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California Democratic youth demand change Millennials are no longer backbenchers By KAREN OCAMB SAN DIEGO — The rustle of activity caught the attention of even the most nonchalant of Democratic politicos waiting for new California Democratic Party chair Eric Bauman to welcome party delegates to their convention here. At the center of the hubbub was esteemed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, looking tired and frail but intently focused on each person asking a question or pressing a point. Not a convention regular, her very presence added to the star quality of her Senate seniority. At the outer edges of the crowd, a gaggle of young women giggled as they strategized how to get a selfie with the legendary leader. Finally thrilled with their success, they wandered away to go endorse Feinstein’s younger, more progressive primary opponent, State Sen. Kevin de León. That Feinstein even got a primary challenge at a time when seniority in Washington, D.C., still holds a modicum of meaning astounded many establishment Democrats, including lesbian supporters Hilary Rosen, Yvette Martinez and Assemblymember Susan Eggman. Feinstein failing to receive the California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsement shocked the nation. Many political observers assumed it was a continuation of last year’s turmoil as populist Bernie Sanders supporters loudly tried to take over and remake the party in a much more progressive mold. But that’s not what happened. In the time since assuming office of chair last year until the Feb. 23-25 convention, Bauman made such substantial changes to the internal mechanism of party governance—including gender parity, more decision-makers at the table and youth inclusion—the real focus of the 2018 convention was on arguing for particular candidates. “We saw people go at each other’s throats at the 2017 convention due to the so-called ‘progressive vs. establishment’ divide,” Los Angeles Democratic Party chair Mark Gonzalez, 33, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “This year, though, it seems that the delegates and activists have come to the realization that they have more in common than they have in

conflict. Just by watching their interactions on social media and at Democratic Party events in the last year, it looked like people realized that while we may sometimes be opponents, we are never enemies.” But times have changed. “The party has continuously evolved since Dianne Feinstein first sought endorsement from the Democratic Party. It’s changed with new energy and new blood, and a different generation of activists,” Gonzalez says. “A majority of delegates see Sen. Kevin de León as someone who could lead that charge of resistance [to President Donald Trump], representing the next generation of California’s elected Democrats.” And while Feinstein is still held in great respect, “the numbers show that the party is headed in a much more progressive direction” and Feinstein “needs to adapt to the changing winds.” Feinstein has been campaigning vigorously while also pressing her signature issues such as gun control, particularly jumpstarting a new assault weapons ban. In the past, Feinstein has called the National Rifle Association “venal” for standing in the way—gun violence is a personal issue. She discovered the body of her assassinated gay colleague San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978 and a finger slipped into one of five bullet wounds while she checked for his pulse. She grasps the impact of mass shootings, most recently at Marjory Stoneman  Douglas  High School in Parkland, Florida—but unlike House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, she has not called for #NoNRAMoney in political campaigns. Pre-convention polling shows Feinstein well situated to win November’s general election, with or without the party’s endorsement. However, that may soon change. De León, a respected advocate of the DREAMers movement and author of two of California’s “sanctuary state” laws is leading the charge with Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (who also failed to win a CDP endorsement) against a lawsuit brought March 6 by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Trump administration wants local law enforcement to work with ICE in deporting undocumented immigrants. Sessions claims ICE only targets criminals, but others, including legal residents, have been caught up in sweeps and treated as mere collateral damage. The state laws, with input from both former Attorney General Eric Holder and LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, were

Crystal Araujo, 32, (center) with Lauren Goldeen, 27, and Alexandra Sandavol, 28 at 2018 California Democratic Convention in San Diego Los Angeles Blade Photo by Karen Ocamb

written to withstand constitutional scrutiny. With no congressional action resolving DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)—which Trump told the Latino Coalition’s Legislative Summit March 7 is being held up by Democrats—and “thoughts and prayers” but no action on gun violence, young people are taking action, themselves. They are inspired by the protests against the Vietnam War and, for LA’s Latino youth, the Chicano students who walked out of their high

schools protesting racism and inadequate schools 50 years ago on March 1, 1968. “Those young people helped launch the Chicano movement in Southern California and created a generation of leaders,” columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote in the Los Angeles Times recently. Protests against gun violence are planned nationwide for March 14. There is a national “March For Our Lives” in Washington planned for March 24. Among the leaders of

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