Last Saturday, an advertisement featuring¬†Tom Umberg, the Democratic Party nominee for California’s 34th Senate District, was brought to my attention by several of my supporters. The ad features Mr. Umberg posing next to both President Reagan and his wife Nancy. In the caption, Mr. Umberg highlights his success as a prosecutor, with a 100% conviction rate.

 

 

The 34 Senate District is comprised primarily of people of color. In terms of the emphasis on conviction rate as stated in the ad, this is concerning for several reasons. Primarily, many residents in the 34th have a tenuous relationship with law enforcement due to long-standing disparities in the criminal justice system. As the nation that incarcerates more of our people than any nation on Earth, highlighting Mr. Umberg’s ability to lock up residents rather than reform the system to provide equitable solutions is disconcerting. I hope this will spark a new conversation on real criminal justice reform, which takes a more holistic approach to public safety, focusing on the real cause of crime, primarily economic insecurity, lack of educational or employment opportunities, etc.

After the primary election, Mr. Umberg graciously issued an invitation to my supporters and myself to open a dialogue with him and his campaign over coffee. In light of this, I am disappointed with the direction Mr. Umberg is taking his campaign and, if elected, that this will be his method of governing. I understand Tom and I have very different perspectives on social positions and that Tom is not as progressive as I consider myself, but through conversations with my voters and me, I hoped he would agree that there is no need to appeal to Republicans, who more than likely will not vote for him. This same losing strategy was employed by Democrats in 2016, whereas being a bold progressive who stands up for the working class is the key to winning. Unfortunately, my guidance to Mr. Umberg during our post-primary conversations appears to have been ignored.

Another aspect of the ad that is concerning to my supporters and to me is Mr. Umberg’s attempt to appeal to Republican voters by placing him in a photo with Ronald Reagan. As a progressive, I am offended that he has chosen to associate himself with a man who escalated the failed war on drugs, exploded wealth inequality in America, was responsible for union busting efforts in the 1980s, and implemented his failed trickle-down economic policy that continues to negatively effect Americans. Even many of our Democratic Party leaders have bought into the idea. The messaging for this ad targets rich, white voters, but the policies it boasts have hurt people of color; the same people Mr. Umberg would like to serve.

Finally, the overarching theme of his ad is of bipartisanship. In general, I agree that Democrats and Republicans should work together in the best interest of Californians and the American people. Mr. Umberg has a choice of many issues that will advance our community rather than divide it. For example, an overwhelming majority of Californians and Americans believe that healthcare is a human right and in a perfect world, Democrats and Republicans would work together to develop a Medicare for All system. As well could be said that a majority of Americans believe money has poisoned our political system and in a perfect world, both parties would work together to get money out of politics.

However, we do not live in a perfect world.

For Democrats, bipartisanship is code for allowing the Republicans to get their way. In addition, this goes beyond Mr. Umberg and his campaign, but to Democrats nationwide. If Democrats want to be electorally viable again, they need to stop laying down for Republican issues and actually stand up and fight for a bold vision for Americans.

Ultimately, I hope that Mr. Umberg heeds the wishes of my supporters and voters who would like him to adopt bold progressive platform positions and a vision that will inspire and excite Democrats to not only vote in November, but come out and volunteer before then, too.