California’s Democrats meet in Long Beach this weekend for their second convention of this year. Things have changed dramatically since they first met in May. Back then, things seemed so simple. But the famous words penned by Robert Burns in 1785 show once again that, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Late last year the National Democratic Party brass developed a plan to contain the burgeoning democratic-socialist insurgency manifested in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential efforts. Their idea was to combine the affable Joe Biden with California’s apparently exciting and youthful Kamala Harris as a “dream ticket.” Insurgents would be crushed.
State party insiders joined in. They moved the date of California’s 2020 primary to March 3. The Biden-Harris dream team would generate an early California landslide primary victory. There would be no long, drawn out series of caucuses and primaries preceding the 2020 Democratic National Convention where an insurgency might develop. The Golden State’s early primary would set the party’s 2020 slate.
The seemingly well-crafted plans of Democratic Party insiders quickly foundered. Other Democratic presidential contenders embraced the “lefty” issues so popular on the West Coast. Elizabeth Warren endorsed Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation. Harris followed suit. But, as he once said, Sanders “wrote the damn bill!”
Other topics raised by Sanders in 2016, including addressing the climate crisis, a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college and compassion for immigrant families became leading issues advocated by Democratic aspirants. Candidates who attacked the Sanders Medicare bill plummeted in the polls.
The notion that Democrats were only concerned about dumping Trump didn’t make sense. The Democratic base wanted more.
At the May Democratic State Convention Sanders and Warren only spoke in complimentary terms of each other. They refused to play king of the mountain, avoiding the perennial leftist infighting.
Over the summer, debates revealed differences between candidates regarding how these changes might be accomplished. Yet none of the new faces could answer the call — provide a plan addressing the fundamental concerns of the Democratic Party.
Democrats in Congress then built a strong corruption case against President Trump, exposing unbelievable financial shenanigans. Unfortunately, Trump’s defenders got help from the Biden family. Biden’s son, Hunter, was on the board of directors of Bursima Holdings, a major player in the Ukrainian natural gas monopoly, receiving a $50,000-a-month salary. What was Hunter Biden’s job description? Did it deserve such a huge salary? The Bidens gave Republicans what they needed. Hunter’s salary seems to fail the smell test in the eyes of typical working-class Democrats. The affable Joe Biden was wounded. The sharks circled.
Fortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tasked local Congressman Adam Schiff with leading the Trump impeachment investigation. Schiff is one of the smartest members of Congress. As the investigation proceeds Schiff can create a path for Hunter Biden to explain himself. The onus will be on the younger Biden to use the opportunity of the impeachment proceedings to cleanse the Biden name in America’s eyes.
With Biden on the decline, other Democrats smell opportunity. The latest to consider the race is billionaire stock market mogul and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s problem is that there already is one billionaire in the race, Tom Steyer, who has used his resources to establish impressive liberal credentials. Bloomberg has not.
A year ago, the Democratic Party brass crafted a master plan to control its progressive wing. Today, the Biden-Harris ticket is collapsing.
To make their way through the confusion, party officialdom has decreed that all the speaking time at the Long Beach convention will be devoted to the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. They hope for a candidate to emerge on a white horse to lead them out of their self-created wilderness.
The base is demanding change. The leadership appears deaf, dumb and blind.
The big suspense of this weekend is whether the Sanders-Warren nonaggression pact will continue. It probably will. They have nothing to lose.
Ninety years ago, Franklin Roosevelt wrestled control of the Democratic Party from New York Gov. Al Smith. FDR then healed a nation severely wounded by the Great Depression. Can a Sanders-Warren ticket repeat this achievement in 2020?
The authors are members of the Central Committee of the California Democratic Party representing Pasadena and environs. Nelson is a member of the party’s executive board.