May 22, 2017

California Democratic Party Tearing Itself Apart

Last year’s election was exceptionally painful for Democrats. Now California Democrats must be having nightmarish flashbacks after this weekend’s events at the state party convention. The only silver lining is that California Democrats have gotten inured to the chaos.

One of the biggest recipients of the Democratic civil war playing out in California has been Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Like Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Feinstein has had to deal with protesters outside her house:

“Liberal hecklers have protested outside Dianne Feinstein’s home. She’s been confronted at a Los Angeles fundraiser and a San Francisco town hall meeting by progressives angered by her skeptical view of single-payer health care and support for some of Donald Trump’s earliest nominees.”

Feinstein, who is up for re-election in 2018, has also seen her approval rating decline to under 50%, as more extreme elements of the Democratic Party fault her well-known pragmatism in this age of confrontation:

“But in statewide elections last year, California lurched even further to the left, with voters approving a raft of liberal-leaning measures pertaining to marijuana, gun control, taxes and prison and parole… Within two months of Trump’s inauguration, Feinstein’s job approval rating had fallen 7 percentage points from early 2016, to 49 percent, according to a nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California poll.”

While Senator Feinstein could avoid confrontation this weekend by staying in DC, other prominent Democratic leaders weren’t so lucky. DNC Chairman Tom Perez was heckled at the convention, while outgoing California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton cursed at the Sanders protesters.

The divided nature of the California Democratic Party was on full display as the establishment candidate beat the Sanders-backed candidate by a “razor-thin 62 vote margin.” The frenzied scene at the convention showed that the Sanders-Clinton divide is still the dominant intraparty story:

“His acceptance speech was marred by boos and protests from backers of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign who complained of a rigged election and unsuccessfully demanded a recount in the closing hours of the convention. The tumult showed that in the country’s largest state — which is controlled entirely by Democrats — the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders divide of 2016 and the intra-party sparring that followed Clinton’s November loss remain very much at the forefront.”

The Los Angeles Times fully captured this weekend’s events in their lede, saying that “near-constant protests” exposed that the “schisms” rocking the Democratic Party nationally, is even worse on the state level:

“A blistering contest to lead the California Democratic Party and near-constant protests during its weekend convention provided proof that schisms between party factions at the national level are also pulling apart the ranks at home, where the group has long prospered… this year’s convention was punctuated by hecklers, marches and recriminations by liberal activists who say the party has lost its way, become too moderate and grown similar to the GOP.”

For the Democratic Party, the 2016 election is the nightmare that they can never wake up from. As the Party attempts to wander back from the wilderness, weekends like this past one in Sacramento will plague their path forward.