Meanwhile in California: “Will Buffy the Bernie Slayer Win in Pro-Sanders District?”

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While not directly applicable in our antebellum neck of the woods, this essay remains instructive. There are swamps, there are jungles, and there’s the AdamBot.

Flush With Cash: Will Buffy the Bernie Slayer Win in Pro-Sanders District?, by Steve Early (CounterPunch)

In a political culture shaped by big money, entrepreneurial candidacies, single-issue campaigning, and union dis-unity, you can run but not hide from crowded fields of Democrats. In many current primary races, they are all claiming to be “progressive,” even as they raise and spend millions of dollars competing against each other—money that might have been better spent on actual movement building?

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Our East Bay constituency has one of highest levels of Democratic Party voter registration in the state. Two years ago, residents of Berkeley, a slice of Oakland, Richmond, and several adjoining communities chose Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in AD 15, while Clinton won the statewide presidential primary.

These local results may not herald a permanent Sanders-inspired “revolution,” however. When the first stage of an election to replace our current Assembly member is completed next month, one of the top finishers could be someone who was nicknamed “Buffy the Bernie Slayer,” when she directed Clinton’s 2016 California primary campaign.

In our state’s “jungle primary” system, legislative candidates are lumped together—regardless of party affiliation– in the first round of voting. Buffy Wicks’ first-time run for office benefits from a crowded field of twelve (which includes a single token Republican) and, most importantly, national Democratic Party donor networks. Wicks is a newcomer to AD 15. She had little local name recognition and no track record of service on any city board, council, or commission before announcing her candidacy.

But she did direct the pro-Hillary Super-PAC, Priorities USA Action, serve in the Obama Administration, and work on both Obama presidential campaigns. Her past experience as a high-powered political operative makes her a magnet for the wrong kind of money in politics today.

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In Hillary Clinton fashion, Buffy markets herself as the candidate of “Progressive Values, Real Results.” (Hillary, not surprisingly, hasn’t appeared in any Buffy material so far.) In a just released video, Wicks instead boasts of her “100 organizing meetings in living rooms across the district” and legion of volunteers. She explains how she is “trying to run [her campaign] like a real grassroots movement” because that’s the only way to bring about “sustained change in the community.” If you go out and build such a movement, she says, “that lives far beyond any election cycle and far beyond election day,” citing as examples, the 2004 presidential primary campaign of Howard Dean and Obama’s more successful effort four years later.

Of course, with regards to two of the most important grassroots movements in California at the moment—for single payer healthcare and expanded tenant protection—Wicks is MIA or worse.

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 … I’ve put my time and/or money into the “corporate free” AD 15 campaign by Jovanka Beckles. This two-term Richmond city councilor is a black Latino Lesbian Teamster county worker, with a real track record of movement building and little inclination to become part of “business as usual” in Sacramento.

As I reported in Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of An American City, Beckles and her Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) allies overcame heavy corporate spending against them in 2014 and 2016, because they championed refinery safety, rent control, campaign finance reform, and independent politics in Richmond.



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Draining the political swamp in Sacramento is no easy task, under any circumstances. The costly left-liberal free-for-all in the East Bay may end up adding to that challenge, instead of helping networks like Our Revolution overcome it. But the AD 15 race does demonstrate what too much candidate-driven campaigning and independent spending—combined with not enough real organization building—can produce, even in Sanders country, when municipal reformers all try to move up at the same time.

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