Viewpoints

Voters handed California Democrats a clear progressive mandate. Will they deliver?

Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 at the Secretary of State auditorium.
Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 at the Secretary of State auditorium. hamezcua@sacbee.com

It’s often been said – first by Voltaire and, more recently, by Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben – that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Democrats in Sacramento now have such power, holding a super duper majority in both houses of the California State Legislature, a supermajority complemented by a new governor who was elected on a bold, progressive vision for the state.

The question now becomes: What are they going to do with this power?

How will Democrats in Sacramento meet this historic moment? Will they have the courage to truly reform a health care system that still puts profits over patients? To stop corporations from continuing to profit from the over-policing and mass incarceration of black and brown communities? To end the state’s spiraling housing crisis by investing major resources and standing up to corporate landlords and developers? To adequately fund California’s education system?

Or will they settle for half-measures and miss this golden opportunity?

Opinion

Voters made California a one-party state because they believe Democrats have the values and vision to take on our most intractable problems. And yet, too often in the past, Democratic leaders have backed down when holding large majorities in Sacramento.

That cannot happen this time. The stakes are too high to settle for small plans. We need to demonstrate to those same voters that our state government can actually deliver solutions, not just make a show of trying.

This is why it is so imperative, now more than ever, to draw a clear line in the sand – with numbers, grades and facts – for the world to see who in Sacramento is doing their job, and who isn’t.

CourageScore.org gives legislators annual grades on their political courage. It reveals how well they stand up for their constituents over corporations or interest groups that exploit Californians, particularly the poor, the disadvantaged and communities of color.

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Eddie Kurtz

We assign unique scores for each legislator in 16 policy areas that cover everything from health care to environmental justice to workplace safety. Those legislators most out of step with voters in their districts get relegated to a Courage Score Hall of Shame.

In 2018, two Republicans who made that list – Catherine Baker and Janet Nguyen – were defeated. For years, Courage Score had predicted this, detailing the ways in which they were misrepresenting their districts.

With a Democratic, veto-proof supermajority in California, and a new governor who ran his campaign on the promise of progressive solutions for California, it’s easy for Democrats to say they’ll stand up for the people. But talk is cheap.

In 2019, unlike in years past, every single member of the Courage Score’s Hall of Shame is a Democrat. If they are going to be the party of the people, Democrats need to be held accountable, too.

When they’re called to stand with their constituents and stand up to corporate lobbyists, will Democrats show courage? Californians deserve nothing less. After all – they voted for it.

Eddie Kurtz is president and executive director of Courage Campaign.
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