A Progressive Alamedan

Various writings from a resident of Alameda regarding the political scene. The local perspective of local, state and national politics and a few other odds and ends of local concern. May not be particularly interesting to people outside of the Alameda area.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Convention report: Progressive People vs. Patronizing Power

This last weekend, I attended the convention of the California Democratic Party (CDP), as a delegate (one of 14 elected plus a handful more appointed) representing the 18th assembly district (Alameda-Oakland-San Leandro). This is my take on what happened at this historic weekend.  (While reading this, you can follow linked names to their Twitter profiles!)

Rally for Healthy California

The weekend started out Friday afternoon with a big rally for the Healthy California Act, the single-payer legislation currently underway, S.B. 562.  The rally was highlighted by passionate speeches by RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United.  She is amazing, and pulls no punches. She correctly asserted that the Democratic party is “in absolute crisis and denial,” pointing to the hundreds of seats in legislative bodies that have been lost over recent years to the Republicans.

Alongside was Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator, self-described “angry black woman” who had been alongside Bernie Sanders during his campaign. I had heard of her, but seeing her in person is indescribable — she has a fire and charisma that is captivating. Some people are talking about her running for President in a few years. I’d be first in line to vote for her.

I had left near the end of the rally, missing the scene where the crowd went into the reception hall and disrupted the new DNC chair, Tom Perez (who is loathed by the grassroots).  This was the first of many instances where the power structure in the Democratic party was clearly on the opposite side of the grassroots.  If you want to hear the typical salty language from our outgoing chair John Burton — and get a sense of what he thinks about delegates — see the video in this tweet.

Bernie-crats final (?) reunion

One of our local delegates, Marga, had organized a YUGE dinner banquet for people who describe themselves as “Bernie-crats”.   DeMoro and Turner were there, as was progressive congressman Ro Khanna of Fremont, and RN Dotty Nygard, vying to turn the nearby CD-10 (Tracy) congressional district “blue.”  It was a loud and joyful event, and it was clear that the attendees were nearly unanimous in supporting S.B. 562 the Healthy California Act, and supporting the candidacy of Kimberly Ellis for chair of the CDP.  I have been campaigning for he since becoming a delegate. As it was throughout the convention, there were pink T-shirts everywhere!

Nina Turner quoted Booker T. Washington: “There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” She warned us that we were probably going to be hearing a lot of anti-Trump rhetoric in the speeches, and to not get sucked into that as a rallying cry. We should be pulling up, not pushing down.

In retrospect, I almost feel like this was the “final” reunion of Berniecrats. Because something happened this weekend, which I will get to later, in which a large chunk of people who had been Hillary Clinton supporters, and were supporting Kimberly Ellis for chair, and/or were strong advocates for Healthy California Act, found themselves in the same boat as the Berniecrats.  By the end of the weekend, progressives were united regardless of their preference in 2016.

Candidate Speeches

Over the weekend, I ran across, either in person or giving a speech, quite a few candidates for statewide/national offices in the next major election.

For Governor, the front-runner is Gavin Newsom.  He gave an impressive speech, and from what he said, he’s very progressive. My only worry is that he almost looks like a Hollywood parody of himself (played by Matthew McConaughey).  He reminds me of John Edwards, who was the classic “Greek tragedy” hero with the fatal flaw that came crashing down. So it will be interesting to see if he can connect with the voting populace as a genuine person.

John Chiang is also running. He is currently California’s treasurer and formerly the Controller. I didn’t run across him this time, but he does have his supporters, and he would be good at the job.

Finally, we have Delaine Eastin; she was assembly member and Superintendent of Public Education in California a few years ago. I’ve decided that I’m supporting her (even if anybody’s chances of beating Newsom are slim). She is progressive and feisty, and I’ve been impressed with her — and wanted to see her as Governor — since I ran across her six years ago.

Lieutenant Governor has a few potential candidates. There was a lot of presence of Dr. Ed Hernandez. (He chairs the healthcare committee, so I was urging people to contact him to ask him so support the Healthy California Act.)  But I am hoping to see Gayle McLaughlin, former mayor of Richmond, become a full-fledged candidate. She has done amazing work fighting against the influence of Chevron. She is Bernie-approved… so she may make an amazing candidate if she decides to throw her hat in the ring.

A few of our DINO (Democrats In Name Only) representatives are seeing some serious resistance!  I met David Hildebrand, who is challenging right-winger Diane Feinstein in 2018. It is certainly an uphill battle since the California Democratic Party automatically endorses incumbents no matter how bad they are — a policy that Kimberly Ellis challenged as part of her platform. He is young, progressive, and energetic — I would love to see him go far.  And then congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (who, addressing the convention, ignored the loud outcries of “single payer!” while issuing platitudes about the need for the “public option”) is being challenged by Stephen Jaffe. (He wasn’t able to attend the convention but he was talk of the town. I hope to help bring him to Alameda some time!)

Me, with a few of my fellow AD-18 delegates

Patronizing Power

As I watched the candidates and party officials and statewide office holders like Alex Padilla, Xavier Becerra, and Fiona Ma, I was thinking about the Booker T. Washington quote.  I was pleased that not too much time was spent denouncing the idiocy of the Trump administration and the Republicans, but it certainly happened from time to time. When this happened, it felt like a cheap thrill to have the crowd yell and cheer.

While some speeches did have specifics — e.g. Gavin Newsom was unequivocal in his support for S.B. 562 — many contained general platitudes such as needing “universal healthcare” while not actually supporting the specific Healthy California bill.  Not OK by me!

One of the worst speeches was from Fiona Ma. Most of her talk was praising Bernie Sanders and his accomplishments and values — resulting in huge cheers throughout the convention (more cheap thrills) — and then not so subtly comparing outgoing CDP chair John Burton to Bernie Sanders. I was downright insulted by this. John Burton has nothing but contempt for delegates, and how he got to this position of power only speaks to the behind-the-scenes deals that get made. Every chance he got, he would use language that would make Robert DeNiro blush, demeaning delegates — especially the progressive ones.  While his language is a little bit funny at first, it was incredibly insulting to be treated like this. And unprofessional. 

It became ironic that the CDP, which kept using “resist” imagery — see the front of their printed program here, for instance — was actually turning into the establishment force that the grassroots were finding themselves needing to resist…

RoseAnn Demo, photo from National Nurses United

One of the highlights was to hear RoseAnn DeMoro address the convention — it shows that the progressives are starting to make headway since this wouldn't be possible a decade ago.  Worth a watch for a dose of honesty.

Her warning to the party leadership: "If you dismiss progressive values and reinforce the dynamic status quo, don't assume the activists in California and around this country are going to stay with the Democratic Party. Millions of people are hurting; we've never had a moment like this; we all need to embrace SB 562, and if we don't embrace that, then shame on us, because every death, every person suffering is your fault, Democrats! You've got the power; you've got the majority; you can do this!"

Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party

Saturday evening was the big election for CDP chairperson and other officers. Though Kimberly Ellis started out as the “dark horse” candidate against heir apparent Eric Bauman, it seemed like we had a chance at winning by the time the convention came .  Judging by the cheers for the candidates on the convention floor during and after their speeches, Ellis had at least as big of a group of supporters as Bauman, and probably more.  

We waited for the election results, and we were hearing updates on the count, that Ellis was in the lead as more and more votes were counted.  And then, suddenly, the final tally was announced with Bauman winning by just 62 votes.

The reaction was shock, sadness, but most of all, anger.  The feeling that the rug has been pulled out from under us. Rumors were flying everywhere, stories of oddities with the vote counting process, unlikelihood of a projected victory flipping at the last minute, of people not being allowed to observe the counting, of a big batch of proxy ballots coming in at the last minute, and so forth.  Kimberly Ellis spoke in front of her supporters, and did not concede the race.  She announced that her team was asking to examine the results because they felt there were some irregularities.

As people started to leave, either to parties (not me — I was sleep-deprived and not feeling celebratory) or to their lodgings, word was spread from person to person that we Ellis supporters should show up early Sunday morning to work on protesting the fishy results.  I was able to convince fellow Delegate Cheri to not just pack it up and drive home.  This was my seventh convention (I was a delegate 2005-2010), and while I haven’t seen anything of this magnitude happen before, I know from experience that there is usually some controversy that doesn’t get resolved until the last day of the convention, and that often the grassroots get stomped on because they leave early, letting the party old-guard who know the drill to stay behind and work against the grassroots’ interests.

Leaderless, angry progressives gather at 7:30 AM Sunday

Sunday morning, people started showing up, and it was fascinating to watch a leaderless protest movement come together. There were too many people for anybody to be heard by themselves, so several people started using the Occupy movement technique of “human microphone.” (If you aren’t familiar with this, watch this video. It’s important that people know how to use this technique —  It’s amazingly effective.)  People worked on gathering the 300 signatures required for introducing a bill on the general session floor.  Others organized a protest outside of a corporate Dem’s power breakfast upstairs in the convention center, ranting against his coercing his appointed delegates to all vote for Bauman. Others had brought marking-pens and large paper for people to make protest signs to hold up in the convention center.  I ended up helping create a bunch of signs that said “Validate the Vote” which you can see in some of the pictures on this LA times story.

Most people I spoke to expressed frustration that this keeps happening to the progressives.  Bernie Sanders having his success snatched away from Hillary Clinton (thanks to voter suppression, media bias, the AP declaring victory for Clinton the night before the California primary election, our Secretary of State campaigning for Clinton and making it so hard for no-party-preference voters to vote in the primary, etc.); Tom Perez being chosen for head of the DNC over grassroots-backed Keith Ellison, and now establishment Democrat Bauman, who had taken thousands of dollars from the pharmaceutical industry last election to help defeat proposition 61, being elected chair of the CDP.

The morning’s program was raucous and chaotic. Hundreds of people stood at the delegate-comment microphones, begging for “point of information” and “point of order” and getting shut down with derision by Chairman John Burton every time. Once in a while he would let somebody make their case, and then rule them out of order. Another protestor asked for a copy of the agenda so people could know when something would be IN order. It was clear that the deck was stacked against the grassroots.

Finally the issue of the election was addressed at the podium, and it was announced that the Ellis campaign had met with outgoing chair John Burton and presumptive winner Eric Bauman and that they would be allowed to have an audit of the election.  Still, there were hundreds and hundreds of upset people that didn’t feel like that was enough; it certainly didn’t resolve the problem right away. A highlight was when outgoing party controller Hilary Crosby (a progressive whom I helped get elected several years ago) addressed the convention and helped us feel satisfied that the audit will be real. I trust her, and because she was a supporter of Kimberly, being the one to convince her to run in the first place, I think that others will too.)

Eric Bauman finally came to the podium to speak to the delegates at the end of the program, and he couldn’t come close to addressing the delegation. The outrange in the hall was undeniable, and he could hardy speak over the yelling.  It was clear that the California Democratic Party is horribly divided.  That is when I left, to go to a nearby park with hundreds of Kimberly Ellis supporters, for a final goodbye and to learn that the Ellis team will be staying in Sacramento over the next few days to audit the vote.

What will happen?  Who knows.  If Bauman is indeed the valid chair, he has his work cut out for him in bringing the grassroots on board. I’ll keep you posted.

Stay Local

In the meantime, I encourage all my neighbors to get active and stay active on a local basis.  Our grassroots organization, Alameda Progressives — an offshoot of the Bernie Sanders campaign — is “young scrappy and hungry” and it would be great to have people who are interested in action at the local level.  Go check out the AP Facebook Page and click the blue Sign Up button to get email announcements of upcoming events.

Anybody reading this want to get my emails?  I send out occasional emails like this in my role as a delegate and also just a concerned citizen. Get on the non-spammy list at http://eepurl.com/4OA7j ...

Thanks for reading, and keep up the fight!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Lessons of the 2017 California Democratic ADEMs"

For those who are interested in the process that brought progressives like me into the delegate positions, this article has a great statewide overview of the influx of progressives/berniecrats into the fold.

(BTW: Apparently there was a tallying error; all fourteen of our "Groundswell Progressives" slate wound up winning.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Countdown clocks considered harmful

Today I read that a countdown clock of how long we have to put up with President Trump has gotten very popular for people to put on their websites, share on social media, etc.


I remember this kind of thing when George W. Bush was in his first term.  Everybody was so looking forward to the end of Bush's term and his replacement with somebody better that I would see bumper stickers, signs, and digital media heralding either Election Day 2004 or Inauguration Day 2005.

And then, Bush stayed for another term.

So please, let's not make any assumptions that Trump will be easy to topple in four years. No matter how much we want him gone, there are plenty of voters, corporations, 1%ers, and electoral college members who will be more than happy to sign him up for even more.  Especially once our new UnPrecident continues to "game" the system that got him elected in the first place.

In order to beat Trump, the Democrats have to do something very different from what they did in the 2015-2016 campaign.

Albert Einstein is generally credited with defining insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

And yet, there are forces — powerful forces, the predominant forces — in the Democratic Party who are hoping to do just that.  Just keep on with the game they have been playing, sucking up to big donors (the 1%, big pharma, big oil, etc.) and while they talk a good talk, there are so many voters who see through all the phoniness and choose the wise-cracking "Tony Stark" maverick they somehow identify with.

Imagine 2020, the Democratic Party proffering another candidate, a corporate-sponsored individual who speaks platitudes that sound great, while unashamedly behaving almost like a Republican at the same time; somebody as universally unpopular as Hillary Clinton was.  He or she wouldn't have a chance.

That's what is going to happen if the Democratic Party keeps telling itself lies about who it is.  From the leadership in the national (DNC) and state (like California Democratic Party) levels on down to the regional (like our county central committees) and grassroots activists like you and me.

Part of the change that we at the bottom can perform is to insist that the leadership in the Democratic Party be replaced in a big way.

At the national level, Keith Ellison is running for chair of the DNC. He's the candidate who will get rid of the system that has been failing us for years — even while we had a Democrat in the White House, the rest of the country went red in a big way.  How about checking out Keith?

In California, we delegates have the ability to choose the leader of our state's party. The front-runner is the old-model, big-money style candidate that we can't afford to keep having. Eric Bauman worked hard to defeat Proposition 61, which would have slashed prescription drug prices, after receiving $12,500 per month from Big Pharma.  That's why I'm strongly supporting Kimberly Ellis for the state chair. She's all about turning that upside-down.

We can keep going the way things have always been done in the Democratic Party, or we can choose to get active and change the paradigm.

The time until Trump leaves office depends on what we do about it. There is no countdown.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Victory in yesterday's election!

Well, we did amazingly well yesterday.  Thanks to so many of you, and the people you brought, and the people that my slate-mates brought out, we were victorious overall.  Thirteen out the the fourteen on our Groundswell Progressives Slate were elected yesterday.  (I got 4th place on the men’s side.)


I wanted to thank everybody who was able to come out to the election meeting yesterday.  Thank you SO much.  Friends and neighbors that I see all the time, and friends I’ve made in my recent political activity, and friends I only see once in a while seemed to all be there.  And also thank you to everybody who wasn’t able to make it, either last-minute or being otherwise engaged — or even, arrived there but unable to vote due to the long lines — but still supported me.  I am honored and humbled.  It was so amazing to see so many people who came out to support me and what I — we — believe in.

It was especially amazing to have a couple of newly-turned-eighteen-year-olders come out, get registered to vote, and vote for us as their first election.

And it wasn’t a small sacrifice to be there!  The union hall that they picked to hold this was embarrassingly small.  You would think that they were expecting at most 200 people, and relying on good weather as well.  I heard there were over 800 ballots cast!  The last-minute changes to the schedule they performed also meant that people had to wait around in a unnavigably crowded auditorium or wait in long lines around the building, outside, in the (thankfully light) rain.  (Past venues for this kind of election have been in much larger spaces with a good foyer area where people could get indoors quickly and get checked in without so much hassle.)

Politically, this victory sends an important message — that the voters are not confident with the “business as usual” approach, that has failed so miserably, put forth by our leaders.

And what’s really amazing is that I’ve seen the results from across the state — elections like ours were held either yesterday or will be held today — and yesterday’s results brought progressive sweeps or near-sweeps into a vast majority of the districts.  I’m predicting something similar for today’s districts as well.

One of the big issues that our slate has been behind is to get fresh leadership in the California Democratic Party, and that is by supporting Kimberly Ellis to be chair of the party.  She is the underdog, but with these big victories I think she has an increasing chance.

If you are interested, Kimberly Ellis will be presenting her vision of the California Democratic Party at the next meeting of the Alameda Democratic Club this coming Wednesday,  January 11, at 7 PM at the Alameda Hospital. You don’t need to be a member of the club to attend;  I am predicting that since this is going to one of Ellis's first local appearances since this sweep, there will be a lot of people interested in hearing her talk, so arrive early if you want to come.  (Kudos to Slate-mate Gaby Dolphin for arranging for her to come present in Alameda!)

Here are the results of the AD 18 election, highest votes at the top.

Pamela Harris
Rabia Keeble
Eleanor “Ellie” Casson
Amber Childress
Mara Schechter
Gabrielle “Gaby” Dolphin
Malia Vella

Sean Dugar — also elected to Executive Board
Michael Lee
Jeromey Shafer
Dan Wood
Carter Lavin
Michael Fortes
Michael Katz

I'm looking forward to working with these people, including councilmember Malia Vella who also garnered a spot.

I will be posting update to this blog about my involvement as a delegate.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Starting up this blog again!

I had set this blog aside for a while as my involvement in politics waned. Of course last year (2016) I got re-energized in campaigning for Bernie Sanders.  I was considering adding to this blog some more, but never got around to it.

After the aftermath of the primary election essentially stolen from Sanders, and the embarrassing loss of Clinton in a race between the two most unliked candidates in history, and with a unthinkable Trump presidency about to start, I decided to dig in — again.  To run for delegate to the California Democratic Party.  I had been delegate for three 2-year terms before (2005-2010), and so I figured it was time to try it again. I and the progressives I worked with had quite a bit of success last time, so it's time to do it again.

Like you I’m devastated that Trump will be President soon, but I’m furious that the leadership of the Democratic Party (like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid) seem to be waving the white flag, denying that the party needs a new direction. They want to keep the same losing strategy, sucking up to corporate donors and denying the progressive values that most Americans actually hold dear.  In order to change the Democratic Party, we need new leadership — like Keith Ellison, running to head the DNC, and Kimberly Ellis, running to head the party in California — but that’s not enough. As Bernie said, change always happens from the bottom up, so we need a groundswell of real progressives like me to be the change we want to see.

There are 14 spots open for delegates to the CDP in our Assembly District 18 (Alameda, most of Oakland, and San Leandro). But many candidates are part of the political establishment who don’t want to rock the boat.  So I have teamed up with an amazing, diverse slate of progressive men and women from our district — you might recognize some of them as being active in the Sanders and Clinton campaigns — and I need you to come out and vote for me and our entire group, so that we can remake the Democratic Party into a party that succeeds in representing our progressive values. The people in our slate have some amazing skills and I’m hoping that my experience being a delegate will be helpful in turning their values and ideas into action.

We call ourselves the “Groundswell Progressives.”  We have a website with information about our values and the people on our slate: www.groundswellprogressives.us.

To be eligible to vote for me and the Groundswell Progressives slate, you need to be either already registered to vote as a Democrat — or you can actually register/re-register to vote, as a Democrat, there.  (Note: If you want to support me but don’t feel like a Democrat at heart, you could always take an extra registration form and re-register with a different party preference after the event. I won’t tell.)

We in the grassroots are up against a well-funded establishment political campaign to install a set of “business as usual” candidates, and they are well-versed at bringing out big numbers. So this is something where we really need as many real people to get active as possible to counter that “machine.” I’ve been on a team that has succeeded at that three times before, and I need you to make this work again.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Come See the Amazing Delaine Eastin this Wednesday Night

Back in November, I saw Delaine Eastin, former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, speak at the E-board meeting of the California Democratic Party.

She absolutely brought down the house. Just an amazing, dynamic, inspiring speaker.

Through my suggestion, she will be coming to this month's meeting of the Alameda Democratic Club. I am really looking forward to hearing her.

She will be speaking about education and California politics. I can't recommend her enough. Please come!

The meeting is THIS WEDNESDAY EVENING at the Alameda Hospital, 2070 Clinton Ave @ Willow in Alameda. Start time: 7 PM. Everybody is welcome, no admission is charged.

(Photo Credit: Tom Torlakson (Yes, him!)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Bernie Sanders, Independent, Addresses California Democrats

[Note: I hadn't updated this blog in a while, but I found this in my Drafts folder. Considering how far Bernie has come since this, I thought it would be interesting to go ahead and publish this....]

This was the first year in a while when I haven't been a delegate to the California Democratic Convention. I'm actually kind of relieved that I didn't go this year, between my workload and my growing unease with the two-party system.

So I found it ironic that the big speech event of last weekend's convention was when Bernie Sanders, an "independent," rocked the convention with his speech. It's worthwhile to watch.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I guess there are other people with my name out there

It was just pointed out to me that somebody has recently been posting comments to local political blogs using my name. I guess that's the disadvantage of having a short and common name. Or, maybe some low-life is trying to impersonate me - it seems like too much of a coincidence.

Unfortunately, there is no way to really confirm identity on the blogosphere.

But I just wanted readers of this blog to be aware that things may not be what they seem, especially if it seems that the person using that name is either spewing nonsense, or engaging in online activities that aren't characteristic of the real me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

MSNBC - Banksters & Government Exposed FINALLY by Mainstream News!

I know this isn't Alameda-specific, but it's a great introduction to a topic that has been capturing most of my attention lately, moreso than local and state issues. Of course we here in Alameda are all affected by this national (in fact, international issue).

Sunday, March 06, 2011

We Are All Wisconsonites

From Michael Moore's Page

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The results are in....

Unfortunately I didn't not prevail personally at the election today, but many of my slate-mates did. Congratulations especially to Esperanza Tervalon-Daumont, Nwamaka Agbo, Jessamyn Sabbag, and Jakada Imani, and also congratulations to the other winners as well. Thanks to everybody who came out to brave the cold weather, and the long lines — especially those who waited patiently while additional ballots were printed out. (They had printed 500 originally; I think there were about 700 votes total -- double last time around!)

Why I'm Running for Delegate Today

If you are reading this blog on its publication date — Saturday the 8th — and you are a registered Democrat, and you live in Alameda, parts of Oakland, or Piedmont — The 16th Assembly District, represented by Sandré Swanson — I hope you can come head over to Laney College's Theatre building today, arriving after 2 PM but before 4 PM, to vote for me, and the progressive slate that I am a part of:

6 Women: Nwamaka AGBO, Pamela DRAKE, Susan HARMAN, Jessamyn SABBAG, Margaret SCHULTZ, Esperanza TERVALON-DAUMONT

6 Men: Sean DUGAR*, Joseph J. GEORGE (Jakada Imani), Abel GUILLEN*, Robert PECK, Sean SULLIVAN*, Dan WOOD

* = additional candidates recommended by the slate

I am also running for the position of EXECUTIVE BOARD. One person from the twelve winning delegates is eligible to become the E-Board representative for our district. As one of the most inveterate delegates in our district, I feel that I'm qualified to step up to this additional level of responsibility. Thus, there will be a second ballot; please write my full name on that additional ballot and turn that in.

But the main reason I'm writing this is to talk about why I'm running. It's very easy to get caught up in the calling, emailing, team-building, endorsement-collecting aspect of running a campaign ... whether it's a big campaign or a tiny campaign like mine. But more important than that is the original reason that a candidate is running in the first place. For me, there are so many reasons to run for delegate, to do what I can to make the California Democratic Party become more progressive.

I am running because the Party should not be helping out those Democrats-In-Name-Only who are just Republicans in disguise, just because they are the incumbents. Democrats stand for something, and when there is a "Democrat" in office who does not stand for something, they should be shown the door. I'm looking at Congresswoman Jane Harman, and at Senator Diane Feinstein, for instance.

I am running because as delegates, we have the ability to vote on which candidates for primary elections get the endorsement of the party. We got to have great candidates like Dave Jones, Kamala Harris, and Debra Bowen on our November ballots due largely to their backing by the Democratic Party in the corresponding June elections.

I am running because, when enough progressives get together and build up a Party Resolution, it's possible for the state party to get a message out that is not being given attention at the national level. For example, the Party's message just over a year ago was a resolution called End the U.S. Occupation & Air War in Afghanistan. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

I am running because we all need to put a stop to rampant corporate control of our media, of our politicians, of our government, and of us - including our children.

I am running because we need to put a stop to the powerful, out-of-control military forces. Our entire current military operations are based upon lies. I'm in the middle of an amazing book about the presidency of JFK, and how hard he had to fight against his military advisors' constant pressure upon him to go with a military solution. (It's astonishing that JFK was able to keep us from nuclear annihilation!) Fast forward 50 years of rampant military-industrial-complex growth, and I can imagine that it must be nearly impossible for even the most liberal President to have any control over this. Wikileaks' recent disclosures have shown how horrible things are in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there doesn't seem to be any end in site.

(What can we do as mere delegates to the party about this? Only a little at a time, but it's better to try than to throw up our hands!) We have to do something to put an end to our Naqoyqatsi.

I am running because we need to do something about our economy, which is in shambles, and perched on the edge of a precipice. The State of California is close to bankrupt, mostly thanks to Proposition 13, which has protected corporations from paying their fair share of taxes. And thanks to our latest propositions from the November ballot, the legislature has no way to raise new revenues without getting held hostage by the Republicans (who would prefer to see the state budget go down in flames). And things are even worse at the Federal level. Our country is deep in debt; our dollars would be worth nothing if they weren't the international standard — and this artificial support could crumble any time — and there is no end in sight to the hemorrhaging by the military on our budget.

I am running because our health care system is still in a horrible state. The well-publicized, heavily debated congressional reform ended up being just another giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry.

I am running because we need to put pressure on our President to do actually implement some of the things he promised. [Broken Promises] We still have the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. We still have corporate give-aways. We still have torture. We still have the USA PATRIOT act. (You know, it feels like we still have George W. Bush!)

And I am running for so many other reasons. We're running out of time, in our economy, in our climate, in our oil supplies (the other inconvenient truth), in our constitutional freedoms. I want our kids to have a future.

A single delegate who cares about these issues can only do so much. A swarm, however, can be pretty effective. Let's hope that we get a swarm of progressive elected across the state today.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm again running for Delegate to the CA Democratic Party

As I have been doing once every two years since 2005, I am running for delegate to the California Democratic Party. This is a way that activists from the grassroots can have some influence on the largest state Democratic Party in the country. It's sometimes an uphill struggle against the lackluster establishment, but we have had some real victories. I can connect California Democrats' huge November victories back to the energy of the grassroots, and I want to keep that up!

The only way I can actually win is if enough of my neighbors who are registered Democrats come to an event in Oakland (at Laney College) at about 2 PM on Saturday, January 8, and vote for me, in person.

If you are a reader of this blog, living in the 16th Assembly District (represented by Sandré Swanson — Alameda, Piedmont, and about half of Oakland), I hope I can count on your support. [Not sure what your district is?] If you can definitely or maybe come to vote for me, please Email me your RSVP so I will know to expect you.

This is my candidacy statement:

I have been a delegate for the last six years, and I wish to continue in bringing a progressive voice to the California Democratic Party. I will resume my membership of the Progressive Caucus and also the very progressive Women's Caucus. I've been active in a number of campaigns, and organizations like DFA and the CADC. I have contributed resolutions and additions to the CDP's platform document to make sure that the party has a strong message. We must hold Democrats accountable to these principles, and support progressive candidates, even if that means challenging incumbent Democrats who have slithered too far to the right. I am passionate about a number of issues including election integrity, reining in out- of-control corporations, exposing corporate-owned media censorship, and ending our country's state of warfare based on lies. Also, we need to bring in more funding for the Democratic Party from small donors, so it's not beholden to PACs and rich contributors. (That's why I'm a proud member of the DEM2012 program!) Since communication with the people I represent is important, I use my 300-person email list and my blog at http://progala.blogspot.com to get the word out.

Every Vote Counts! Two years ago when the election meeting was at Alameda Hospital, I was probably overconfident in my chances of winning, and I wound up tieing for the last slot, and then I lost the coin flip! (Our district was the most competitive district in the entire state!) So if you want to see the California Democratic Party head in a progressive direction, please don't assume that I have this "in the bag" like some of my friends did last time around! :-)

If you are willing to invest an hour or so, about 2-3 PM, on Saturday January 8th, please mark your calendar, and be sure to email me your RSVP.

This is a very small campaign, but all that means is that every single vote counts in a BIG way. I really hope you can come out to help, and ideally even drag along a spouse, neighbor, or friend who shares your progressive values to come vote as well — and to share the ride and thus help the environment :-)

Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts, in the comments or by emailing me.

May you have a Happy New Year!

RSVP here [Note: this is a temporary email address]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California Democratic E-Board Rundown

Freshly energized from the November elections, and with local elections for delegates to the California Democratic Party just around the corner, I decided to attend the party's Executive Board meeting in Sacramento this past weekend. Most delegates only attend the annual convention. (Each district has a representative to send to the E-Board meetings as well.) I've wanted to see what it was like, so I attended as an observer.

The general session, as you would expect, was extremely up-beat. While nationally, Democrats suffered, the Red Invasion didn't make it here. If the current trend continues, with Kamala Harris with a growing lead over Republican Steve Cooley, it will be a Democratic Party sweep of the statewide offices. In spite of being outrageously outspent (to the tune of $265 million) by the Republicans, Brown and Boxer held their own. Not only did California hold back the Republicans, several new seats turned blue, such as the effervescent Dr. Richard Pan, who will be the new assemblymember in my parents' district.

One of the highlights of the debrief was the results of the DEM2010 program that Hilary Crosby created. D.E.M. stands for "Donate Every Month" and the idea is that it's a way to fund the party from a large number of small, monthly donations from ordinary people like you and me, rather than big donations from PACs and CEOs. Because of DEM2010, the party was able to get door-hangers (long-requested, and never quite available in years past) created and distributed across the state, to help Democrats figure out the party's endorsements. (Yes, it's obvious when there is a "D" next to a person's name, but the non-partisan, Democrat-endorsed Tom Torlakson cruised into victory as well.)

(I joined DEM2010 shortly after it started, because I would rather have the party be fueled by the grassroots rather than big donors. It's just about to transition to "DEM2012" but the goals will be the same as we approach the 2012 elections. Maybe I can convince you to contribute a few bucks a month, to help toward the goal of making the Democratic Party's biggest contributor be the grassroots?)

I was also pleased to hear that the staff of the state party going to be trying to start a new program, during the times between election cycles, of getting the message out about what it means to be a Democrat. If they can actually do this right — get some advice from George Lakoff, for instance — this could have some real long-term benefits.

Part of a convention or E-board weekend entails going to caucus meetings. I've tried a few different groups over six years that I've been a delegate, and at this point I've found two that are a good match for me.

The first one, perhaps surprisingly, is the Women's Caucus. No, it's not just for women! I helped my friend Karen Weinstein run for chair of that caucus two years ago, and she turned what had been described as a dreadful, low-key group into an active, progressive group. This meeting featured a panel discussion by recent female candidates for office from around the state; the highlight was Oakland's mayor-elect Jean Quan. She gave some fascinating insights on running a campaign with the Ranked-Choice Voting system. (See sidebar.)

Jean Quan's insights on RCV

  1. A longer campaign season (bypassing a June primary) gives an opportunity to get into the issues
  2. Less money spent, since it's one campaign
  3. It's more democratic, since many more people vote in the November
  4. It makes you build coalitions (e.g. asking for the second-choice vote if somebody is already supporting another candidate; suggesting a second choice.)
We also got to hear a presentation by Deliane Eastin, the former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Wow, this is one progressive, impressive lady. Though she was glad to see the Democratic do well in this election, she did not pull any punches when it came to pointing out flaws and problems in our country and in the Democratic Party. She is somebody that I (and several others, it turns out) would like to see become chairperson of the California Democrats!

The Progressive Caucus was, not surprisingly, the political highlight of the weekend. It was also a fresh (albeit somewhat depressing) antidote to the giddy victory dance of the general session. We were reminded that with the passage of Proposition 25, the state legislature can now pass a budget with a simple majority, no longer subject to being held hostage by the Republican minority. However, a two-thirds vote is required to raise taxes, and with the passage of Proposition 26, the same thing goes for fees. So now we have a $25 Billion hole in an $80 Billion budget. And, not to mention, a new governor who promised no tax increases without a "vote of the people," so even if the legislature was likely to somehow come up with new sources of revenues, he'd likely veto it.

California is in deep.

We also heard some analysis of the Democratic Party doldrums around the country, and I think I agree with what I heard. Political activist Norman Solomon pointed out the ways that Obama is doing damage to the Democratic Party (and to the country) — he focused on the "deficit commission" that Obama created to essentially dismantle the New Deal. He also spoke about the "warfare state" that the country has become.

It was certainly an interesting and energizing weekend. Perhaps too energizing — There are so many things that need to be done and I feel like I'm being pulled in multiple directions. Well, I'll start out by running for the Delegate position again, and bring along as many progressive activists as I can in the process. The caucus meeting for this will be in early January, probably in Oakland, and I will be asking you (if you are registered Democrat living in the 16h Assembly district, represented by Sandré Swanson) to come out and vote for me!

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Impact of Ranked Choice Voting

Tonight, the surprising news in the Oakland election is that even though Don Perata appeared to be in the lead, the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system — used in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro — has caused Jean Quan to be the winner, if the numbers stay steady.

This is a huge deal, and it took me a while to wrap my head around how it came about.

Up until now, I have thought of RCV as a way to let people avoid "throwing away" their vote in a race with long-shot participants. For instance, let's say that you are a Green at heart, so you would vote the for Green candidate (such as Ralph Nader in 2000) but put the Democrat as your second choice. Then, once the Green Party votes (and other minority votes) are transferred away, the combined first and second choice votes might affect the race. In 2000, that might have allowed Al Gore to win, for example.

But the impact in Oakland is even more stunning. It allowed the race to have plenty of candidates, and people could vote for the top three candidates that they would prefer. If their top choice didn't make it, then their vote would count toward their second, and possibly even their third choice.

It appeared that a lot of people who voted for Kaplan, who was in third place initially and also after the other candidates were eliminated, chose Quan as their next choice over Perata by a three to one factor. That meant that when Kaplan was eliminated in the tenth round, this put Quan over the top, giving her the majority.

This is way different from the Ralph Nader scenario I mentioned earlier. Is this some kind of sham? Didn't more people choose Perata? How does Quan get to win when Perata got more votes?

The ranked choice method is, literally, a run-off election. Remember, Perata didn't get a majority. So the instant run-off allows voters to choose between the top two vote-getters. More Oaklanders chose Quan than Perata, so she will be the winner.

Alameda's Turn?

We are surrounded by cities with RCV in their municipal elections, so maybe it's time for us to get on board too. Our Mayor-Elect was not elected with a majority, causing some people to gripe about it, but that is the way it currently works. What if our elections functioned similarly? The results we have now might not be the same.

For instance, let's take a hypothetical case with the city council. We had a crowded race this year. We had several great candidates, but there were certainly those who chose to vote "strategically" and not risk "throwing their vote away" on a candidate that they didn't think would likely win. For instance, John Knox White avoided any "honorable mentions" in his endorsements as Lauren Do and I did, because he didn't want to reduce the number of votes for the front-runner candidates on the "Democratic" side of the race.

If we had RCV, this wouldn't have been necessary. Somebody could have chosen, say, Jeff Mitchell as their first choice, with Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft as their second choice, and Rob Bonta as their third choice, and even if their first two choices didn't make it, their vote would help Bonta rather than be eliminated (bringing somebody like Jean Sweeney closer to being elected).

It also might have helped other candidates do better and even affect the final outcome. I actually tried running a hypothetical scenario starting with numbers that are similar to the current totals, and imagined elimination based on the dynamics of the election.

Again, this is all hypothetical, but here is a possible scenario I played with, using familiar names and imaginary rankings, coming in after all but the top four are eliminated. Bonta and Tam might be leading with 9800 votes and 8900 votes respectively, sharing most of the transfer from Jensen and Ezzy Ashcraft. Johnson and Sweeney would come in next with 6900 and 6700 votes respectively. But then, with Sweeney eliminated, I would guess about half of her votes would transfer to Johnson and the other half would be "exhausted" as they say — in other words, no second choice. That would bring Johnson into the top two right alongside Bonta. That would definitively eliminate Tam, and while we could imagine a lot of her votes transferring to the other candidates, it wouldn't really matter since it's the top two we need.

So from my scenario, Bonta and Johnson would be the definitive winners in the election, with Johnson getting her solid second place (as opposed to the razor-thin lead over Tam in the real world results) due to cross-over from the Sweeney voters.

Top 6Elim JensenTop 5Elim EzzyTop 4Elim SweeneyTop 3
Ezzy Ashcraft43006004900-4900

Of course, things could be different as well. I can imagine a scenario where Tam got more second- and third-choice votes to make her the highest or second-highest vote-getter. But then Sweeney's elimination would bring Johnson into first or second place, so she would end up on the council.

It's interesting that all of the scenarios that I run, we still end up with Johnson on the council.

The other insight I've gotten is that, for better or for worse, RCV (or at least its specific variation, Instant run-off voting, used in Alameda County — there are other approaches) seems to do well at clustering what I will call "teams" for lack of a better term. If you have two strong and separate ideologies in a race, you will probably end up with one representative in the final pick in the top two when the rest of the candidates have been eliminated.

That's how in Oakland, Quan and Kaplan essentially were part of the "Not Don Perata" team, and when you added their votes together, their winning team representative beat out The Don. In Alameda, a city council race with RCV might have given somebody from the Johnson/Sweeney mindset a seat, and somebody from the Tam/Bonta mindset a seat as well. Having RCV might actually affect campaign strategies; I heard that Kaplan and Quan were encouraging their supporters to choose their counterpart on the "Not Don" team as second choice. A combination of a slate and a competition!

The Mayoral race in Alameda would have have been interesting, and could have turned out different, too. It's hard to tell. The elimination of votes for Kahn and Daysog could have transferred any way, perhaps divided equally. A lot of DeHaan's votes might have transferred to Matarrese, making him the winner (just like Kaplan did to put Quan over the top). Then again, DeHaan and Matarrese were very close, and if Matarrese were eliminated by being in third place, he might transfer enough votes to Gilmore to make her the winner. Or maybe not.

Clearly, there is no way to know what might have happened with this election — this was for entertainment purposes only. However, I think it would be a good idea to consider having Alameda switch to this system for the future. I think that it would make the elections more representative (in spite of perhaps not electing my favorite candidates), but more importantly, I think it would attract more qualified candidates, and encourage people to vote for their favorite candidates while still being able to vote for "back-up" candidates in case their top choice didn't make it.

What do you think?