As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 3 Thoughts

I've been focusing on talking to as many challengers and elected officials as possible. And I get two almost contradictory opinions. The presidential primary is great because it brings new energy and attention to the party and new voters into the process; and yet at the same time, the downballot candidates find it difficult to raise money, secure staff and get attention, because it's all being forced upwards. This is particularly a problem in California, where we think we run the country, sad to say, and where we get hung up on national issues. We have to come back home and take advantage of these opportunities we have at the local level.

The encouraging factor is that we have won the budget conversation in the state legislature, and when I say we, I mean those of us who wanted a posture that finally said no to a cuts-only approach, that focused on the 2/3 requirement and the need to either overturn that legislatively or win at the ballot box. I had the opportunity to have dinner last night with a large group including Asm. Ted Lieu (AD-53), the chair of the Rules Committee, and he was able to designate those targeted seats where we can flip districts (AD-80, AD-78, AD-15) and talk about the oil extraction tax and the yacht loophole in a very direct way. This is the year we take back the conversation over the budget and call the Yacht Party out for their obstructionism. That is very exciting.

Obviously there are the endorsement fights. Outside of the Leno-Migden battle royale, let me just quickly talk about AD-40, which is near where I live: Bob Blumenfield is an associate of Rep. Howard Berman, who kind of runs Valley politics. He reportedly told Lloyd Levine that he had to support Blumenfield to get his endorsement in Levine's State Senate race (in my district of SD-23, against Fran Pavley). Stuart Waldman, who is also running in AD-40, was working for Levine at the time. So Levine fired Waldman and threw his support to Blumenfield. So it's all crappy machine politics of the most odious kind, and it's not limited to Sacramento. Our new leadership in the Senate and Assembly offers some opportunities to change that to an extent, but this is still how California is run for the most part. You're already seeing here the beginning of the 2009 State Party Chair race and the 2010 Governor's race.

That's transactional politics, and it bores me. I'm interested in a transformational politics that changes the conversation and inspires those who don't attend a convention. Getting single payer in the platform is an example. Talking about the 2/3 majority and splitting Prop. 13 is an example. Talking about the budget in a compassionate way, as a document that reflects our priorities, is an example. The rest is bluster.

As I said, we've talked to a number of candidates, and we'll have audio (and video) up in the next few days with Charlie Brown (CA-04), Russ Warner (CA-26), Bill Durston (CA-03) and Debbie Cook (CA-46), who we're interviewing this morning. But I wanted to give the line of the night that I overheard, in a conversation between Russ Warner and Rep. Diane Watson. She was talking about David Dreier's shameful conduct as chair of the Rules Committee under the DeLay machine, where he blocked nearly all Democratic amendments and ran the committee with an iron fist. Watson talked about an anti-terrorism bill the Republicans wanted to pass, and she said to a Republican colleague, "You guys can't tell me from Maxine Waters, how are you going to tell what Middle Easterner is a terrorist?" Classic.

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