This weekend, the California Democratic Party (CDP), the largest Democratic Party organization in the largest Democratic state, holds its annual convention in Sacramento. Approximately 2,500 delegates will chart their future in the wake of the debacle last fall.

The Problem

Unfortunately, the proceedings are overshadowed by followers of President Trump and his vanquished rival Hillary Clinton, who continue to trade charges about Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Trump’s people find it unseemly of Comey to request additional funding to continue an investigation of Trump’s political associates and foreign business interests. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters find it unseemly of Comey to investigate the discovery of Clinton’s classified State Department emails on the personal computer of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, husband of Clinton’s longtime lieutenant, Huma Abedin.

While both sides quarrel about the past, neither offers a vision for the future.

The Future

The CDP delegates in Sacramento will be previewing the 2018 candidates for governor and other statewide offices.  Also, the US Senate seat of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is up for grabs next year. Gov. Jerry Brown is “termed out.” Feinstein has not declared her intentions.

A strong CDP performance in 2018 has national implications. Given Trump’s declining poll numbers, a few California Republican House seats might flip next year. The CDP convention will showcase the stable of Democratic presidential aspirants in 2020, all of whom will look to California for donors and grassroots volunteers.

The CDP delegates will also face unresolved issues from last year’s election including:

1. Universal tuition-free higher education and improving public education for all

2. Single-payer health care for all

3. Raising the minimum wage

4. Ending the death penalty

5. Opposing trade agreements that export US jobs
The Background

The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last year was plagued by the sleazy behavior of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), particularly its chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Schultz cast aside the chair’s requirement of impartiality. Throughout the primary season, she tipped the scales on behalf of her favorite, Clinton, to the detriment of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s primary opponent.

Sanders had mounted an issues-based challenge founded on tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities, Medicare for all, a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and opposition to the death penalty and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In the general election, Trump and Clinton both supported the death penalty and opposed a $15 an hour minimum wage. However, Trump was able to use his opposition to TPP and Clinton’s inability to defend Obamacare to gather support from workers who were displaced by Bill Clinton’s free trade policies. This cost the Democrats the election.

These issues form part of the unfinished business on the agenda of the CDP.

California Medicare for All: SB 562 — A Ray of Hope

State Sen. Richard Lara has proposed Senate Bill 562, which will institute single-payer (Medicare for all) health care for all Californians. It would replace Obamacare for Californians with a single-payer program. The insurance companies that exploited Obamacare for great profit would be cut out of the loop. California would join the rest of the civilized world and provide universal health care coverage for all.

The insurance industry will be present in droves in Sacramento, financing lavish hospitality suites where delegates will be wined and dined while skilled lobbyists will sow the seeds of doubt about universal health care in the state. Lara’s bill will force California’s Wall Street Democrats to fish or cut bait.

Pubic School Schedule Reform: SB 528

Local Democratic State Sen. Anthony Portantino has challenged the state educational system proposing legislation to implement a statewide school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later. Portantino has amassed a trove of scientific evidence showing that adolescents perform better with a later school start. Portantino’ s bill, SB 328, has cleared its first hurdle and passed the Senate Education Committee.

Education profiteers will also be present in Sacramento to press their opposition. SB 528 puts children as a first priority.

The Death Penalty

Feinstein, like Hillary Clinton, has always supported the death penalty. During her senate career, public opinion has shifted in the US. A majority of Americans oppose it. The European Union abolished it. Russia has effectively abolished it, not carrying out an execution since 1996.

In Sacramento, the CDP delegates will face the possibility of re-nominating Feinstein, a strong death penalty proponent, in the face of growing worldwide repugnance. Politics always seeks a face-saving way out.

CDP delegates may help Feinstein to “retirement” as they build the Democratic Party of the future. 

Robert M. Nelson is a founding member of the Pasadena Foothills Democratic Club. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1988, 1992 and 2016. He is a delegate to the California Democratic Party State Convention.