May 19, 2017

The Bernie Revolution Has The California Democratic Establishment On Edge

The Democratic civil war between the extreme Bernie Sanders leftists and establishment Democrats is about to come to a head in California. The California Democratic Party will elect a new party chairman on Saturday, and both sides see this as a critical test, one that will determine the direction of the country’s biggest state.

The Sanders-backed candidate, Kimberly Ellis, is hyping the election as a “a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,” and if elected she’s promising to move the party as far left as possible:

“Progressive activists looking to push the California Democratic Party further to the left at the party’s annual convention this weekend may be making it harder to challenge Republicans in more conservative parts of the state, some party leaders worry. A host of first-time convention delegates, many of them backers of Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, argue that the party needs to be more aggressive in pushing a progressive agenda that calls for single-payer health care, free college education and tougher environmental rules, including a ban on fracking.”

This has left California Democratic Party grandees anxious that a Sanders’ revolution will alienate voters outside of cities like San Francisco:

“’Bernie Sanders types wouldn’t do well in parts of the state,’ said former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who spent 15 years as the Democratic speaker of the Assembly and now writes a weekly column for The Chronicle. ‘You see candidates who win in San Francisco but wouldn’t have a chance in the (Central) Valley.’”

According to prominent Sanders surrogate Nina Turner, the contentious California fight is motivated in large part by “lingering bad feelings” left by the 2016 Democratic primary:

“The election battle between Ellis and Bauman also reflects the lingering bad feelings between Sanders’ supporters and the Clinton backers who controlled the state party during the last election. One reason for the progressives’ anger, said former Sanders campaign surrogate Nina Turner, is that ‘nobody has fully addressed their concerns,’ which include complaints that party organizations put their thumbs on the scale for Clinton.”

The battle for the soul of the Democratic Party is playing out in fights like this one throughout the country. Yet given the California Democratic Party’s status as the “best-funded, best-organized state party” in the nation, if the Sanders’ forces take over it will have cataclysmic implications for the future relevance of the Democratic Party in places to the right of San Francisco.