Chavez, Pleitez & the History of America's Future

Chavez, Pleitez & the History of America's Future
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Eric Greenberg's recent post about Emanuel Pleitez' candidacy to replace Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis as the representative for California's 32nd congressional district sparked an interesting thought regarding America's future political landscape.

To the middle aged mainstream (the baby boomer generation), talk of the millennial generation may trigger reflections on your own children, their successes and failures, the college tuition bills, and the proud moment of high school graduation. I imagine that baby boomers now associate 'kids' born in the 1980s with thoughts of tech genius millionaires, politically catalyzed Obama supporters, genuinely multicultural and unafraid of the world, but somehow not quite there yet politically. William Stauss & Neil Howe's epic Generations sought to explain that the millennial generation would be more politically active than its predecessor, generation X, but somehow few seem ready for this generational shift.

The millennial generation made its first real score with the election of Luke Ravenstahl as mayor of Pittsburgh at age 26. Then in 2008, Aaron Schock became the first person born in the 1980s to be elected to Congress at age 27. Unfortunately, both are now mired in controversy. The former is battling allegations of corruption; the latter is falling victim to his own vanity, most recently challenging Pres. Obama to compare physiques. The millennial generation, it appears, has had a sputtering start due to the cultural gap between it and the current power elite (Sen. Ted Steven's famous "Internets" versus the current twitter and tinyurl tots) but also because it has not had a sufficiently strong leader who could galvanize his or her peers towards public action. The millennial is inherently a dispersed, disorganized (though intimately interconnected) generation.

Viewed through this light, Emanuel Pleitez's candidacy is remarkable precisely because it transcends generational lines, or race, or for that matter class. Born in East LA, Pleitez has worked tirelessly to obtain a top notch education. His meteoric rise through the political establishment is nothing short of inspiring. Yet what is more, over the past three months Pleitez has been able to accomplish what many see as tantamount to herding cats -- leading a bottom-up grassroots campaign led by young organizers who are able to successfully connect with and organize older constituents. It is the Obama model, just upside down. Whereas thousands of millennial volunteers organized to elect the boomer president, here we are seeing the inverse but obviously on a slightly smaller scale.

In other words, though he is employing the same organizing strategy as Pres. Obama's successful GOTV drive, including many of the same organizing tools and volunteers, the campaign thus far is not driven by an established name, personality politics or the promise of a historic breakthrough. Quite the opposite, it represents an organic generational shift brought about by simple demographic changes. The 32nd CD is young and dynamic. Pleitez' success as a community organizer rests in his ability to respond to this leadership gap. Much like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta's organizing work in the 1960s, the myriad voter registration drives of 2008, community picnics, and endless canvasses by Pleitez and his team are bound to leave a lasting impression on the San Gabriel Valley. Already, the Pleitez campaign has over 20 full-time staffers and dozens of additional volunteers. It was the first campaign to open an office in the district and the first to launch a sophisticated website, replete with social networking plug-ins. Though first quarter fundraising is not reported yet, based on public estimates Emanuel has also managed to attract a respectable donor base. All of this points to a competitive bid against the established rivals Cedillo and Chu.

Pleitez' strategy of downplaying the age issue is a brilliant campaign tactic. With so many stellar qualifications (Obama campaign experience, finance experience, California political experience), Pleitez is more than merely familiar with the complex financial machinations which we are only now beginning to unravel. He is the best qualified candidate for the 32nd congressional district. I am proud to support Emanuel for congress!

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