They raged against the Democratic establishment. Now they want to take it over.
Self-described progressives, many of whom backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, claimed sweeping victories in last weekend’s California Democratic Party delegate elections. They hope to influence the leadership, policies and direction of the state’s dominant political party.
“This is a ringing endorsement of the new direction the Democratic Party needs, not just in California, but nationally,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, which passionately campaigned for Sanders last year. Many new delegates are nurses, the association said.
Others are skeptical about whether the new delegates can dramatically change what’s already a left-of-center party.
“They’re probably replacing like-minded people,” said Renee Van Vechten, a political science professor at the University of Redlands.
It’s not clear how many of the 1,100 state delegate seats up for grabs were won by progressives. But liberals statewide say their slates dominated in elections held in each of California’s 80 Assembly districts on Saturday and Sunday. .
The district-level delegates – each district elects seven men and seven women – receive two-year terms and make up a third of the 3,200 or so delegates to the state party’s governing body, the Democratic State Central Committee. The other two-thirds come from central committees in California’s 58 counties or are appointed by Democratic elected officials and nominees.
Delegates from all categories will gather in Sacramento at the state party convention in May to choose party officers. They also approve the party platform in even-numbered years, as well as official party endorsements of candidates as needed.
The party enjoys far more power in California than in Washington, D.C., or in many states. Democrats make up a plurality of the state’s registered voters and hold all statewide elected posts, a supermajority in the state Legislature, 39 of the state’s 53 House seats and both of its U.S. Senate seats.
Sanders inspired passionate support for his grass-roots campaign, which came close to upsetting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
When he came up short, many Sanders backers cited leaked DNC emails in accusing the party establishment of rigging the nomination for Clinton. Some were a rowdy presence at last summer’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
‘All of us’
Their anger intensified with Donald Trump’s victory. Now they’re determined to take control of the party and advance a platform that includes universal health care, free college tuition and a rejection of corporate influence in politics.
Going into last weekend, progressives mounted a get-out-the-vote campaign encouraging Democrats to take part in the Assembly District Election Meetings, which take place in January of odd-numbered years. Close to 200 people cast ballots in the 42nd Assembly District, almost five times the number who participated in the district’s last delegate election, said Joey Astzerbaum of Hemet, one of Sanders’ delegates in Philadelphia.
Aszterbaum said his slate of progressive delegates – he’s on it – won every delegate seat in the 42nd District, which represents parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“Progressive grass-roots democracy is showing itself all up and down this state to be the future of the Democratic Party,” he said.
Progressive excitement for last weekend’s elections is good for Democrats, Van Vechten said. “Unless you get people like this who are excited helping the party evolve, the party will fade into indifference or continue in disarray,” she said.
That said, it’s not as if the state party is a bastion of conservatism. Top Democratic lawmakers are eager to fight Trump and the GOP congressional agenda, and the existing party platform already endorses single-payer health care and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The platform also endorses the fight against climate change.
Last weekend’s progressive victory “strikes me as more of a symbolic victory than anything with significant consequences,” said Rob Pyers of the California Target Book, which studies legislative races.
“Now, the delegates will have a voice in crafting the party’s platform and voting to endorse candidates, and that second part carries some weight, because I think it’s a little more difficult for nonendorsed candidates to get contributions from sitting legislators.”
The new delegates’ influence potentially looms large in the race for party chairperson. Seeking to replace the retiring John Burton are state party Vice Chairman Eric Bauman and Kimberly Ellis, executive director of Emerge America, which helps Democratic women run for office.
Aszterbaum criticized Bauman as too close to drug manufacturers, especially with regard to Prop. 61, a Sanders-backed measure on last November’s ballot that sought to cap prescription drug prices.
“I can tell you now that this flood of people coming in are against Boss Bauman,” Aszterbaum said.
The state party took no official position on the ballot measure. Last summer, the San Francisco Chronicle reported a consulting firm registered to Bauman’s home address had been getting $12,500 a month from the pharmaceutical industry, which fought Prop. 61.
Bauman, a registered nurse who is chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, acknowledged that a consulting firm in which he is a partner did do work for pharmaceutical companies, but he denied any involvement with the ballot measure.
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.
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