The Democrats’ in­ter­nal war

The state party should stop squab­bling and fo­cus in­stead on the mid-term elec­tions.

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

Here is a mes­sage for Eric Bau­man, the new chair­man of the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Party and thus one of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in state pol­i­tics: Ex­tra­or­di­nary times call for ex­tra­or­di­nary lead­er­ship.

That’s not meant to sound va­pid or in­spi­ra­tional, but to be frank ad­vice about how to pro­ceed in the face of a deep — and get­ting deeper — rift in the party over al­le­ga­tions of fraud in the party’s in­ter­nal elec­tions last month. It’s tear­ing the party in two at a time when unity is more im­por­tant than ever.

What makes this such bad tim­ing is that Cal­i­for­nia and the na­tion need the state Demo­cratic Party in shape to of­fer a strong chal­lenge to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over the next few years, and es­pe­cially in the midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions in 2018. The state Demo­cratic Party can’t fo­cus on oust­ing Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Devin Nunes and other Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress — or on of­fer­ing cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tives who will chal­lenge the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion here and in Wash­ing­ton — if it is ex­pend­ing its po­lit­i­cal en­ergy squab­bling in­ter­nally.

Party lead­ers should agree to sub­mit the elec­tion re­sults to an out­side au­di­tor for an in­de­pen­dent re­view, and get this dis­pute set­tled be­fore an­other month goes by. It’s not do­ing Bau­man any fa­vors to al­low peo­ple to ques­tion whether he’s le­git­i­mately the chair­man of the party.

Bau­man, who served for many years as chair­man of the L.A. County Demo­cratic Party, took over for out­go­ing state party chair­man John Bur­ton last month af­ter a blis­ter­ing cam­paign that pit­ted so-called pro­gres­sives who want to fun­da­men­tally change the party’s agenda against mem­bers of the party’s more main­stream wing, who want to pro­tect it. He barely won the seat, earn­ing only 62 votes more than his chief ri­val Kim­berly El­lis, the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Emerge Cal­i­for­nia, which trains and en­cour­ages women to seek pub­lic of­fice.

The out­come was so close that El­lis and her sup­port­ers asked for a re­count and a re­view of the nearly 3,000 bal­lots. They were al­lowed to ex­am­ine the bal­lots and they flagged about 300 ques­tion­able ones, but, as the party notes, they found no ev­i­dence of fraud. El­lis says look­ing at the bal­lots isn’t enough to prove malfea­sance, only to raise red flags; ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties couldn’t be con­firmed, she says, be­cause her team was de­nied sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion. That chal­lenge is cur­rently be­fore the party’s Com­pli­ance Re­view Com­mis­sion, but any de­ci­sion made by party of­fi­cials will likely be viewed with sus­pi­cion.

Why should any­one other than a few thou­sand party op­er­a­tives care about what seems to be in­side base­ball? Be­cause the state’s rul­ing party has tremen­dous in­flu­ence in who wins elec­tive of­fice in the state. Demo­cratic lead­ers set the po­lit­i­cal agenda for rank and file elected of­fi­cials and pun­ish those who are not loyal to the party. It’s im­por­tant that the peo­ple with so much power to af­fect state and lo­cal democ­racy don’t reach that po­si­tion through chi­canery but be­cause they ac­tu­ally rep­re­sent the peo­ple who elected them.

This is so much big­ger than just one po­lit­i­cal party leader in a sin­gle state. There’s been a di­ver­gence within the Demo­cratic Party na­tion­ally over tac­tics and di­rec­tion. Sen. Bernie San­ders tapped into grow­ing dis­af­fec­tion dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, and when Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee emails were leaked show­ing an ap­par­ent pref­er­ence for Hil­lary Clin­ton over San­ders it val­i­dated con­cerns that the sys­tem was rigged.

Bau­man and his lead­er­ship team would be wise to re­as­sure their party’s mem­bers that they are op­er­at­ing fairly. In­stead, they are pres­sur­ing El­lis to back down and fall into line. This might have worked in the past, but it’s less likely to work now. In fact, it may be sow­ing more bit­ter­ness among those on the los­ing side who are con­vinced that only some­one with some­thing to hide would re­sist an out­side elec­tion re­view.

There’s noth­ing to be gained by al­low­ing this dis­pute to end up in court or in an un­re­solv­able con­flict. An in­de­pen­dent au­dit is the most rea­son­able and, well, demo­cratic, way for­ward.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.