The Democratic Party Is At A Crossroads. Will California Lead The Way With Its New Party Chair?

As we pass the new administration’s first 100 days, we can see the real-life impact of the policies that they have implemented (or tried and failed to implement). From repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act which would have left over 24 million people without health care, to the mass deportation policies that have come in lieu of the failed immigration ban, the path we are headed is clear. With no real plan to bring jobs back, with no real plan to replace the ACA, and a foreign policy that is ensuring a new war with dangerous nuclear powers, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is being felt.

However, in California and in many swing states throughout the country, a resistance movement led by left-leaning Progressive Democrats is in full force. Although Bernie Sanders did not become the Democratic presidential nominee, his continued leadership to build a political revolution has already seen some very tangible victories. Take the recent Assembly District Elections in California, where progressives swept delegate seats all throughout the state. The influx of new candidates, including a large influx of women entering politics, is an indication that the Democratic Party will not go quietly into the night. On the contrary, it is mobilizing on a grassroots level fueled by optimism that change begins with reforming the Democratic Party.

The palpable call for change can be felt even in the country’s bluest State, in the upcoming race for Chair of the CA Democratic Party (CDP). A fresh new candidate, Kimberly Ellis, is up against Eric Bauman, who has been the long-time Chair of the LA County Democratic party and is currently the Vice-Chair of the CDP. When listening to Kimberly speak, one can’t but feel she represents a new direction. “I believe in telling hard truths and facilitating difficult conversations, and the truth of the matter is that the Democratic Party, as an institution, is not as small d-democratic as we’d like to believe it to be. It’s time for us to build powers in others, not consolidate and collapse power. We need to show we are listening by our actions, not just our words,” says Ellis.

Former Executive Director for Emerge California, responsible for training and supporting women entering political life, Kimberly understands the importance of having more women at the table. “Countless studies have shown that when pro-choice, progressive women have a seat at a table, the end result is more fair, equitable and just policies,” said Ellis. The organization has trained more than 400 Democratic progressive, pro-choice women to run for office – with a 70 percent win rate at the ballot box.

And this movement isn’t stopping with traditionally blue States. The recent election in Kansas’s 4th District for a House seat which many predicted would be a slam dunk for Treasurer Ron Estes in an area where Trump received 60 pe of the vote, turned out to be determined by single digits (despite lack of adequate financial support from the DCCC). This has Republicans in deep red States on high alert and shows the opportunity Democrats have going into the 2018 midterm elections. As the President and his Republican allies in Congress fail to offer or pass any meaningful legislation, there’s an opportunity for us. It’s time to pounce on this growing frustration. We cannot simply be against something; Democrats have to stand for something. And California is going to provide that path forward for the rest of the country with passing Medicare-for-all, campaign finance reform and a fracking ban.”

Despite this trend, reforming the Democratic Party isn’t going to be easy. The recent election for DNC Chair Tom Perez over Keith Ellison, who had been endorsed by Bernie Sanders and many progressives, is an indication reform will be an uphill battle. Many establishment Democrats from Nancy Pelosi to Diane Feinstein haven’t given much indication that they are open to a progressive agenda. This may prove dangerous to Democrats overall who are eyeing seats in the upcoming 2018 mid-term election. Without structural support from the party, it will be difficult for newer candidates to get elected. In California however, progressives are hopeful that in May they’ll have a chance to elect a Chair who will institute changes that will set the tone for the rest of the country.

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