CA-33: Will Karen Bass Go To Congress?

That’s the report coming out of a meeting yesterday in Southern California with Diane Watson, who currently represents the 33rd District in Congress. A Swing State Project user diary from someone who attended the meeting, augmented by our own BruinKid who also was at the meeting and wrote about it in the comments to yesterday’s open thread, explains the story:

Just left a CA delegation meeting with Cong. Diane Watson was quietly telling Members that she will not be running for re-election.

Word is that Former CA Assembly Speaker Karen Bass will immediately enter the race following Watson’s announcement.  Further proof of this plan — Bass is scheduled to be in DC next week for a series of meet and greet events with potential financial supporters.

This would be a welcome development. Karen Bass brought a lot of progressive potential to the Speaker’s office in 2008, but ran immediately into the brick wall of the state budget crisis, the 2/3rds rule, and the breakdown of California’s system of government, all of which frustrated her agenda.

Term limits mean we’ll never know how Bass would have taken those lessons and applied them to state government. But if the reports are true, she would be able to bring the experience of trying to revive an economy and protect the most vulnerable people in a truly broken political system to another institution, the US Congress, that is quickly going the way of the California Legislature in terms of Republican obstruction and inability to properly function.

Bass would certainly be both more progressive and more activist than Watson, who has not been very visible in her district in recent years. Bass would be a strong advocate for federal aid to state budgets, as she’s seen the impact of budget cuts on core services.

The filing deadline is February 16th, just over two weeks from now, so we will soon learn whether these reports are indeed accurate. If so, the California Congressional delegation and the people of the 33rd District will be getting a good progressive leader to represent them in Congress.

The only downside, and this isn’t Bass’s fault, is that it shows California government, once regarded as the nation’s best, is experiencing a worsening brain drain. Bass would join former Lt. Governor John Garamendi in going to Congress, and many other legislators are looking for more stable positions in local government. Term limits in particular have eviscerated our government, making it almost impossible for anyone to get the kind of experience and knowledge that is needed to help fix our ever-worsening economic and political crisis.

In some ways, the Legislature is becoming a kind of political graduate school, where those interested in public service go to learn the craft of representative government and then scramble to find a position in a tight job market that has a glut of folks competing for positions. That’s not the kind of governance that the nation’s largest state and one of the world’s largest and most important economies needs.

Conservatives would claim that term limits are doing their job and making it difficult for “career politicians” to hog elected offices, and enables citizen representation. Not only has that not been the actual outcome of term limits, the notion that it produces citizen government is particularly absurd given the fact that huge sums of money are still needed to win a state legislative race. The same conservatives who claim term limits are needed to produce citizen government also support the Citizens United decision that allows almost unlimited corporate spending to influence our elections.

In short, while community organizers like Karen Bass are pushed out of the legislature just as they’ve come to understand the nature of our problems and have started to envision lasting solutions, the only “citizens” who actually have lasting power and influence in this state are the large corporations. Once again it becomes clear that to the right-wing, feudalism is the ultimate goal, not democracy. Power and representation should only go to the wealthy, and the rest of us should be grateful for the privilege of serving them.

Anyhow, rant over. I wish Karen Bass well should she decide to run for Congress. The House will be a better place with her in it.

4 thoughts on “CA-33: Will Karen Bass Go To Congress?”

  1. This report was posted as a user diary at the Swing State Project. It was not posted by the editors of the site and we cannot vouch for it in any way. It may well be accurate, but we have no way of knowing, and there has been no independent confirmation. Also, from BruinKid’s comment, it does not appear that he was at the meeting.

    Thank you,



    Swing State Project

  2. I wasn’t there.  I just happened to come across the diary at SSP before I headed out to camp for the best seats for the UCLA-Cal basketball game.

  3. Your point about term limits is exactly right.  Bass never had the time to show what she could be as speaker.  However, without term limits, we would never have gotten to know her at all.  I really like her and think that she will be an asset to the House.

  4. As a constituent and knowing Karen reasonably well, this is a welcome turn of events. She is smart, progressive, compassionate, tough, attentive to her district and will make a great Representative.  

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