Over a month into the new regime in D.C., and the effects of the Trump administration’s antidemocratic agenda of hate, lies, corruption, and xenophobia are on full display coast to coast. Here in the blue state of California, we have found solace and community in protests and a renewed engagement in our democracy. Congressional town halls have been packed during the recess with record numbers of constituents who are organized and have clear demands of representatives that they didn’t even know existed several months ago. Here in San Francisco, the Reform Democrats have taken on the corporate Democratic agenda that has been rotting the party from the inside out.
Last month, the Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club was called on the carpet for dishonoring Democratic values, and their bid to officially charter under the mantle of the Democratic Party was vigorously challenged. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the Kennedy family’s demand that the club change its name after revelations they were funneling dark money into politics from decidedly un-Democratic sources.
Operating as a political action committee, the RFK Democratic Club raked in more than $900,000 in contributions last year, mostly from tech titan Ron Conway’s Progress San Francisco PAC, as well as big developers. The same day that the Chronicle exposé came out, the RFK Democratic Club held a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club, in the hopes of establishing their street cred. As of the most recent filing deadline, they still have yet to report that fundraising — which is not only unethical but further suspicious given that RFK club president Justin Jones decided it would be best for folks to let him take all the cash home to tally — and then write them a personal check later for the proceeds.
I ran for the DCCC in June of 2016 with a slate of diverse Democrats from different backgrounds and with different political goals. Our slate shared one critical goal, though, which allowed us to sweep that election cycle: reform. No more business as usual. No more corruption. No more fake Democratic clubs. No more astroturfing. People over profits. San Francisco voters gave us a very clear mandate to take on corporate Democrats if we are ever going to have a shot at real and lasting social and economic change in this country. We are here to push our state and federal Democratic representatives to not just tweet about “resisting” but to get out there and stand for something.
We have always had a strong Democratic presence in the California State Legislature, long before the Trump administration ever rose to power. Yet Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s efforts to reform Proposition 13 and former Senator Mark Leno’s efforts to reform the Ellis Act have both repeatedly been shut down — not just by Republicans, but by the inaction and cowardice of corporate Democrats, many of whom were the beneficiaries of the record amount of outside campaign spending from tech companies, charter schools, and real estate interests.
Today in the California Legislature, we have a mighty two-thirds majority of members who claim they are ready to fight for the people. Democrats control all levels of government in California, but we have yet to see that power manifest in a legislative agenda that takes on income inequality, single-payer health care, repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and the Ellis Act, or addressing progressive revenue for affordable housing and homelessness.
I’m more ready than ever to “stand united” and to “resist” — but if we are going to take this call to action seriously, Democrats must walk the walk, and that commitment starts at home with some necessary housecleaning.
Finally, a heartfelt thanks to those of you who have reached out to express your profound disappointment, sadness, and anger at the clandestine bigotry on display from Mayor Ed Lee in a recent texting session with his top aides in which he referred to me, a Jewish American, as a Gestapo. Sadly, I still have yet to receive an apology from the mayor or even a return phone call. It does make me wonder what else the executive team of senior staff discusses when they think no one else is listening, while simultaneously holding press conferences about unity and tolerance. It’s a truly sad sign of the times.