|This convention is characterized by a search for new leadership. The delegates are going to work hard for the top of the ticket, but do not see that ticket as showing leadership. Everyone likes Barbara Boxer, but she isn't a visionary leader. Gavin Newsom and Janice Hahn have essentially the same left-of-center politics, so that contest became one of personalities (a contest neither won). Dave Jones and Hector De La Torre also share the same politics, and Jones won the party endorsement only by having worked the delegates more effectively, for a longer period of time.
Folks don't really know what to make of Jerry Brown either. It's not that there's concern he isn't progressive (though such concerns do exist), it's that he doesn't fit the old paradigms. He's not a moderate looking to screw over progressives, and he's not an insurgent progressive. He's an almost legendary figure, but who adamantly refuses to provide the clear-sighted leadership progressives seek. He might be a good populist, he might be moderate-friendly on certain issues, and nobody knows whether his "hoard resources until the fall barrage" strategy will succeed.
In short, the 2010 ticket is going to offer defense against the right, but isn't offering what most California Democrats really want: leadership.
As California enters its third year of the worst, most profound political and economic crisis in the 240 years since Europeans arrived, there remains a lack of hope and optimism that the crisis will be resolved favorably. Efforts to explore solutions to that crisis in 2009 revealed just how deep the problems are and how hard it is to produce the fixes.
Progressives are positioned to provide both the leadership and the agenda to get California out of the crisis. But so far, we haven't been willing to step into that spotlight. 2008 and 2009 were consumed with the battle to elect Obama and then implement his agenda. The passage of the health care bill marks the end of that first phase.
Importantly, that bill was hailed by most California progressives not because it achieved a great progressive policy victory (it did no such thing) but instead because it confirmed that the concept of using government to guarantee provision of human services is a popular, politically possible goal.
California is at a tipping point. The old ways of the last 30 years - extracting wealth from the middle and working classes to fuel the wealthy, destroying our public institutions and services to achieve the same, justified as a necessity to protect the late 20th century suburban model of the California Dream - those old ways are over. Done. Dead.
But what replaces it? Progressives instinctively know the answer - an urban, sustainable model that is backed by a strong public sector that serves the basic needs of its people. But we do not yet know to get there, and do not have any leadership, whether top-down or bottom-up, that is producing the answer.
So far, at this convention, that animating vision and agenda is lacking. Not out of a lack of faith that we can implement it, but because we're at a transition point. Progressives no longer have any villains within the Democratic Party, and in any case using villains as a way to motivate action has run its course.
We've reached the end of one phase of growth and activity in the California Democratic Party and the progressive movement. We're about to enter another, one where we have the opportunity to start talking about and implementing our vision, now that many of the obstacles to it have been pushed aside. That vision isn't on display at this convention. But it is percolating, coalescing, and requires progressives to learn how to deal with a new environment, where we're no longer fighting against a venal, corrupt Republican president and the Democrats that enable them.
Instead we are in a place where Democrats govern the nation, and though many of us are ambivalent about that governance, it means we have to consider new frames and new ways to achieve our goals. We need not just individual leaders, but a leadership agenda, one no longer focused on tearing down our perceived enemies but on building up new institutions, new ideas, and ultimately, new campaign victories.
More on that last piece later today - because there are indeed candidates here offering something new and exciting, and they deserve our attention and support.