By Nancy Latham

At the California Democratic Convention in San Diego (February 23-25), I was thrilled to be around thousands of other activists and political junkies. While there was divisiveness, mostly there was inspiration. Here is what stood out:

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  • California’s open primary system can threaten the blue wave. After months of impressive point swings toward Democrats in elections since November 2016, I had blithely assumed that we would flip the House – it would simply take hard work, and we have the hard-working activist base we need. I had not dwelled on the implications of our open primary system, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. But early on day one I was buttonholed by an Indivisible member from SoCal worried that there are so many Democrats running in Congressional District 45, they are likely to emerge from the primary with two Republican candidates. Multiple districts face the problem of too many Democratic hopefuls jeopardizing the chances of any Democrats advancing to the general election in November, and there’s no clear solution.  
  • The labor movement rocks! I went to a labor panel, the labor caucus, union booths, and a union rally on Janus v. AFSCME. I was inspired to hear Dolores Huerta speak at the labor caucus, and the crowd went wild for her. Many labor speakers reminded us that unions are not simply about negotiating about conditions and pay with a particular employer. Fundamentally, the labor movement is on the forefront of advocating for the general welfare of working families. It is our largest and most important bulwark against the special interests of big business and the hyper-rich. And labor shows up to protest mass incarceration, gun violence, discrimination against LGBTQ communities. Every union member who spoke addressed the audience as “brothers and sisters.” It is so simple, and yet I felt it viscerally every time – union members belong to a big family fighting for social justice for all.

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  • We have so many fabulous women in the party! There were many wonderful speakers who were men (Jon Lovett showed up!), but it was truly intoxicating to hear from women – three who stood out to me at a General Session were Assemblymember Shirley Weber, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Senator Kamala Harris. Senator Harris reminded us of our values:

We know why we’re here – we are here to fight for the future of our children, we are here to fight for the future of our democracy. We need to think of 2018 as the most important year of our lives. Let’s remember what our dear Dolores Huerta says. Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person is a potential activist, every minute is a chance to change the world. … For us Democrats, the challenge for us in 2018 is to remind Americans of how much more we have in common than what separate us…. And there is so much we have in common. … Let’s remember our common story, our American story. 

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  • It was amazing to bond with the San Diego Indivisibles. Through the California Indivisible Slack, I connected with Tama, who leads an Indivisible group for Congressional District 52. It was so wonderful to get to know her, and on Saturday night another SD Indivisible hosted a party to say hi to Indivisibles who had come to the Convention from across the state. They all welcomed me into their extended family right off the bat! The weekend reminded me that this movement goes beyond our political action – it also speaks to our deep human need to build community. More than anything, it is our new social bonds, and the willingness of all of us to have one another’s back, that gives me hope.  

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Nancy Latham is passionate about advocating for an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.

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