Francine Busby Presents “Planting the Seeds of Progress”

As has been our January tradition, Francine Busby, who by now is the past chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, provided an overview of the post-election state of the party and its future at the January monthly meeting.

Francine opened by introducing Jessica Hayes, who will take over as San Diego Democratic Party chair in a few days. She also spoke about a missed opportunity with Prop 61, which failed, that would have reduced medical and Rx expenses.

Francine then presented her “Planting the Seeds of Progress” presentation. Francine’s view is that we will make progress ‘by building bridges and bringing in those who feel disillusioned.”

She began with a quick review of the “low lights” of the November election. She indicated that “the presidential race highlighted a need to redefine and realign the Party’s platform & message.” But not all was gloomy as statewide Democrats recaptured a super majority in our state Legislature. In San Diego County voter registrations we now lead by 108,000 or 6.6% more than Republicans. Also in San Diego County, Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris both won by larger margins than President Obama and Diane Feinstein, respectively.

Locally, 93% of party-endorsed positions on ballot measures won. Additionally Democrats elected Mara Elliott as the first Latina to become City Attorney. We also elected Barbara Bry, which ensured a Democratic majority on the San Diego City Council.

In looking ahead, 2017 priorities include:

  • Outreach to newly elected officials through the Democratic Leadership Network: provide resources and tools to build voter constituencies, encourage mentorship, and advance mutual policy goals.
  • Shifting focus to mid-term elections: statewide, congressional, and local races for 2018
  • New County Central Committee was seated in January for this year’s term. Emphasis in 2017 will be on strategic planning, candidate training, listening to Democrats and building grassroots resistance activism, etc.
  • Raising funds to support our operation through the “Donate Every Month: (DEM) program and Roosevelt Dinner on April 8th.

Francine admitted the party faces some challenges ahead. The election did create some intra-party conflicts between various factions of Democrats and Progressives. These must be addressed along with the emotional sting of the loss that has led to anger, blaming, and mistrust. Most importantly however is the immediate need to combat the worst actions of the new administration that harm the most vulnerable – including pushing back at the state and local levels.

But there is a path forward that Francine laid out. At the state and local levels, demographics and registration trends strongly favor Democrats and progressive policies. This bodes well for the future. Additionally, there are several California laws taking effect soon which will substantially increase voter registration, turnout, and education.

What are these laws that will improve election turnout? They include:

  • Any person, not just a household or family member, can drop off a voter’s ballot (as long as not paid or coerced);
  • Registration will now be by default through the DMV. Those skipping party preference step will be flagged as “Unknown,” not NPP (No Party Preference); 
  • Automatic re-registration through DMV when voters move within the state;
  • Technology to help people with disabilities vote electronically, print, and return ballot;
  • Same-day registration on Election Day (only at county voting offices);
  • All voters will be sent mail ballots, and more/earlier drop-off locations added (some counties by 2018, all by 2020).

This is all good information, but an overwhelming concern from many Democrats is “what can we do ourselves to combat Trump’s/GOP agenda going forward”? One key thing is join the “Indivisible Movement”. This is a grassroots effort to teach voters and activists effective tactics, many of which the Tea Party successfully employed. We need to engage in sustained local action targeting our Congressional representatives to be sure they understand constituent concerns. Finally, donating to advocacy organizations helps those groups also stay in the fight on our issues.

As Francine explained, “we all have to do something daily. For instance, don’t watch the inauguration and turn your TV to another station so it will be recorded that you were NOT only NOT watching the transition of power, you were watching something else.”

No doubt the times ahead will be difficult, but we have the power within our hands. If we stay engaged and continue to make our voices heard we may be able to head off big negative changes and certainly, to take back Congress in 2018.

See Francine’s slide presentation.