There is a vibe of resentment cascading over the 15th Assembly District. The resentment stems from the gaudy amount of money being raised for an Assembly candidate, who only recently moved here. This candidate does not have the history or connections to local issues that her opponent, Jovanka Beckles possesses. The Democratic establishment threatens to turn off exactly those voters it most needs to rise from its moribund state to new relevance at the national level.
One of the big donors contributing to the vibe is billionaire Democrat Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor who, together, have given Beckles’s opponent Buffy Wicks $17,600 in this election cycle.
One could think of Citizen Steyer as an accomplished, standup guy, a billionaire progressive fighting the good fight for renewable energy and against the extraction industries. In 2010, Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor took the “Giving Pledge” to donate half of their wealth to charitable causes. According to POLITICO, Steyer plans to spend “at least $110 million in 2018” focusing on impeaching Donald J. Trump.
There is a huge debate over the advisability of impeachment. Even with a Democratic House of Representatives (oh, be still my heart, for November 7), removal of a President by impeachment requires a 2/3 majority vote in the Senate, an extremely high barrier. Moreover, if the House impeaches and the Senate fails to convict, Trump will feel invincible and emboldened to spew his poisons into the 2020 presidential campaign. His feeling of political immortality will stand in stark contrast to the defeated and demoralized forces that attempted to impeach him.
Maybe Tom should focus elsewhere.
It would be great if Steyer’s local support was extended to a proven progressive instead of a Democratic campaign professional looking for employment in Sacramento without having any electoral or activist experience here in the East Bay. Mr. Steyer, while your enthusiasm for Buffy Wicks may be tied to a close relationship with her when you were raising money for Barack Obama and can be understood from that perspective, you need to tune in and recognize the alienating and disengaging effect such donations have on the electorate of this district. Of course, it might be difficult to pick up the vibe of Assembly District 15 from the other side of the Bay over there in Redwood City, where you live.
However, given your admirable work on many progressive causes, particularly the environment, I cannot see hidden or self-interested ulterior motives in your efforts. The campaign finance statements of the Wicks campaign, however, are riddled with entries of individuals and entities whose interests lie in charter schools, pension “reform” (which means gutting benefits especially to public employees), real estate, and high technology investing.
We live in a state that prizes and demands transparency in its campaign finance reporting. Over the next three months of this campaign, that transparency will be on full display for all to see.
The status quo model of throwing vast sums of money at an election and expecting a good result cannot hold. For the last 10 years or more, that has been the model of the Democratic Party across the United States. What has the strategy wrought? Over 1,000 lost legislative seats since 2008. The vast majority of state legislatures and governorships are now in Republican control, and the United States House of Representatives has been gerrymandered into hopelessness.
The money that candidates receive is not just a measurement of who they are, but to whom they are beholden.
I have little doubt that the establishment sect of the Democratic Party will keep throwing money at campaigns, expecting a different result. The effect of these rivers of money entering the political process is to alienate and disaffect the average voter. The Wicks’ campaign, with the money of Tom Steyer and many others, is following this strategy
There IS a different way. It is a harder way, but the People-Powered and Corporate-Money-Free campaign of Jovanka Beckles and many like her signal a new hope that through the human capital of participation, the move towards the corporatism in our political process can be beaten back.
“They have the money, WE have the people.” These words of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who just defeated an establishment Democrat in a House race in Queens, New York, represent a cogent and timely battle cry for this election season. On November 7, we will see which strategy wins.