Democrats must hang together

Jeff vonKaenel

While the hottest theater ticket in the country may be Hamilton, founding father Benjamin Franklin has the best advice for California Democrats in 2017.

Writing to members of the Continental Congress in 1776, where the political differences between the revolutionary delegates were far greater than those between the California Democratic delegates recently assembled in Sacramento, Franklin wrote, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Good advice.

Just as the fear of King George’s noose brought people together in 1776, King Donald and the Republican Congress should bring Democrats together in 2017. Yes, there is, and there should be, disagreement among Democrats. And it’s good to have a hotly contested election. Longtime party activist and party insider Eric Bauman, who was aligned with Hillary Clinton’s supporters, competed for Democratic Party chair against political organizer Kimberly Ellis, aligned with Bernie Sanders’ supporters. During the campaign, divisions within the party were openly debated. This was a good process.

But once the votes were counted and Eric Bauman was elected, the party should have come together. Instead, a group of Kimberly Ellis supporters walked out in protest after their candidate lost.

I think I speak for most Californians: We are worried. Many of us are worried about our health care. Some worry about being deported. Parents worry about their children’s schools. We worry about global warming. Will we be able to find affordable housing? Can we make enough money at our jobs to pay our bills?

Most worried California Democrats want the Democrats to pick a party leader, unite and get to work.

In contrast to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, or Tom McClintock, the difference between Eric Bauman and Kimberly Ellis seems small. The election was very close. Bauman edged out Ellis 1493 to 1431. But now it’s time to support Bauman in his efforts to resist Trump and to build up the Democratic Party. He won.

I can’t support the divisive political tactics of the powerful California Nurses Association, who led the protests and walkout at the convention. The CNA endorsed Ralph Nader in 2000 and did not endorse Clinton after Sanders lost the nomination, largely because Clinton did not support single-payer health care.

The CNA is now attacking Democrats who have not taken a pro position on single-payer legislation. The CNA seems to agree with the Republican national leadership that legislators should vote in favor of major health care bills before a plan for financing those bills has been worked out. This is wrong in Washington, and it is wrong in Sacramento. The CNA needs to do less hanging of Democrats and more hanging with Democrats.

They should start by supporting the newly elected Democratic Party chair, Eric Bauman, who, ironically, is a nurse.

After his election, Bauman reached out, saying his opposition “gave voice to a vast and growing segment of the party that hasn’t always felt listened to or valued. And to their supporters, I want to say directly that you will have a seat at the table in the California Democratic Party. My fellow officers and I are committed to working with you to make our party representative of our grass-roots base and ensure we stand up for those most in need.”

Franklin would have approved.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.