Monday, June 3, 2019

The 2019 California Democratic Party Convention: Political parties are only winners and losers, and losers can't implement policy ideas, even good ones.

This past weekend an event occurred critical to the continued success of the California Democratic Party - the 2019 California Democratic Party Convention.

From the press coverage of the Party’s Convention in San Francisco, you would never know an important decision was made. Unfortunately, the personality-oriented press covered the campaigning of 14 (of 23) declared Democratic Presidential candidates at that convention.

Unfortunately, past accomplishments - implemented policies such as low- or no-tuition college in their home states (i.e. Bernie Sanders' high tuition Vermont) - are not the measurement being used by the voters or the press to find an attractive candidate. In the 21st Century it is having an exciting personality and catering to bias, not ability and past policy successes, that appeal to Americans.

Fortunately, picking among the Democratic Presidential candidates at that convention was not on the agenda. Instead most of the delegates were looking at political reality.

The first reality facing the delegates to 2019 California Democratic Party’s convention was there will be a Presidential and Congressional election in 2020 which creates a set of facts:
  • In the 2020 Democratic National Convention, California's delegates will be pledged to potential nominees based on an complex primary vote apportionment system - no one candidate will get all 495 of the California delegates; 272 will be elected from Congressional Districts, 90 will be elected at-large, plus 133 will  be California's Party Leaders and Elected Officials (PLEO's) of whom 54 will be pledged and 79 unpledged. At the end of the Presidential election process, California's Electoral College votes will go to the Democratic candidate regardless of the nominee.
  • Neither of California's U.S. Senators is up for election.
  • If the National Democratic Party shifts to the left in its Presidential nominee, even with smartly focused hard work a few California House seats that shifted to the Democrats in 2018 will shift back to the Republicans - not many, but combined with what happens across the nation maybe enough to cause the Democrats to lose the majority in the House.
  • Or maybe the economy will collapse in which case all bets are off regarding the national election.
The truth of the matter is that the national election necessarily must be almost irrelevant to the California Democratic Party's for 2020. That is because the second reality surrounding the 2019 California Democratic Party’s convention was there will be a state election in 2020 which creates the following set of facts:
  • Governor Gavin Newsom in  2018 ran on a vision that included guaranteed health care for all, a ‘Marshall Plan’ for affordable housing, a master plan for aging with dignity, a middle-class workforce strategy, a cradle-to-college promise for the next generation, and an all-hands approach to ending child poverty; his 2019 budget proposal before the Legislature represents an effort to move forward in these areas best served by the current Democratic supermajority in the State Senate and the Assembly.
  • With regard to policy, Convention delegates adopted 14 policy proposal resolutions that can be divided into 5 categories: 
    1. federal policy matters over which the state has virtually no control including the U.S. Census citizenship question, the Federal cannabis ban, the Muslim immigration ban;
    2. existing state policy matters which the state already has the desired policy in place including Reproductive Rights and a Green New Deal (click to read 6 posts on  The California Green & Gold Deal );  
    3. changes in existing state matters including an overhaul of Proposition 13 as it applies to non-residential property, tweaks to rent control law, a charter school moratorium proposal, support for a bill which just passed the Assembly limiting police use-of- force, ending a University of California labor dispute, and a prohibition of affiliation between publicly funded universities or hospitals and any religious-affiliated hospitals which “openly discriminate against women and LGBTQ patients” and require doctors to follow religious codes that conflict with the party’s platform;
    4. criticizing a private non-profit organization, Kaiser Permanente, for not having adequate numbers of mental-health care clinicians available; and
    5. setting Party internal policy by providing for sexual harassment and implicit bias training and establishing a boycott of the Terranea luxury resort near Los Angeles.
  • At stake in the 2020 election is the Democratic super-majority in the Legislature which is essential to achieving goals. A Party organization is needed that can do the hard work to retain that super-majority - the only important purpose for having the convention and about which a decision of some import was made.
What was not covered by the national press was the election Saturday evening of Rusty Hicks as the California Democratic Party chair.

Hicks, who won 57% of the vote in Saturday’s election running against six other candidates, is president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, (LA Fed). It is comprised of over 300 local unions that represent over 800,000 workers in virtually every key industry – transportation and goods movement, entertainment and media, janitorial and hospitality services, education, construction, government, retail health care and communications.

In November 2014, Hicks, then 38, was unanimously elected to the position of President of LA Fed and was unanimously re-elected to a new 4-year term on December 18, 2017.

Back in 2006, Hicks became the LA Fed’s Political Director. Under his leadership, LA Fed’s political program facilitated important electoral wins and the passage of significant public policies, including raising Los Angeles’ minimum wage and affordable homes and good, local jobs for Angelenos (Build Better LA). In 2012, he led the effort to qualify and pass Proposition 28 modifying legislative term limits that brought new stability to the State Legislature.

Raised by a single mother in Fort Worth, Texas, Hicks saw first-hand the challenges of attaining the American Dream. His mother was a bookkeeper, his grandfather a grocery clerk and his grandmother a teacher’s aide. Their hard work inspired Rusty to a life of service to ensure that the voices of working people are heard on the job, in their communities, and at the ballot box. This is why Hicks served as the California Political Director for the 2008 Obama for America campaign.

Hicks holds the rank of Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve where he serves as an Intelligence Officer. In 2013, Rusty completed a one-year deployment to Afghanistan where he supported the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan. His accolades include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

He is also a graduate of Loyola Law School and Austin College. He resides in Pasadena with his wife, Sandra Sanchez, and their dog Charlie.

Bay Area activist Kimberly Ellis, who has served since 2010 as Executive Director of Emerge California that seeks to identify and help more women and minorities in California be elected to public office, received 36% of the vote. With Ellis appealing to supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and, having worked only in political activism, concerns were expressed that the recently floundering Party organization needed to regain the discipline and energy to retain the Democratic legislative majorities (and hopefully the current supermajorities).

Hicks had the backing of six of the state’s eight statewide officeholders, most of the major unions and a wide range of California legislators and members of Congress, all of whom were aware that despite its superficial reputation as a Democratic stronghold, California's electorate geography looks like the Assembly District map to the left. In fact, by-county results of Governor Gavin Newsom's election in 2018 is shown below.

According to news reports Hicks said he has plotted out a plan for his first 100 days as party leader, including increasing efforts to train grass-roots activists and to reach out to conservative and moderate areas of California, including the Central Valley.

The reality was clear for California Democrats who want to win. As noted in the Politico article Labor anger over Green New Deal greets 2020 contenders in California:

    Blue-collar union workers in solidly Democratic California are rejecting "Green New Deal" politics, a possible preview of troubles for 2020 presidential hopefuls in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.
    Robbie Hunter, president of the state Building and Construction Trades Council — which represents more than 400,000 workers — says that dozens of his members plan a major “Blue Collar Revolution” demonstration Saturday morning at the California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco, which will be attended by 14 of the Democratic presidential contenders and 5,000 delegates and guests.
    The effort aims to send a message that the party is in danger of eroding a critical base if it continues to back the Green New Deal resolution being pushed in Washington, D.C. by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her allies. Hunter argues the measure's goals could endanger thousands of jobs in the Southern California oil industry alone.
    “All it does is do what the Democratic Party seems to be very good at lately — which is export our jobs, while doing nothing for the end game, which is the environmental,’’ Hunter said.
    “The Green New Deal may be the darling of the Democratic Party — but it really divides the Democrats on a fault line, which is more of the elites against the working class Democrats who are concerned about losing their jobs," said Jessica Levinson, a member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission and a professor who teaches politics and ethics at Loyola Law School.
    Lifelong union members “don’t necessarily want to be retrained’’ for other, greener work spots — “nor is it even possible,’’ says Levinson. She predicts with the 2020 election looming, Democratic leaders will have to wrestle with the fact that “unlike the Mueller report and impeachment and indictment — people vote on whether or not they’re going to lose their job.”

With the election of a leader from organized labor, the focus to win of the California Democratic Party ought to inspire a shift in other state Democratic Parties and the National Democratic Party. Across the nation Democrats have one, and only one, problem which can be seen on this map:

California Governor Gavin Newsom this past week invited any women living in the states that just passed abortion restriction laws who need an abortion to come to California. That also should have communicated the obvious. If you live in a state colored red, your problems won't be with the Supreme Court, the President, or Congress.  Your problems will be with the members of your state legislature - they need to be replaced.

You achieve that by having state parties run by people who focus on getting Democratic candidates elected not on economic and social policy details. When you don't have that focus, preferring to talk among yourselves and looking down on the laboring class, you get abortion restriction laws and bathroom use restriction laws - in other words you lose bigly.

People who got elected have designed California's Green and Gold Deal, an approach that seeks to address the economic issues related to Climate Change policy. So far it has worked and it needs to continue that way. Otherwise, candidates entranced by the green lights off to the left will make us all losers.

No comments: