Leaders of Sonoma County’s Democratic Party were joined by prominent labor and environmental representatives Saturday in calling for concerted action to advance state and local progressive causes and thwart moves by the Trump administration to undo gains on access to health care, rights for immigrants and the LGBTQ community and actions to address climate change.
“Our progressive values are on the line,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg.
McGuire’s comments on Saturday kicked off the “Blue-Green Eggs and Ham” breakfast, a regular election-year event and post-election analysis that seeks to identify strengths and weaknesses in the county’s so-called “blue-green alliance” of labor groups, community activists and environmental organizations.
“Sí se puede,” chanted the crowd at the event, a message of protest following a victory by Donald Trump that many in the audience characterized as devastating.
His defeat of Hillary Clinton last month should serve as a reset for Democrats and progressives political leaders who have failed to ignite and expand their base — especially young people and the working class, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
“There is a tremendous problem for the Democratic Party across this country with working-class voters, and it’s the same fundamental problem for the North Bay and (Sonoma) County … the center for the counter-Trump, anti-Trump movement,” McCuan told the crowd of roughly 200 people at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa.
McCuan predicted Trump would have a “very successful” first year, advancing the Republican platform on immigration, health care and tax reform — a sobering analysis for the crowd on hand.
To counteract the unilateral Republican control in Washington, including the White House and Congress, Democrats will need to expand their outreach to Republican and independent voters, McCuan said.
The party is dominant in registered voters and officeholders on the North Coast, with Democrats holding all of the region’s seats in Sacramento and Washington. On the local level, however, it must embrace the new era of political spending that allows the formation of independent campaigns to boost support or deepen opposition to candidates, McCuan said.
He also had provocative suggestion, given his audience: ditch the pledge put forward each election cycle by the Service Employees’ International Union that seeks candidates’ affirmation to abide by laws safeguarding organized labor.
The pledge became a sticky campaign issue in the 5th District race for Sonoma County supervisor this year. Former state Sen. Noreen Evans faced political blowback after signing the SEIU pledge, with detractors calling it a “giveaway” to labor union demands.
Evans was defeated by political newcomer and organic farmer Lynda Hopkins, who appeared at Saturday’s event. Evans did not attend.
Several speakers that followed McCuan agreed with his overall message — that local labor leaders must step up voter engagement and environmental groups must expand their outreach, especially with young people who are passionate about addressing climate change.
Lisa Maldonado, the fiery field director for SEIU 1021, called for renewed “militancy” in the labor movement, saying both unions and non-unionized workers must advance such causes as the fight for a national $15 per-hour minimum wage and equal pay for women. The former proposal faces especially long odds under a Trump nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, who as a fast-food executive has staunchly opposed the minimum wage hike.