Fri, Mar

Where’s My Democratic Party - Especially in California?


EASTSIDER-Speaking as a 3rd generation Californian, I finally just couldn’t take the babblings of the talking heads today as they cheerfully said how Bernie should pack it up and go home – that he would have, except for the fact that he has bags of money and got lucky in six of the last seven states, including Wisconsin. 


Here in California we’re very remote from the action. It’s been so long since California made any difference in Presidential politics that even I am hard pressed to remember when. Of course, we did give the nation Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Oh well, at least it got them out of California. 

These days what the California Democratic Party has become -- and let’s be honest -- is a giant ATM machine, with candidates whizzing back and forth from 30,000 feet to screw up our local traffic while they suck up the big bucks from the people who own them all. And yes, that includes President Obama, who has racked up countless miles on Air Force One between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, meeting with the rich and powerful to fill the DNC campaign coffers. 

Now, I will admit to being a lifetime Democrat, and all of this stuff bothers me. Heck, my dad was one of about two democratic dentists in Orange County, and had a very scary time of it there as one of the few trying to take on the John Birch Society as it went after college professors and other “commies.” 

The Democratic Party “back in the day” was a very different beast than it is today. I got to witness the rise of the CDC (California Democratic Council), which fought against the Vietnam War and brought bottom-up democratic grassroots issues to the party when they thought they knew all. Maybe it was term limits that changed my party, or maybe it was its simple indifference to its members over time. Either way, I find the Democratic Party in California about as democratic these days as the LA City Council. Not. Our local Dems are almost warm and fuzzy compared to the DNC. 

Here in Los Angeles, there’s never much suspense as to who will be the next democrat elected official. A combination of district gerrymandering (that guarantees one party or the other will win virtually every seat,) along with the rise of the “professional” term-limit-string-of-jobs politician, has taken most of the oomph out of our local races. We only get to have input when two or more of the incumbents or their staff take each other on in the occasional primary fight for the same prize. Unsurprisingly, after years of this, most of the key Democratic Party gigs are occupied by staff members or consultants of the incumbency. 

It’s not right. This is not ok here in California, and not ok at the Federal level. Too many of my friends cannot retire because they got wiped out in the financial meltdown, or discovered that social security without any pension or significant 401 plan just isn’t going to cut it in their old age. Equally bad, young people can’t get a job, and often the job that even the college educated get is part of the “sharing economy” -- eg, no permanent employment, no pension, and not much for benefits. And just to round off the thought, most folks in LA are paying over 60% of their income for rent. All the politicians, including Democrats, are just talk, talk, talk. 

Somewhere the small “d” democratic party became “The Democratic Party”, owned and operated by the same lobbyists, financial services industry tycoons, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, that own both parties. If I’m wrong, explain the meeting between Jamie Dimon (CEO of JP Morgan Chase) and Eric Holder (Obama’s Attorney General) back in 2014. That’s right, the secret meeting with the biggest perpetrator of the financial services industry meltdown, in which he not only got a “get out of jail” pass against indictment, but we got sold out for a $9 billion fine to the Feds paid for by JP Morgan Chase shareholders. It was an iconic moment for the real state of politics in America. Justice sold. 

Not only that, we in California don’t even get the bang for our buck for what we pay in federal taxes. A recent poll indicates that out of the 50 states, there are only four who are less dependent on federal dollars (read: money coming back.) So I guess we’re a giant ATM machine for the Federal government as well as for the political parties. Wonder if there is a correlation? 

And I’d like to know where Hillary Clinton got anointed to become our Democratic candidate before there were even any primaries. I am old enough to remember President Bill Clinton very clearly, and I don’t mean his personal life. At least for us in California, all I really remember after Bill Clinton got elected is that we got GATT and NAFTA and “don’t ask, don’t tell”. How’d that work for us? 

Full disclosure, just like Tony V., I gave Bill Clinton money, he talked so smooth and pretty. What can I say? 

Yet our wonderful Democrat President Bill Clinton was the beginning of the serious sale of our jobs, accompanied by a spate of deregulation of the financial services industry that Ronald Reagan would have been proud of. As Ross Perot put it, what we got was that “giant sucking sound” as our jobs went overseas and our corporations hid their wealth there too. 

Now I have been told by almost everybody that Hillary Clinton is “well qualified” to be President of the United States, and I believe that she is, although what this implies is a little scary. Because, if conventional wisdom is true, we have to gloss over the fact that the Clinton’s are the billionaire class. They just have it buried in their foundation and I guess that’s supposed to be ok. While I’m at it, I have absolutely no idea what Hillary Clinton actually stands for -- there have been so many “nuances” and “pivots” and “shifting stances” between the primaries and the general election as reported by the 200 channels of electronic media. It makes my head hurt. Again, it may be true that this is “smart politics” like the pundits say, and proof of her political abilities, but what does it say about our electoral politics? 

As we sit here in California, waiting for the tail end of the primary season so that our huge vote and number of delegates doesn’t infect the national democratic process, we keep hearing that it’s all over, Bernie should get out, even as the DNC continues to use us as the mostest, bestest ATM ever. Input not needed, just enter the PIN. 

So to me, the whining about Bernie only means that the usual crooks aren’t getting Bernie’s money. Other than that, they could care less, because underneath the bravado, they know that nothing much is going to change unless either Bernie or Donald Trump becomes President of the United States. How’s that for irony? In fact, the insiders pray nothing is going to change, since most of them are sucking up for jobs in the new administration. 

While the national debacle plays out, here in Los Angeles, we’re just a feeder farm for the next generation of the democratic political elite. So far the only results I’ve seen of this system is that Antonio Villiaragosa went to D.C. and got a prominent assignment at the Democratic Convention (which he blew) and Eric Garcetti went to D.C. and got a bag of money for the developers to do in the LA River. Hot damn. 

OK, So Go Vote 

Gee, now I’m getting depressed. I think I’ll go find a Bernie Sanders rally, the only person in either party who says candidly that even if he wins the Presidency, nothing is going to change without millions of Americans getting out, participating, and forcing the bums in Washington to do the right thing. My goodness, honesty in politics. A revolution. No wonder he’s scary. 

Seriously, we need to remake the Democratic Party, replacing the capital letters with a small “d” and a small “p.”


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.