The California Democratic Party is holding an election for Assembly District Delegates. (Courtesy photo)

How to make the California Democratic Party more responsive to everyday voters

Every election your mailbox fills up with glossy political mailers informing you of the California Democratic Party’s (CDP) endorsements. But if you’re like the average John or Jane Dem, then you’ve likely never wondered who within the party is actually doing the endorsing. A little digging though would show that the party’s methods for selecting its endorsement body — the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) — are far from the transparent, accessible processes you’d expect.

Thankfully the upcoming Assembly District Delegate (ADD) elections give you the chance to upend one part of that system. In doing so, you’ll make the party’s endorsements more reflective of everyday Dems’ values.

Insiders — those who know the aforementioned acronyms like the back of Barack Obama’s head — selected by insiders generally make up the DSCC: one-third of the body is Assembly District Delegates, one-third is candidates elected by county Democratic Central Committees, and the final one-third is nominees selected by elected officials. Most party members play no role in any of these processes: Few people attend their Assembly District Delegate Election meetings, held every two years in January; even fewer regularly attend their county’s Central Committee meetings, let alone earn membership on the committee; and, perhaps the smallest number of regular Dems are close enough to elected officials to be considered for nomination.

The sum of these processes is an endorsing body uncomfortably close with the likely endorsees. So what’s the value of an endorsement if it doesn’t come from a deliberative process? The value to undecided voters is nil. But to incumbents it’s priceless — a seal of approval that tricks the busy voter into assuming the party has their views in mind. In short, the current makeup of the DSCC results in “endorsed by the California Democratic Party” meaning “endorsed by my long-term supporters.”

The DSCC’s membership will have to change for its work and its endorsements to serve the interests of the party’s rank and file and to provide voters with actually valuable information.

On Jan. 13 at 10:00am in Daly City, consider joining me in trying to improve the caliber of CDP endorsements. I’m running for ADD to raise awareness of the impactful, but often forgotten, office. The way the election currently works — registered Democrats in the district driving out to the election site, receiving a slate card of the Assemblymember’s preferred candidates, and then voting for the pre-selected candidates — means folks like me trying to run independently have little chance of winning. Being left off the slate is like being left on the Warrior’s bench: Only the most knowledgeable fans (voters) know you exist.

You can fix this process.

Bringing the party closer to the people requires your participation. Your first foray into party politics ought to be voting in the upcoming Assembly District Delegate Election meetings. Use the California Secretary of State’s Find My Rep tool (findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov) to identify your district. Assuming you’re a Democrat, you’re eligible to vote for up to 14 candidates running for delegate in your district. Next, find your district’s polling time and location by going to www.cadem.org/our-party/adem/elections. If you’ve actually taken these two steps, then you are surely motivated enough to take just one more: Invite your friends!

Insider politics only work if John and Jane Dems stay on the couch. Go from couch to change-agent in 2019 by getting your community involved in the upcoming ADD elections. Together, we can make the DSCC a body that reflects everyday Dems. In turn, CDP endorsements will come to mean more than a signal of insider support. Voters deserve better than to base their votes on an insular process. A more independent DSCC will give voters more accurate information about how to make their voice heard in a party that desperately needs more participation (and fewer acronyms).

Kevin Frazier previously served as President of the College Democrats of Oregon but now resides in Cow Hollow while pursuing graduate degrees at the Harvard Kennedy School and UC Berkeley School of Law. He is running for election as an Assembly District Delegate on the Democratic State Central Committee.

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