Raucous caucus

Back in the summer, before 99 percent collectively called “bullshit,” there was the debt ceiling “crisis.”

You remember, middle of July? Democrats watched helplessly while President Barack Obama wheedled the GOP with offers to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

John Conyers, leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, never shy of criticizing the president, said of Obama’s disappointing performance, “We have to march on him.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said what a lot of other progressives were thinking at the time: It would “be a good idea” for Obama to face a challenger from his left in the Democratic presidential primary.

Around the time of Sanders’ comments, activists in the California Democratic Party were headed down for a big meeting in Anaheim.

“We were looking at the betrayal of the New Deal, and the betrayal of the War on Poverty. We fought for these. We treasure these. And the president was putting them on the chopping block,” recalled Karen Bernal, chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus of the CDP.

So, just before the convening of party’s executive board, of which Bernal is a member, she and her fellow progressive caucus member passed a resolution.

It said Obama’s willingness to undermine the New Deal, to assassinate people with drones, to extend the Bush tax cuts and the Patriot Act, had the Progressive Caucus, “exploring other steps to effect necessary change, including a possible primary challenge to President Obama.”

“Exploring” and “possible” are pretty mild words. But for that, “We were called stupid, irresponsible and racist,” by some of their fellow Democrats in Anaheim, Bernal said.

The resolution generated a little bit of buzz in the Capitol press. But what happened next did not. Turns out, the Progressive Caucus was up for a recertification vote that weekend. While the other caucuses got recertified without any problem, the vote on the progressives got tabled.

Technically, the caucus doesn’t even exist right now, pending a vote by party honchos on November 20, on whether to kick the progressives out of the state party.

Keep in mind the Progressives Caucus is one of the biggest caucuses in the party. These are the same folks who were first to call for single-payer health care and for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CDP wouldn’t be the same without them.

Last time Bites talked to Bernal, she was occupying Cesar Chavez Plaza. She’s even been arrested for violating the city’s curfew on free speech.

(By contrast, Sacramento’s Democrat city council members have allowed the arrests to continue, keeping their heads down and their asses covered. Good work guys, now back to your regularly scheduled fundraising.)

Bernal told Bites she’s not sure what it will take to keep the progressives from being decertified. “There’s been a lot of pressure for there to be some expression of contrition.”

Darren Parker, head of the Democrats’ African American Caucus, and the guy who made the motion tabling the vote on the progressives’ charter, told Bites he did so “in order to get out of a negative situation.” And Bernal said the progressives probably would have been kicked out had the vote gone forward in July.

Bites asked if Obama, with his new, more aggressive Truman-lite routine, had earned the right to go unopposed in the primary, Bernal said “absolutely not.”

“What happened to the idea that everybody has to earn their votes? It’s divisive. But I think kicking the progressives out will be more divisive. I think that would only confirm the view that many disaffected progressives already have of the party.”