(Proudly cross-posted at OC Progressive)
My goodness, what a convention we had! The "mainstream" corporate media may have just seen it as a massive foodfight, but beneath the surface something amazing happened. As I saw and Calitician Robert Cruickshank noted, the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" finally started to take control of the CDP.
Progressives flexed their muscle yet again at this convention, showing that they are the force to be reckoned with in the party - even if progressives did not always speak with a single voice. The refusal to endorse Propositions 1A, 1D and 1E was a sign that progressive delegates are not going to be dictated to by Democratic leaders, and that they feel empowered to say "No" when it is warranted. That's a sign of a healthy and mature progressive movement. People power is here in the California Democratic Party - and although it has yet to find sustained expression, it's only a matter of time before that power revitalizes the party.
As all of you who followed my Tweets saw, the vote was close on all the May Special Election Initiatives. And yes, debate was heated. But while the "mainstream" reporters were just focusing on how "divided!!!!" we were (like this was the first time?), they missed what the rest of us saw. They missed the progressive grassroots taking charge, speaking truth to power, and letting their voices be heard at what's supposed to be their convention.
Let me explain my thoughts some more down below...
It's ironic how the theme of "A New Era" for the CDP Convention was meant to simply recall the election of President Obama and symbolize the passing of the torch from Former Chair Art Torres to new Chair John Burton, but the actual action on the floor over the weekend was what really gave the "New Era" theme its meaning. While it may have seemed unfair for Former Controller Eric Bradley to be punished for the crimes of other party leaders in giving Don Perata and Fabian Nunez millions of dollars meant for partybuilding, we may nonetheless see some fresh air and better use of CDP funds with the election of new Controller Hilary Crosby. While there was large support for the May Props, it wasn't large enough for passage despite the massive pressure from legislative and CDP leaders as progressives simply could not accept the raw deal that Arnold the Governator was trying to force us into. And hey, even John Burton's election symbolizes this new era in an ironic way. He may be an "old-timer" in the party, but he's nonetheless a solid progressive who yesterday called for an exit strategy from Iraq AND Afghanistan as well as a renewed effort to speak up for the poor who are too often silenced. And especially in his refusal to join the other CDP head honchos in pushing 1A-1F, he showed he can listen to what the grassroots is saying.
Perhaps the opening shots of the 2010 Gubernatorial race also symbolized "a new era"... Or at least Gavin Newsom's budding campaign did. The energy and enthusiasm behind Gavin reminded me of, dare I say it, the beginning of Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign. And beyond the energy of his supporters, Gavin's ideas and policy proposals may really start a departure from the overly cautious "Sacramento Consensus" centrism of the recent past if his candidacy gains steam. I mean, how is it not a little gutsy to get past the usual canned budget answers to actually endorse a constitutional convention to undo the arcane budget rules that allow the GOP minority to have a stranglehold on our future? And how is it not innovative to reframe universal "PreK-college" education and universal health care as "#1 business issues"? And of course, his unwavering support for LGBT civil rights has helped other California Democrats "come out of the closet" to support marriage equality. Perhaps the San Francisco Mayor is pretty far from perfect, but I see potential for a Governor who may really be able to think "outside the box" to find the solutions we really need.
And finally, the "Red Districts" that have far too often been ignored by the CDP as "hopelessly Republican" in the past are now getting attention in this "new era". At Take Back Red California's jam-packed Red to Blue Dinner on Saturday night, Russ Warner (CA-26) and Francine Busby (CA-50) were greeted with thunderous applause as they announced they will run for Congress again. Closer to home, enthusiasm was building in the convention halls for Bill Hedrick (CA-44) and Beth Krom (CA-48). And in the ultimate satisfying climax, newly elected CDP Chair John Burton seemed to bypass the old flowery language of a "58 County Strategy" to actually put forth a plan to make his 58 County Strategy work. Perhaps this may be a "new era" of turning more "Red Districts" blue?
So what can we expect in this "new era" for the California Democratic Party? I don't quite know yet. I mean, Jerry Brown still wants to take us on "a stroll down memory lane". Many of the "establishment power players" still have great power in the CDP. John Garamendi still can't get a fair shake. While much has changed, much has remained the same.
But hopefully as all this new progressive grassroots enthusiasm just spoke truth to power in electing Hilary Crosby as CDP Controller, allowing John Burton to be an unabashed progressive as CDP Chair, and rejecting the leadership's call to endorse Props 1A, 1D, and 1E, the grassroots won't give up in breathing new life into this Democratic Party in this new era. We have a Democratic Governor to elect in 2010. We have Prop H8 to overturn/repeal. We have a 2/3 budget rule to undo. We still have purplish "red" seats to turn fully blue. We have so much work to do, and hopefully we'll finally get it done in this new era.