By all accounts, 2012 was a fantastic year of electoral success for California Democrats. The president, legislative supermajorities, ballot measure success and much more. However, with a series of special elections and some possibly competitive races in 2014, there is much work to be done as California Democrats meet at the annual convention in Sacramento this weekend.
As for the big decisions of the weekend, there is only one contested race. Chairman John Burton and the Vice chairs, Alex Rooker and Eric Bauman, are uncontested. The race for the open seat of Secretary is between Daraka Larimore-Hall of Santa Barbara County and Carolyn Fowler of Los Angeles County. I have endorsed Daraka, an amazing grassroots and netroots activist currently serving as Chair of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party. However, that isn't to say that I haven't heard great things about Carolyn Fowler. Either way, I'm sure we'll be in good hands.
I'll be at the convention, where in addition to tweeting up a storm, I'll also be attending the always long and exciting Resolutions Committee, where I serve as a Co-Chair. If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave them here or tweet at me: @BrianLeubitz. I'll also be using the hashtag #CADem13, and so should you!
Election year Democratic conventions are traditionally all about the cheerleading. And so there was a lot of praise for President Obama, and Dem. Leader Nancy Pelosi. That was all rousing, but to be expected.
There was much to do about the endorsement battle in two districts: CD-30 and AD-50. The Valley Congressional Battle of the "-ermans", Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, finished at a draw, but not without allegations of cheating back and forth, patheticness, and even a handwriting expert. (Yes, really.) You can check out John Myers reportage on the event. It really was that crazy.
In AD-50, the Assembly pushing delegates into the district was successful, as Betsy Butler secured the endorsement. But many were still upset about the situation:
Here is where State Party rules are not only stacked in favor of incumbents - but give politicians like John Perez an unsavory role in manipulating the outcome. On Saturday, delegates from the 50th Assembly District gathered to make the Party endorsement. Assembly members can appoint up to five delegates, but only three must live in the legislator's district. Therefore, Perez asked all Democratic Assembly members to set aside their two "non-resident" slots - so he can appoint delegates who live in the 50th District, and will vote for Betsy Butler over Torie Osborn.
As I walked in to observe the 50th Assembly District caucus on Saturday (as a San Francisco delegate, I could not vote - but I attended to observe), aides for Perez were in full force with clipboards - keeping track of who had shown up to vote for Butler. Aides for other Democratic Assembly members like Fiona Ma had already been working the Convention for the past day, promoting Betsy Butler. This was a well coordinated effort to rig the endorsement, for the Speaker to deliver for one of his members. The Osborn campaign knew they didn't have much of a shot.(BeyondChron)
Chairman Burton later told a relevant committee that he wanted the situation to end. A reasonable compromise would be to allow the appointment of delegates from anywhere, but simply eliminate the voting rights for local endorsement issues. Seems to me that would eliminate the entire mess.
At any rate, despite the disagreements, the Party seemed excited to take on the greater challenges facing us this year: the reelection of President Obama and the rejection of "Paycheck Deception."
With the news that Republican registration is falling again, perhaps it is of very little surprise that they also have very little money, especially when compared to the Democrats. But, that is the case.
One of the standouts in terms of limited dollars: the California Republican Party. The state GOP bet big on getting the referendum against the new Senate redistricting maps qualified for the November ballot (and the signatures are still being counted); overall, the party's report shows it raised $4.2 million in 2011. But the state GOP only had $439,000 in cash left on Dec. 31, and the fate of the redistricting effort still seems somewhat in doubt.
Meantime, the redistricting referendum campaign reported (PDF) having only $620.31 in the bank on the final day of 2011 and has reported no 2012 contributions. The campaign owes $214,000 in unpaid bills.
Compare that to California Democrats, who reported raising $11 million in 2011 and still sitting on a rather impressive $9.3 million in cash as of Dec. 31. That suggests Dems are well positioned for legislative and even ballot measure efforts in 2012, while Republicans will need a major infusion of cash... and in a hurry. (CapNotes)
As John Myers points out, the Senate district map referendum, while largely funded by Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph, has still left them with emptier campaign coffers than they had before. While the Dems haven't spent nearly as much money, expect the Party to spend big time on the November ballot, with revenue and paycheck deception on the ballot.
At the same time, news from the June initiative front is also quite anemic. While the anti-tobacco groups will be kicking off their campaign to raise cigarette taxes by a $1/pack to pay for cancer research today at the State Capitol, they'll be doing it without a lot of cash. Same for the LA Labor Fed's term limits reform measure that made it on the ballot last year.
June's election will be fierce in a few competitive legislative and Congressional seats, but don't expect any big statewide push.
As the next Congressional fight over payroll tax extensions and unemployment benefits and pipelines gets set up in the next few weeks for either its final chapter or to be kicked down the road a bit farther, one or the other, you're going to hear a lot from our Republican friends about how much they value work and workers; most especially, they'll tell you, they value American jobs for American workers.
After all, they'll say, creating American jobs is the most important thing of all.
But if we were to look back over just the last few months, some would tell us, we could quickly find examples of how Republicans promote ideas that don't seem to value work or workers at all, much less American jobs.
Well as it turns out, "some" seem to be right; to illustrate one of those examples we'll look back a month or two or three to a time some Republicans might wish was long, long, ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Typically Republican organization joins with Legislative leaders for a press conference this morning
From the "huh?" department:
Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A Pérez will be joined by leaders of the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and other legislators to announce proposals to improve California's business climate and create much-needed jobs.
A press conference to detail the effort will be held today, September 1, 2011, at 11:00 a.m. in Room 317 of the State Capitol. Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Pérez (D-Los Angeles) will be joined by Cal Chamber president and CEO Allan Zaremberg, and CMTA president Jack Stewart.
We'll let you know more later today, but guesses are welcome.
Update: well, I guess I should have known, they're going after "regulation":
New business regulations proposed in California would be reviewed for their effect on the economy of the most-populous state under a bill introduced by Democratic leaders who control the state Assembly and Senate.
Senate President Pro-tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez outlined the plan at a news conference with the presidents of the California Chamber of Commerce, the state's largest business group, and the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.(Bloomberg)
Ahh, that evil bastard "regulation" reaching into the cribs of jobs everywhere and strangling them. In reality what needs to be done is to reduce duplicative regulation, where we have agencies overlapping. If done wrong, simply to gut environmental and labor regulations, well, it will be bad.
This is the tough question that progressive Democrats are facing for the 2012 election. Many of us are disappointed and even angry over President Obama's economic and political course. Widespread feelings of outrage at being ignored in favor of bankers and corporations are common among the very people who worked so hard to elect Obama in 2008. The President now faces a difficult re-election campaign, and organization is well under way. We want to help - or do we? A YouTube video, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... expresses this dilemma.
On July 10, 2011, progressive Democrats met at a potluck picnic in the Santa Cruz Mountains to bring out in open discussion our disappointments and anger about what the President has done or not done in the last two years, and our feelings about the 2012 election. We separated into small groups with two topics in mind:
1) To give voice to the legitimate concerns of the progressive grassroots, with an eye towards influencing President Obama, and,
2) To answer the question "What DO we do about Barack?" We came to many different conclusions that need to be resolved before the election campaign begins in earnest. Whatever our differences are, they pale beside the Republican alternative.
This video summarizes what came out of our progressive picnic. We have made it available online, and are sending the link to Democratic clubs throughout America, in the hope that it will spark a national discussion of this critical issue.
We gotta grow some jobs, and that's a fact, and we probably aren't going to be able to do it with big ol' jobs programs funded by the Federal Government, what with today's politics and all, and that means if this Administration wants to stay in the jobs game they're going to have to find some smaller and more creative ways to do it.
They are also going to have to come up with ideas that are pretty much "bulletproof", meaning that they are so hard to object to that even Allen West and Louie Gohmert will not want to be on record saying "no no no!"; alternatively, solutions that work around the legislative process entirely could represent the other form of "bulletproof-ery".
Well, I have one of those "maybe bulletproof" ideas for you today, and it has to do with how "Made in USA" the things are that our Government buys.
It was just a couple of nights ago that Keith Olbermann was challenging us, in one of his "Special Comments", to rise up in the streets and take back this country.
He pointed out that the only way those on the left were going to be able to fight against those who are looking to get all "Tea Party" is to be as angry and as organized and as aggressive as the Tea Party community, and if we're smart, we'll take him up on that challenge.
But if you really want to push "professional" Democrats to the left, most especially this President, and you want to do it in time to impact the '12 cycle, the only way to do it is to run a candidate in primary contests that either moves the conversation your way...or leaves you with a surprising new Candidate.
And right here, right now, we actually have a chance to do exactly that - and that's why, in today's discussion, I'm going to challenge Olbermann right back.
I have not been talking about the insanity around the debt ceiling and debt and deficit and the efforts of Republicans to drive us all off the cliff, but I am today - and I'm going to do it by allowing you to grab ahold of this problem and see for yourself just how unbelievably bad this manufactured crisis is going to be.
You will hear a lot of conversation about the consequences from others; today, however, you are going to get the chance to be both the President and the Secretary of the Treasury, and you will get to decide for yourself exactly what bills the Federal Government should and should not pay as the cash runs out if a deal is not made by the time borrowing authority runs out.
At that point you'll be able to see what's coming for yourself - and once you do, you won't need me to tell you what ugly is going to look like.
(FNS - Washington, New Germany, April 17, 1947) America's new Führer, Adolf Hitler, announced today that his official War History would in fact acknowledge that one of the biggest contributing factors to the defeat of the Allies was the insistence of the former United States of America on sticking to its Balanced Budget Amendment, which left them unable to fund the wartime conversion of the US economy for the benefit of the Alliance.
"All those ideas Mr. Roosevelt spoke of", said Hitler, "Lend-Lease, modular shipbuilding, War Bonds, secret weapons...in the end, all of them were just words, since the Americans' Congress was never willing to allow the country to fully fund its war effort."
So I disappeared for a full week, right in the middle of what should have been a busy writing schedule, and I have to claim some "personal days" to cover the time we missed here at the blog - but it won't be time entirely wasted.
Instead, I'm going to jump into my own personal life for today's story, and I'm going to do it so that we can stimulate some thinking about where we really need to go to if we ever hope to make some sense out of the crazy way we deliver health care in this country.
Since this appears to be the weekend that a lot of decisions are either going to be made about the future of our "social safety net"...or they wont; we're entirely unsure...let's talk about how it actually works for a lot of us - and how it could work a lot better.
By now you have heard that President Obama has chosen to throw Social Security and the Medicare and Medicaid Programs over the side of his proverbial fishing boat as bait to see if he can get Republicans to give him another really lousy compromise, much as he did last December when he gave up billions upon billions of deficit reduction in order to help Republicans preserve tax cuts for billionaires.
And it looks like the President doesn't really lose if you or I get hurt here: in fact, it seems that, in his eyes, it's to his advantage to fight against his own base as he seeks to be "the adult in the room" in the runup to the '12 election.
So we're going to have to find a way to put The Fear on this guy - and I think I've got a plan to force this President to listen.
And it works like this: if this President ain't gonna be moved by our message...we do it by holding the rest of his Party hostage.
We are continuing a recent theme here today in which two of my favorite topics are going to converge: Social Security and in-your-face political activism.
I have been encouraging folks to take advantage of the recent Congressional recess to have a few words with your CongressCritter about the proposed Death Of Medicare and all the proposed cuts to Social Security...and you have, as we'll discuss...and now we have an opportunity to do something on a national scale, just as we did a few weeks ago in support of Social Security.
This time, we're going to concentrate on fighting the idea that retirement ages should go up before we become eligible for Social Security and Medicare (and elements of Medicaid, as well), and that Americans should just keep right on working until the age of 67 or so-which isn't going to be any big problem...really...trust us.
Now that just makes no sense, and to help make the point we have a really cool video that you can pass around to all your friends-and your enemies, for that matter, since they'll also have to worry about what happens to them if they should ever make it to old age.
There are lots of big tough words coming out of our friends in the Tea Party these days, especially when it comes to the permissible functions of the Federal Government.
"If it's not specifically enumerated in the Constitution," they say, "It must be a function of the States-and the 10th Amendment says so!"
None are tougher in their language than those living in the States located below the old Mason-Dixon line-and by an amazing coincidence, just this weekend pretty much all of those States got a bit of a "gut check" in the form of dozens of tornados that slammed into the area.
So we're going to put the Tea Party philosophy to the test today, and see just what exactly the Federal Government should-and should not-be doing to fulfill the Tea Party vision and to help those folks who were hit by this particular natural disaster.
If your view of politics is filtered by a lens marked "Progressive" or "Liberal", there's a pretty good chance that you've been gnashing your teeth and pulling your hair in frustration over the "give away the store, then negotiate" approach professional Democrats have used when facing the challenges from the Tea Party last year, and all that's come after.
Over and over and over people like me have written stories wondering why Democrats, starting with this President, don't get out in a very public way and slam Republican policies, over and over and over-especially when most Americans hate the things Republicans seem to love to support.
Turning over Government to the highest bidder?
Not so popular.
Going back to a heathcare system run by, for, and of the insurance industry?
Again, not so much.
Jacking up taxes and healthcare costs for you and me in order to provide another trillion in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires?
So unpopular pollsters hardly believe it.
But there is another way, and today's story is in two parts: we're going to talk about how hard it is to get Democrats, as a group, to get loud and get aggressive-and then we're going to talk about Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who is out there showing any reluctant Democrat just exactly how you can "grow the brand".
So it's been about three weeks since we last had this conversation, but once again we have to take action to try to keep Social Security from being the victim of "deficit fever".
I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, considering the disconnect between Social Security and the deficit-but once again it's "Continuing Resolution" time on Capitol Hill, where some use the threat of an impending shutdown of the Federal Government to extract concessions from the other side...and some on the other side try to make points with the voters by out-conceding their opponents.
So Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, there's a national push on to get voters to call their Senators and remind them to vote for an Amendment that is a big ol' "I'm not willing to cut Social Security just because other people philosophically want to cut Government any way they can" kind of reassurance to the voters, and I'm here to encourage you, once again, to make a couple phone calls and do some pushing of your own.
I've also been storing up a couple somewhat facetious random thoughts which will be the "garnish" for today's dish; you'll see them pop up as we go along.
In our efforts to form a more perfect Union we look to the Constitution for guidance for how we might shape the form and function of Government; many who seek to interpret that document try to do so by following what they believe is The Original Intent Of The Founders.
Some among us have managed to turn their certainty into something that approaches a reverential calling, and you need look no further than the Supreme Court to find such notables as Cardinals Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia providing "liturgical foundation" to the adherents of the point of view that the Constitution is like The Bible: that it's somehow immutable, set in stone, and, if we would only listen to the right experts, easily interpreted.
But what if that absolutist point of view is absolutely wrong?
What if the Original Intent Of The Founders, that summer in Philadelphia...was simply to get something passed out of the Constitutional Convention, and the only way that could happen was to leave a lot of the really tough decisions to the future?
What if The Real Original Intent...was that we work it out for ourselves as we go along?
News is suddenly moving so fast that it's becoming hard for me to keep up; that's why we're not finishing the story today that we just began Tuesday. You know, the one about Titan Cement suing two North Carolina residents who appear to be doing nothing more than speaking the truth.
Unfortunately, other important news has forced itself to the front of the line, and it's going to demand that we break schedule, whether we like it or not.
That's why today we're going to be talking about Wisconsin, and how workers there are fighting back against the State's Republican legislators and Governor, who seem to have gone out of their way this past three weeks to govern without the consent of the governed.
It's kind of chilly today in Wisconsin...but I can assure you, things are heating up fast-and it ain't because of spring.
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