California Democratic E-Board Rundown
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.)
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!