice-Chair Eric Bauman had been roundly criticized for accepting $100,000 from a pharmaceutical company. Opposing him was newcomer Kimberley Ellis, a former Hillaryite but now progressive. Her supporters wore pink shirts.
Bauman spoke forcefully. He wanted Democrats to be pro-union and “the Big Blue Beacon of Hope.” Ellis’s speech was weak. Turner’s introduction took up half her time. Although I am a Berniecrat, on grounds of simple economics and justice, I voted for Bauman as more likely to be an effective leader.
There was uproar when Chairman John Lowell Burton announced Bauman as the winner by a mere 62 votes. Bauman was visibly shaken as he gave a brief acceptance speech, reminding everyone to “walk out wearing blue” (i.e., not pink, to wit, as united Democrats). He certainly “got the memo” as to weaning the state Party off corporate money.
Ventura County’s dearly beloved and greatly capable RL Miller underscored the point. As chair of the Environmental Caucus and co-founder of nationwide pressure group Climate Hawks Vote, she is a dynamo. This squawky hawk had launched an “Oil Money Out” campaign and displayed a huge whiteboard with a pledge to that effect, covered with important signatures.
Further common themes came from other speakers. U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said “nothing brings more to the treasury than good-paying jobs from a good education.” U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-San Francisco, agreed, having co-authored a bill with Sanders for free college for all to “invest in America” because “the greatest social program is a job.” California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom supported “earn and learn apprenticeships” (as in Germany). It was insane to spend more on prisons than education. Christine Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi and chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, said Dems must “advance a positive agenda” but first acknowledge tensions in order to overcome them. Planned Parenthood’s Kathy Kneer agreed, adding “Our real enemies are not in this room!”
Progressive Caucus Chair Mike Thaller said Dems could not expect “even $27” from donors if they continued to “sell the soul of Party to the 1 percent.” He had heard “disgust” from voters willing to donate to candidates but not the Party. Dems must stop taking “dark money.”
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke at the dinner. Sanders was right: “We must revolutionize our thinking.” Hillary was right: “We cannot afford divisions when the fate of the Union is at stake.” Russian attacks on our democracy appalled him. What made them so successful was that Republicans “actively encouraged them.” He declared, to wild applause, “I am determined to follow facts wherever they lead.”
Noted author Thomas Frank shared his insights at the important Progressive Caucus. Prosperity was no longer shared. Labor’s share of the economy was a record low. Profits were a record high. Ten years after the stock market crash, there was “outrage” but no growth of the left like the 1930s. The “gravity of the discontent” pulled to the right. To groans, he said Trump “copied FDR” in that he “connected emotionally” by “talking how Democrats used to talk!”
Today’s Democratic Party was “obsessed with getting money.” Yet despite raising over twice as much as Trump, Hillary still lost. So, we must “beat fake populism with the Real Deal.” This would involve “dragging Democrats kicking and screaming” to victory. This was a shot across the bows of DINOs: Democrats In Name Only.
These DINOs got the message. Eleven days later the State Senate passed a bill to establish a single payer for healthcare. This is not socialized medicine — the existing system of private suppliers is left intact (as in Canada and Britain). It will reduce costs by cutting out the middlemen, namely insurance companies. America is the only advanced nation to still rely on these blood-sucking leeches.
Newly-elected Vice-Chair Daraka Larimore-Hall recently told me that the state Party’s platform is now “virtually identical” with Sander’s. I therefore state with confidence that Democrats will come together with new energy and, next year, boot out any Republicans foolish enough to support Trump’s vicious agenda.