The California Democratic Party: An Embodiment of Failed Leadership


Supporters of Dianne Feinstein and Kevin De Leon (Scott Shafer/KQED).


Last month, the California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsed former California State Senate President Pro-Tempore Kevin De Leon for U.S. Senate over long-time incumbent, U.S Senator Dianne Feinstein. This decision follows the June 5 primary results, which saw both Feinstein and De Leon advance to the general election. De Leon, who served as senate president pro-tempore for four years, chose to “primary” Feinstein earlier this year in hopes of bringing a new, progressive voice to Washington.

Out of the people who ran for Senate in California, Feinstein received around 44 percent of the vote, where De Leon only received 12 percent. Of all the candidates that ran, 14 received at least one percent of the vote, likely contributing to Feinstein not receiving well over 50 percent of the vote. Yet despite this commanding lead, the CDP decided to endorse De Leon with about 65 percent of the vote.

The leadership of the CDP views Kevin De Leon as a more liberal voice and has used this endorsement to signal their frustration with the moderate politics of some Democrats in DC, including Feinstein. This has been met with cheers from California’s far-left, “progressive” Democrats. Does this mean De Leon is on his way to a major upset in November? No. The decision made by the CDP only shows the disconnect between the leadership and the real voters of California.

Numbers don’t lie. When a candidate has been in office for over 24 years and still wins a primary by a commanding margin of 33 points, those numbers are incredibly clear. Incumbents already hold a powerful advantage, in 2016 the U.S Senate had a 96 percent reelection rate. Supporting a political challenger is already a difficult task, let alone a challenger who could not even receive 15 percent of the vote. The CDP is not meant to make decisions for the people; the people are meant to make decisions for the people and the people of California could not be more clear.

Despite the primary election’s outcome, the De Leon camp has tried to blame their candidate’s poor performance on his lack of name recognition. However, the fact that De Leon even lost his own district, an area that knows him well, shows why that reason cannot be the case. For the CDP to believe, even minutely, that it was logical to side with De Leon, is a clear and evident demonstration of their failed leadership. Instead of trying to unite their voters and ignite their turnout for November, the leaders of the CDP decided to go against the will of the people. Feinstein will likely win her seat by a large margin, regardless of what the party says. This decision provides no pain for Feinstein, and will only hurt the CDP.

The inevitable embarrassment of having the party-backed candidate lose in November could have been avoided at two different stages. The first chance to avoid such an event was long before the primary. De Leon should have never decided to run against Feinstein. When Feinstein announced she was going to run for re-election, major Democrats should have stepped aside, not because she is royalty, but because she is a dedicated servant who can provide much needed party unity. The entirety of the federal government is currently run by the Republican Party and the Democrats are working extremely hard to flip the house and gain leverage leading into the next presidential election. The last thing they need to help with that goal is internal party conflict, which can be blamed for the 2016 upset.

The second chance for the Democrats to avoid this impending embarrassment came after the primaries, which Feinstein absolutely swept. After the results were announced, the CDP should have sat back, remained quiet and let the general election play out. The role of a centralized party system is to provide leadership and support for Democrats running at various levels of government. While their endorsing of De Leon did not violate any of their by-laws, it is better to stay neutral in a race with two Democrats than to toss in your hand. This was an excellent opportunity to send a message of party strength: The Democratic Party will not accept, in any degree, a person who seeks to tear the Democrats apart. Unfortunately, they have failed, and in November they will have to face this self-inflicted embarrassment.

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