The left wing – or “progressive” – of the California Democratic Party has a dream and believes that the state’s political structure is ready to make it a reality.
The oft-expressed dream is to turn California into something like Sweden, France or the Netherlands – with a huge range of cradle-to-grave services, a heavily unionized green economy and, of course, the high taxes to pay for it.
Vision collides with reality
With huge Democratic majorities in the Legislature and a governor lending verbal support, those on the left believe this is a unique opportunity to push the vision forward.
However, the vision clashed with political reality this week as its centerpiece – the creation of a single-payer healthcare system to replace the insurance-based private-public model currently in place — stalled in the Assembly because an insufficient number of Democrats would vote for it in an election year.
Those who had been pushing single-payer for years, hoping a win in California would galvanize a national system, were furious that the bill’s author, Assemblyman Ash Kalra of San Jose, refused to go along with it. The law project.
The lead sponsor of Assembly Bill 1400, the California Nurses Association, lashed out at Kalra, saying, “Nurses are especially outraged that Kalra has chosen to simply abandon patients statewide. Nurses never give up on our patients, and we will continue to fight with our allies in the grassroots movement for CalCare until all Californians can get the care they need, regardless of their ability to to pay.
Two-way squeeze on Democrats
CalMatters Journalist Alexei Koseff revealed that Kalra later told his followers in a Zoom call, “I don’t think it would have served the cause of getting single payer by staging the vote and making it inflame and alienating more members”, adding that it lacked the 41 votes required by “double digits”.
The issue has created two-way pressure on Democratic lawmakers — an open threat from progressives to withhold party endorsements if they don’t support Kalra’s bill and an implicit threat from opponents that a vote for the one This would be characterized as support for a huge tax increase. With redistricting making election results less certain, Kalra shielded his colleagues by not forcing them to vote back and forth.
It was not the only setback for the left. Another priority bill, aimed at tightening rent control, also died without a floor vote. The state’s Ellis Law now allows landlords to evict tenants from rent-controlled housing if they sell the property, and has long been a target of progressive activists.
their measure, Assembly Bill 854, would have required new landlords of rent-controlled housing to hold their properties for at least five years before invoking the Ellis Act. “The fact that they can’t even go public with their positions on two major progressive priorities today, I consider that an insult to the public, honestly,” said Shanti Singh, Legislative Director of Tenants Together.
Fast food labor bill moves forward
The only good news for progressives on Monday was the passage – albeit narrowly – of another priority measure. Assembly Bill 257 would create a European-style government council to set wages and working conditions for the franchise fast food industry – McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.
the Proposed Fast Food Sector Council, dominated by employees and appointees from pro-union politicians, would bypass traditional union organizing and the collective bargaining process.
If enacted, AB 257 would set a precedent for other economic sectors resistant to unionization, such as agriculture. But his fate in the state Senate is far from certain as he faces fierce opposition from the franchise industry and the wider business community.
California may eventually make the social-democratic dream of progressives a reality, but that won’t happen anytime soon.
About the Author
Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending most of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. For more Walters chronicles, go to calmmatters.org/comment.