One should never – repeat never – judge the true tenor of a political party by what happens at its convention, and last weekend’s Democratic gabfest was a case in point.
The Democrats’ state convention promised more than the usual banality of such events because there are spirited contests this year for the state’s highest offices, governor and U.S. senator, with the prospect of Democrat-vs.-Democrat showdowns in November in both.
The noise from the podium and in the hallways of San Diego’s cavernous convention center was mostly directed at retelling the world that the state’s Democrats loath President Trump.
On those rare occasions when they weren’t excoriating Trump and a Republican Congress for their secular sins, the principals were sniping at each other.
“This race isn’t personal,” insisted Kevin de León, the state Senate leader who’s challenging U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein – as he essentially accused Feinstein of being out of touch, foolish and weak.
“I’ve never been fooled into believing that Donald Trump can be a good president,” de León said in one of several jibes at Feinstein, who is seeking her fifth full term.
Feinstein did not reply in kind but made an unfortunate gaffe as the auditorium’s music was turned up to signal that her allotted time at the podium had expired.
“I guess my time is up,” she said. “Your time is up,” de León’s more numerous cheerleaders in the crowed began chanting.
The four Democratic candidates for governor also took indirect potshots at each other, with Lt. Gavin Newsom, clearly the crowd favorite, playing to the large Berniecrat presence with his call for “bold leadership, progressive policies” and chiding rivals Antonio Villaraigosa and John Chiang for not fully embracing the left’s current cause de jour, universal health care.
“My opponents call it snake oil (Villaraigosa’s phrase); I call it single-payer,” Newsom declared.
Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, was equally snarky, calling for more efforts to end the state’s highest-in-the-nation poverty and suggesting, without naming him, that Newsom is an elitist posing as a populist.
“I know the other California because I grew up in the other California,” Villaraigosa reminded delegates, implying that Newsom learned about poverty at “a panel at Davos” – a high-level international economic seminar.
All of the palaver was aimed at influencing delegates on the party’s endorsements for the June primary, and in the end, none of the top office hopefuls garnered the 60 percent support they needed.
The voting results, moreover, showed that the gathering of liberal activists probably signifies little or nothing about how real Democratic voters are leaning.
De León easily bested Feinstein in the delegate polling, 54 percent to 37 percent, but the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll, conduced in January, found that 67 percent of likely Democratic voters back Feinstein’s re-election, and just 19 percent opt for de León.
The results in the four-way contest for governor were equally skewed.
Newsom topped the quartet with 39 percent, but scored 32 percent of Democrats in the PPIC poll. Villaraigosa, a former union organizer who’s considered a traitor by most public employee unions for his battles with teachers, came in last at just 9 percent, but is tied with Newsom in the PPIC poll.
Treasurer John Chiang has just 14 percent Democratic support in the PPIC survey, but came in second at the convention with 30 percent, and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin finished third at 20 percent in San Diego, but is dead last in PPIC’s poll at 6 percent.
Thus, it appears that rather than being representative of the party, convention goers are out of touch with their own voters, by huge margins. And, by the way, the same could be said of a Republican convention.