by James Poulos | January 27, 2016 5:11 am
Conflicts over the spoils of Democratic leadership in California have come to define the party’s prospects and future in 2016 and beyond.
Falling victim to their extreme dominance in statewide politics, an increasing number of Democrats have sharpened their blades against one another this election season — driving uncomfortable wedges between minority groups that have long formed the bedrock of the Democrats’ broad coalition. “The racial and ethnic overtones of politics in California, the country’s most diverse state, surfaced again last week,” the Sacramento Bee observed. “Two Democratic Assembly incumbents, Mike Gipson and Cheryl Brown, both of whom are black, are facing challenges from Latina opponents within their own party.”
“The challenges to Brown and Gipson are motivated by their stances on environmental legislation, not race. But the prospect of unseating two black incumbents, with African Americans’ share of the state’s population dwindling, stirred concern.”
Elsewhere, some Democrats have found themselves in hot water for departing too far or too often from party orthodoxy — a dangerous move in increasingly partisan and populist times. In California’s 7th District, for instance, Rep. Ami Bera has begun to lose key support within his own party, thanks to votes roiling labor and other elements of California Democrats’ liberal base. “Bera’s votes on issues such as Syria refugees and trade are coming under intense examination as local Democrats debate withholding endorsement from him in his re-election race against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican,” McClatchy reported. “Last week, the Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club, Bera’s home club, voted against endorsing him.”
In his State of the State speech this month, Gov. Jerry Brown sought to ameliorate some intraparty divides while holding fast to others. “Legislative Democrats say they can spend some of California’s budget surplus on expanded government services without disrupting Gov. Jerry Brown’s push for fiscal restraint,” as the Sacramento Bee also reported, while Brown urged them “instead to focus on paying down debts and liabilities incurred in the past.” But Brown didn’t mention the multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project that has been one of his marquee projects, despite arousing the frustration of environmentalists to his left who believed cap-and-trade money should not be spent on the system.
A recent Field poll revealed that a modest but sharply critical segment of Democrats appear to have turned their backs on Brown. Fully 17 percent said a description of Brown as having “the right experience to deal with the problems facing California” applied “not at all,” while 18 percent took the same dim view of the claim that Brown “has the vision to lead California into the future.” At the same time, over 40 percent of Democrat respondents agreed at least somewhat with the idea that Brown favors too many unaffordable projects and isn’t doing enough to help average Californians.
But Brown has consolidated support, despite sometimes unorthodox policies, to an unprecedented degree in California politics. At a time when Democrats nationwide have become increasingly split over whether to embrace Hillary Clinton as their nominee, Brown’s name has perennially appeared in conversations about where they might look for an alternative to both Clinton and Sanders. Despite Brown’s refusal to play along, he has been floated once again — by New York City liberals, according to Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen. “Their pet conspiracy theory is that President Barack Obama so detests Hillary Clinton — and worries about her ability to win in November and preserve his agenda — that his Justice Department will indict her this spring on charges of breaching national security in the email scandal,” he wrote at the Sacramento Bee. “Exit a wounded Hillary, enter a prominent Democrat to rescue the party — none other than California’s governor.”
Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2016/01/27/ca-dems-face-election-year-divides/
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