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August 11, 2002

Why the Dems?

Green-supporting friends of mine often wonder why I often defend the Dems, despite the fact that my politics are to the left (sometimes far to the left) of most Dem politicians, and at the national level folks like the DLC continue to sell out policy to corporate interests.

Partially, the issue is one of pragmatism and accepting that you move the ball down the field as far as you can, and not letting the perfect be the enemy of the better. The other problem is that leftwing Dem-bashers spend almost all their time talking about the national government, where the Dems only had control of the whole government for two years since the 1970s (and with Senate filibusters, not real control even
then).

So it's probably more interesting to evaluate the Dems in a state where they have full legislative control such as California -- okay not full control of the budget because of post-Prop 13 controls on budget matters that require two-thirds votes for tax issues, but control on most regulatory issues by the majority. And Davis has vetoed some of the better legislation, but it's still a far better laboratory to evaluate the politics of the Dems when they don't have to compromise as often with GOP obstructionists.

So here are some results since the Dems took control of both houses of the state legislature and the governorship in 1998.

Just recently, California legislature have pushed through bills that

-- set the toughest emissions standards for cars in the country to fight global warming

-- doubled to 60 days the notice landlords must give tenants

-- enacted binding arbitration for farm workers seeking new contracts (which Davis may veto, the scum)

On other labor fronts, the Democratic legislature pushed through in the last couple of years:

-- a return to daily overtime pay for any work done beyond eight hours per day

-- increased unemployment benefits and allowed students and others who can only work part-time to qualify as long as they cannot find part-time work they need

-- made it illegal to discharge, discriminate or take disciplinary action against an employee or applicant for employment because of lawful conduct occurring during non-working hours away from the employer's premises

-- Extended state overtime laws to the construction, drilling, logging, and mining industries; and (among other things)

-- Signed legislation creating the highest civil fines for workplace safety and health violations in the nation;

-- Limited an employer's ability to adopt or enforce a policy requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace.

-- Required that employers reasonably accommodate employees who wish to breast feed at work, including increased break time and privacy.

-- required that contractors and subcontractors that are awarded contracts to provide janitorial or building maintenance services at a job site retain, for a period of 60 days, certain employees who were employed at that site by the previous contractor or subcontractor and retain them indefinitely if their wor is "satisfactory."

There is an extensive list of good policies by the state government in the last few years, framed in terms of Davis's reelection, but more applying to what the legislature pushed through.

A few of the highlights:

- increased investment in K-12 education by $9.1 billion, or 39 percent - the largest three-year increase in history;

-- Signed domestic partners legislation establishing the nation's first statewide registry for domestic partnerships, and providing hospital visitation rights for domestic partners. The bill also makes health benefits available to the domestic partners of state employees and permits local governments to provide domestic partners' benefits to their employees; Another law allows a person to collect unemployment insurance if he or she leaves a job to relocate with a domestic partner; allows domestic partners to use kin care (sick leave) to care for the other partner or the other partner's child.

-- Signed some of the strongest HMO reform laws in the nation, enacting 21 bills giving Californians new health care rights, including the establishment of the Department of Managed Care, the first state agency in the nation devoted solely to improving the managed health care system;


I'd be quite happy to get a chunk of those policies at the national level, so while the Dems aren't everything I'd want, they move many areas in the right direction. The rest of the movement has to be done by activists at the local level talking to their neighbors and workmates. But as far as short-term electoral choices, I'll take work within the Democratic Party as the best option available and far better than the utopian hopes of third party campaigns.

Posted by Nathan at August 11, 2002 09:55 AM

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Comments

"Green-supporting friends of mine often wonder why I often defend the Dems"

This is probably THE most common debate tactic of the greenies. They'll buttress their argument by citing any instance of Dem malfeasance, corruption, not taking the 'correct' stance ad defined by their own litmus tests, etc.

You've made your point very well, but still fall on a defensive position. I would rather ask the greenies to tell ME what they consider landmark legislation in the last 50 years, and just who was responsible for passing it. Furher, I would ask them what legislation the greens have been responsible for over the same time period that has benefitted Americans to a like degree, which of course necessitates the admission that they have NONE.

This evasive carping from the sidelines is the hallmark of the greens, and the only reason why they can only place Democratic supporters on the defensive...because they have nothing of their own to point to as accomplishments.

Posted by: jdw at August 11, 2002 02:14 PM

3rd party politics are a dead end. Send your green pals here:

http://www.progressivemajority.org

Posted by: Atrios at August 11, 2002 10:09 PM

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