Soapbox

Why is California Democratic Party interfering in grassroots group it needs to win in November?

Mike Levin, a Democrat in California’s 49th congressional district, talks to supporters while waiting for results at a primary night party in Oceanside. He is trying to flip the House seat from Republicans.
Mike Levin, a Democrat in California’s 49th congressional district, talks to supporters while waiting for results at a primary night party in Oceanside. He is trying to flip the House seat from Republicans. The New York Times

California Democrats achieved strategic wins in the June primary, getting a candidate in the top two for the November election in all 10 U.S House seats that we hope to flip.

But voter turnout for Democrats in all but one of those districts fell below Republicans. To win on Nov. 6, Democratic campaigns must turn out every vote, so the smartest message from the party to local activists is: All hands on deck.

 
Opinion

That’s why the resurgence of the California Democratic Council is so important. The council trains local activists; in the past decade, it has helped dozens of party clubs host websites and craft organizing plans.

Hilary Crosby

One of the oldest liberal activist organizations in the country, the CDC in the 1950s drew hundreds of supporters of Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson and Martin Luther King Jr., and opponents of Sen. Joe McCarthy. Many noteworthy party leaders, including the late Sen. Alan Cranston and immediate past party Chairman John Burton, have their roots in the CDC.

But its finances and web-hosting program collapsed. So in February, a diverse slate of party activists from around the state – young and old, supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton – ran to lead the CDC. They won in a landslide, three to one – the kind of unity Democrats need to get disaffected voters to the polls.

The state party should be rejoicing, but instead it has threatened to nullify this contest – and the votes of three hundred party activists – even though current party rules recognize the CDC’s independence.

The ruling, released in May by a committee of party insiders loyal to current Chairman Eric Bauman, could not come at a more precarious moment. The loss of state Sen. Josh Newman in a recall election June 5 – and with him the party’s supermajority in the Senate – is a dramatic lesson in the high stakes of Democratic turnout. In presidential years, voter turnout tops 70 percent; in 2016, it swept in Newman. But when that tide recedes, as it did in the mid-term primary, Democrats often struggle.

In November, Democrats need all grassroots activists and party volunteers pulling in the same direction to claim congressional seats and flip the House. Can the state party really afford another divisive, costly debacle, like the July 2015 redo of a delegate election in Los Angeles and Glendale?

The state party must honor the CDC, the role it plays and the place at the table it has earned in the family of California Democrats.

Hilary Crosby, former controller of the California Democratic Party, is claiming to be president of the California Democratic Council. She can be contacted at President@CDC-CA.org.

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