Sunday, September 18, 2016

California-- Not Quite As Blue As You Might Imagine



Yesterday, Jon Wiener, writing for The Nation picked at the ugly scab of California's Democratic politics, something few outside the state know about, namely that deep blue California has a Democratic Party very much under the thumb of corrupt conservatives calling themselves, inaccurately, "moderates." And these moderates represent, primarily, their campaign donors and their campaign donors' lobbyists-- oil and gas, agribusiness, real estate developers, Big Pharma, the charter school industry and, of course, the banksters.

Democrats hold the governorship and every statewide office in California, as well as huge majorities in the state Assembly and the state Senate. The Assembly has 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans and the Senate has 26 Democrats and 13 Republicans. And the Democrats have delivered to their constituents in some significant area. As Wiener wrote, "Democrats raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour and introduced paid sick days and paid family leave; they increased abortion access; they passed automatic voter registration; they expanded Obamacare and health insurance for poor people; and just before Labor Day they required overtime pay for farmworkers, and established the nation’s most far-reaching targets for renewable energy and limits on greenhouse gas emissions." Not too shabby. It sure ain't Texas.

"But," he wrote, "there’s a shadow over California politics. When the corporations’ favorite political party became hopelessly weak, they set out to gain power in the other one. Their tool, of course, was money. So now we have some Democrats taking corporate money and doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry, agribusiness, the real estate developers, Big Pharma, and some of the billionaires. It’s 'the new reality of California politics,' says Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect, an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times. In Sacramento a new caucus was formed in 2014: Democrats who call themselves "moderates," and are known as 'the mods.' But “we shouldn’t call them "moderates,"' one progressive labor leader told me. 'We should call them "opponents of working families and the poor."' It’s simpler to call them 'corporate Democrats.'"
The corporate Dems have piles of cash-- they spent at least $24 million in the June primary-- and several goals. Number one was probably blocking Governor Jerry Brown’s effort to cut motorists’ use of fossil fuels in half by 2030. The oil lobby succeeded at this last year, but failed this term. And three years ago eight mods joined the remaining Republicans to block a bill that would have required big companies to provide medical care for low-income workers and their families who were not on Medi-Cal. “The bill’s opposition comprised a Who’s Who of California’s most influential corporate interests,” according to Capital and Main, a news website reporting on progressive issues in California. Then there’s a group of billionaires led by Eli Broad, fighting the teachers’ unions and seeking to expand charter schools. And there are the real estate interests who want to end restrictions on development, especially along the coast. And the agribusiness-funded resistance in the Assembly to overtime pay for farmworkers was especially intense and prolonged.

...After the launch of Our Revolution, the group’s website unveiled the list of candidates it endorses, and urged Bernie people to work and vote for them. But of the 79 candidates currently endorsed, only one is challenging a corporate Dem in the California Assembly: Eloise Reyes in San Bernardino and the neighboring working class cities of the “Inland Empire” east of Los Angeles-- Rialto, Colton, and Fontana. (San Bernardino of course is also site of last December’s terrorist attack.)

If Our Revolution was going to pick only one, this one is probably the most important challenge underway right now. The incumbent, Cheryl Brown, is a leader in the Mod caucus who is running for her third term in the Assembly. She’s an African-American who comes from a business background. In 1980 she and her husband founded a local African-American newspaper, Black Voice News, and then in 2001 expanded to run a network of 22 African-American newspapers and media enterprises across the state called California Black Media. Cheryl Brown is good on some issues: she voted for the minimum wage hike-- her district desperately needs it-- and for the farmworker overtime bill. But she voted with Big Oil against Jerry Brown’s historic climate/environmental targets that passed just before Labor Day. That vote came after she received $1 million in “independent expenditures” from Chevron to help her fight off what the Sacramento Bee called “a rare challenge from the left over her environmental record.”
DWT readers should remember the progressive reformer running against Brown well-- Eloise Reyes, who almost beat corrupt conservative Pete Aguilar in 2014 but had her campaign destroyed by aggressive incompetents from EMILY's List. Lesson learned. Aguilar has been as horrendous a corporate tool in DC as was predicted, but Eloise has turned her attention closer to home, the state Assembly. She's been endorsed by the AFL-CIO's Central Labor Council (which represents more than 289,000 workers in the Inland Empire) and by virtually all of the local unions, including several that endorsed Brown in 2014 and feel betrayed by her today. Eloise also won the endorsement of environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters, and of Planned Parenthood, DFA, Blue America, Xavier Becerra and the legendary Dolores Huerta.

When Wiener asked her about the most significant differences between her and Cheryl Brown, she said simply, "I’m pro-worker, she’s pro-business." She explained that, "when the legislature tried to close the loophole that allows big corporations like Walmart to reduce workers’ hours so they would no longer have to provide medical coverage, she voted against. On the proposal for double pay on holidays, she abstained. On the bill to stop wage theft, she voted against. On rights of temporary warehouse workers, she voted against." But that isn't going to stop certain groups that try to pass themselves off as progressive from endorsing Brown-- including a laughable state Democratic Party and most of the African-American political elite, including the less-than-trustworthy Kamala Harris and the aforementioned crooked conservative Pete Aguilar. And much of the state legislature has circled their wagons-- if less than enthusiastically-- around Brown, including one of the few members widely considered even more corrupt that Brown herself, Isadore Hall.

This morning Eloise told me that when she "was told this race was an uphill battle, I accepted the challenge. We finished the primary less than 8.5% behind the corporate incumbent. New polls have us 4% behind her without messaging. With messaging, we are ahead with double digits... In Sacramento, I will work and fight for the best interests of our district. I will remind corporate special interests that our vote is not for sale. Our community is made up of extraordinary people  and extraordinary businesses looking for a representative who is willing to put them first. I am committed to doing this. San Bernardino county suffers from one of the highest poverty rates, a high drop-out rate, gun violence, the dirtiest air in California and a great number of people who feel disenfranchised.  Unless we put the people of our district above the profits of big corporations, we will continue to see our communities worsen without a hope for a brighter future... I will work to ensure Sacramento's Democrats are no longer beholden to corrupt special interest lobbyists. For too long Sacramento has been a joke to people who truly want progress. Well, I'm here to tell you the joke is over, and I will come to town with the will of the people on my side, looking to shake some things up."

Wiener speculated that "the political battle for the future of the state continues. If Eloise Reyes defeats Cheryl Brown in San Bernardino, that will put the remaining corporate Dems in the Assembly on notice: they will be challenged in two years, and could face the same fate. Our Revolution is now part of that fight." I'm not sure anyone in Sacramento fears Our Revolution or considers it a factor. If they can help turn-out the vote for Eloise, that will change-- and it will encourage other progressives and other reformers to challenge corrupt conservatives in Sacramento like Matt Dababneh, Tom Daly, Patrick O'Donnell, Mike Gipson, Luis Alejo, Jim Wood, Bill Dodd, Jim Cooper, Jim Frazier and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. If you care to help Eloise, please tap on the thermometer below.
Goal Thermometer

UPDATE: Rhode Island Too

Obama won California with 61% in 2008 and 60% in 2012. That's huge-- even huger than Texas' votes for McCain (55%) and Romney (57%). But Rhode Islanders were even more lopsidedly partisan. Obama got 63% both times he ran. Rhode Island's whole congressional delegation is Democratic-- 2 senators and two representatives. And the state legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic too. The state House has 63 Democrats and 11 Republicans and the Senate has 32 Dems and just 5 Republicans. Unfortunately, the Governor, Gina Raimondo, is a corrupt conservative, but a corrupt conservative Democrat.

Rep-elect Marcia Ranglin-Vassell
The good news is that a progressive Democrat, Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, beat the entrenched Rhode Island House Majority Leader, John DeSimone, an anti-Choice conservative with a miserable environmental record, a failing grade from the ACLU and an NRA-friendly record on guns. DeSimone had been in the legislature since 1992 and Ranglin-Vassell beat him by 17 votes-- a margin that increased when DeSimone a recount yesterday, which turned up 5 more votes for her. She's a public school teacher and will face Republican Roland Lavallee in the November general election, in the solidly blue district. 18 incumbents were challenged and 6 lost. Four of the winners had been endorsed by Rhode Island's Progressive Democrats of America. One, state Senator William Walaska (D-Warwick), who had been endorsed by the NRA, lost to Jeanine Calkin, a dedicated Berniecrat (51.8% to 48.2%), who helped Bernie win the Rhode Island primary 55-43.3%. Progressive Democrats State Coordinator Sam Bell called the results a "body blow to the political machine."

And In St. Louis

Looks like there was some vote count cheating going on all through the establishment and not just in the presidential primaries.
Six weeks after activist and business owner Bruce Franks Jr. narrowly lost his Democratic primary challenge to incumbent state Rep. Penny Hubbard (D-St. Louis), a court-ordered revote had a markedly different outcome.

Today, Franks walloped her.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Franks took 76.12 percent of the vote to Hubbard's 23.88, winning by a margin of more than 1,500 votes.

In the earlier election in August, which a judge threw out after Franks' election challenge revealed serious irregularities with absentee balloting, Hubbard had squeaked by with a 90-vote margin of victory.

...Franks and his attorney, David Roland, had successfully argued that serious irregularities with how the city Board of Elections handled absentee ballots were enough to invalidate the August 2 election. They fought all the way to the Missouri Court of Appeals to win the right to tonight's revote.
And, yes, Bruce Franks is a strong Berniecrat and Hubbard, the other kind of Democrat, was a Hillary supporter. Watch this video:

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At 9:43 PM, Blogger Harold Clark said...

Luis Alejo a conservative? Where are you getting your info?

At 10:44 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Now this is real change i like to see i hope the momentum of election progressive candidates continues.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger U.S. Citizen said...

Agree. Been calling them corporate Democrats for years now. And, corporate media, not mainstream media. The big fight is not between Dems and Repubs or liberals vs. conservatives. It's corporations vs. people.

This fight is, of course, on a national scale. The corporatization of America and The New Gilded Age are the results of bipartisan efforts. We should called the parties Corpocrats and Republicorps. We could say that we're not electing a president; we are electing the Chairman of the Board of USA, Inc.


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