This weekend was my second California Democratic Party convention and my first as an elected delegate. It was an enjoyable weekend, catching up with old friends and making new ones. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with some of our elected leaders, such as Barbara Boxer, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, and John Garamendi.
As I look back on the weekend, I am reminded of what I wrote after last year’s convention, including some themes that were clearly in evidence this weekend. From last year:
The Leno-Migden fight certainly reached a dramatic climax today, and the result was stunning. After the vote was finalized Eden James argued that it was a representation of the power of the grassroots within the party, and I think that analysis is absolutely right….Migden’s failed endorsement is also further evidence, along with the rescinded AD-40 endorsement and the split over Prop 93 earlier in the year, to a huge divide between the party grassroots and the Sacramento leadership in particular. Senate Democrats and their staffers had worked hard over the weekend to get a Migden endorsement and the delegates would not go along with it.
Switch out “Leno-Migden” and “Prop 93” for “Proposition 1A” and you’d have essentially the same story from this weekend in Sacramento. 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.
There’s a lot else to write about, but for now I’m just going to offer some impressions, written down on the train back from Sacramento (and a note to all Democrats running for a statewide office in 2010: the first one of you to come up with a credible plan to connect Monterey to San Jose via frequent passenger rail service and will swear on the ghost of the Del Monte Express to implement it will get my endorsement).
- Progressive candidates did very well in the race for CDP officer positions, in particular Hillary Crosby, who will hopefully and finally bring some financial accountability to this party. John Burton is himself a staunch progressive, as his victory speech made clear (he denounced the war in Afghanistan, for example). He will be a powerful voice for social democratic politics as party chair, and it’s about time we had one.
- Chris Finnie in particular deserves a shout-out. Even though many progressives, myself included, voted for John Burton, Finnie impressed a lot of delegates with her campaign and her speech. She showed she was running not for her own self-interests, but as the standard bearer for those who wanted true and long-overdue reform of the party. John Burton in turn showed he too saw the need for change by promising to adopt the 12 recommendations for reform that Chris advocated in her campaign. Her efforts showed the value of a contested race for chair, and by sticking with her campaign she showed more guts and probably will have had more of a lasting effect on the party than the other chair candidates who quit earlier on.
- If the governor’s race settles into a two-person contest between Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown, Brown’s going to have to do more than wax nostalgic for the old days. His “recession reception” struck the wrong tone, as he became a kind of museum piece – the blue Plymouth in the drive (Update: According to Calbuzz Brown didn’t know that the Plymouth would be there), the old mansion, old songs. I don’t know if that’s what he was going for, but that’s how it came across. Even if Newsom’s “stroll down memory lane” line is unfair to what Brown has accomplished in the recent past and his capacity to provide some direction forward, Brown has got to start asserting some truly new ideas and a new vision for the next 30 years. We’ll have more on our sitdown with Newsom soon – lots to chew over there.
- There was some early jockeying for position ahead of the 2010 primary, although hardly anyone was paying attention to the downticket races. There are no clear frontrunners or progressive champions in the Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General, or Lieutenant Governor races. But one thing is clear – Debra Bowen is beloved by this party and its base in particular. She’s been an excellent secretary of state, and she’ll have a wide and deep base of support should she decide to run for US Senate in 2012.
- It may just have been me, but it seemed that there really was a new kind of energy among party delegates – a determination to build a party that’s able to produce progressive change. I don’t know how many of the delegates were new, products of the Obama movement, but where I sat (Region 9) a large number of the delegates were folks new to the convention who had been mobilized by the Obama campaign. They aren’t the kind of people to tolerate the usual insider games, and they are motivated by a sense that change isn’t just necessary, but possible. It’s very inspiring.
- I feel I reached the limits of what Twitter can accomplish for political conversation this weekend. During Barbara Boxer’s press event I made some occasional tweets of her comments, but it just disappears into the ether, buried in folks’ feeds among links to some swine flu article or Susan Boyle’s latest hairstyle. Below you can see David Dayen’s excellent liveblog of the debate over the proposition endorsements, which would simply have been impossible given Twitter’s 140 character limit. And there is a robust conversation going on in the comments, much easier to follow and participate in than on Twitter. That’s not to say that Twitter doesn’t have its uses, but it would be a mistake to try and use it to do what we’ve done well at places like Calitics.
Add your thoughts in the comments. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Now, time to catch up on sleep…