Letters to the Editor – October 2017


By Steve Claassen

Those who follow Emily Cameron’s blog can’t not think of her when they hear the progressive mantra—”Speak truth to power.” In September’s Community Alliance report, “Primarying Bad Fresno Dems Should Be a Priority in 2018,” Emily skewers Fresno City Council’s two Blue Dog Democrats—Paul Caprioglio and Luis Chavez. Emily lays it out in black-and-white—over five recent Council votes dear to progressives the two Blue Dogs sided with their Tea Party colleagues more often than with their fellow Democrats. Doesn’t the Democratic Party vet its candidates? A couple of these votes violated core party values and that rankles progressives, Democratic or not. The two Dogs will ask for Democratic support come election time and they’ll get it from our Fresno County Democratic Central Committee (FCDCC) because it and CADEM, the state organization, consider all shades of blue as blue once they’re in the win column.

Certainly, that’s not good enough if we expect our two Fresnos to ever become one healthy vibrant community and that’s why Emily’s disclosure that Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee (CVPPAC) has been compromised by too close an association with the FCDCC is so important. Democrats who make Republican votes and progressive PACs that support centrist candidates are flying false flags and, like fake news, they undermine trust, discourage progress and waste everyone’s energy. That’s where it stands. FCDCC for its own reasons won’t run progressive candidates against Blue Dog incumbents and the CVPPAC can’t because of its ties to FCDCC.

Can an NPP progressive, a Green or a Democratic Socialist beat out a regressive Blue Dog like Caprioglio or Chavez next year? Maybe; both are vulnerable but money interests, special interests from both sides of the two-party system won’t roll over without a fight. Let’s hope Emily Cameron has one to report in an upcoming issue of Community Alliance because the political disappointments of the past year have energized this city and a lot of us think it’s ready for change.

Steve Claassen

(Editor’s note: The FCDCC has informed the Community Alliance newspaper that it did not endorse Paul Caprioglio for City Council.)

By Esperanza Avalos

I would like to comment in response to the article by a contributor (“Primarying Bad Fresno Dems Should Be a Priority in 2018” by Emily Cameron in the September 2017 issue of the Community Alliance). In the interest of open disclosure, I was formerly a part-time employee of the Democratic Party. I stepped down from that position in July 2017 to have more time to volunteer as a committee member.

The work of the Party is done by the committees. The monthly meeting is to vote on issues that require the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee’s (FCDCC) approval, to hear reports from the local Democratic clubs and from the FCDCC’s officers and its Executive Board.

The writer appears to imply that Democratic Chair Michael Evans’ position as executive director of the Community Alliance is being hidden and should be publicized. It is already public. His name appears every month listed as executive director along with the names of other staff members and contributors. Additionally, the Fresno County Democratic Web site includes a message from the chair—Michael Evans. Evans, along with many other community members and leaders concerned with Fresno’s future, are members of the Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee (CVPPAC). They contribute countless hours on a volunteer basis to discuss Fresno County issues, needs and methods to effect positive change.

Yes, FCDCC members are required to support endorsed Democratic candidates as is the California Democratic Party. Nonprofit organizations must have constitutions and bylaws that require members to adhere to them. A political nonprofit is no different.

Any Democrat can contribute and support any candidate as an individual, but as a Party officeholder, the bylaws mandate that once the Party endorses a candidate, the officeholder should support the endorsed candidate. Other political parties can promote and support any candidate as well. The Democratic Party is not keeping them from doing so. They are free to organize a convention, build their party and endorse and promote a candidate or use any other methods to put those candidates that share their values in office. The Democratic Party is not blocking them.

Democrats don’t always agree with the positions of their own candidates. That disagreement is conveyed in meetings and conversations with the candidate and at the ballot box.

In rare instances, change comes about forcefully from outside the organization. It is easy to criticize from the outside and sow divisiveness by making uninformed statements. Since the Democratic Party is a democratic organization, it is harder, but not impossible, to bring about organizational change by being actively involved and working for change from within the organization.

By Michael D. Evans

In an article in the September 2017 Community Alliance (“Primarying Bad Fresno Dems Should Be a Priority in 2018”), Emily Cameron continues to pursue a philosophical approach that seems to boil down to two points: A Democrat cannot be a progressive (and presumably vice versa) and anyone who disagrees with her cannot be a progressive.

Although the article makes some good points about the voting records of Fresno City Council members and implies some valid questions (e.g., how does the community hold elected officials accountable), the loose relationship to facts and the unsubstantiated connection of the dots makes the piece problematic overall.

One will never find an elected official with whom one agrees 100% of the time. I am sure we can find at least one issue on which former Rep. Ron Dellums and I disagree, for example. Moreover, as Lyndon Johnson famously said, “If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing the thinking.” People bring different backgrounds, life experiences, knowledge and skill sets to the table, all of which affect their viewpoints on public policy. As registered Democrats, it is incumbent on us to educate electeds and attempt to move them to support legislation in line with our principles.

To imply that a Democrat cannot be a progressive is patently ridiculous. Take our state legislature. California has arguably the most progressive state legislature in the history of the country. Right now. It has passed some amazing legislation, much of which would have been thought impossible even 10 years ago. And there is little doubt that the motivation is there to cross the finish line on universal healthcare.

Although it is true that not all Democrats are progressives, almost all Democratic activists are progressive—even in Fresno. Furthermore, the party is of necessity a big tent. With the ideological parameters of the Republican Party narrowing in a perpetual shift to the right, there is a need for all those not comfortable with the radical right to find a home. Indeed, some of our most committed Democratic volunteers are Recovering Republicans.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the California Democratic Party platform (www.cadem.org/our-california/ platform/2016-platform). This is one progressive party.

Personally, I voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Presidential Primary. To avoid the same sort of disaster that happened with the Democratic National Committee, and given my position as chair of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee (FCDCC), I did not state my preference publicly, and the local party maintained a position of neutrality in the presidential race. The net result of this was that both the Sanders and Clinton camps were upset with us. Coincidentally, my position did become public because a local Clinton supporter was upset with my preference and attempted to stir up trouble by stating my position. That type of internal game playing is a much greater problem than our commitment to a progressive agenda.

The author appears to be a registered Democrat, but does the author serve on the FCDCC, volunteer for any of its standing committees or participate in any of its chartered clubs? The party gets changed from within, not by persons whining from the outside.

The author states the following: “If the progressives of this town are tired of the Democratic establishment force-feeding us crappy candidates across the board, we must buck the system.” What does this even mean? Most candidates self-identify, and as I have said many times, “It is more difficult to talk someone out of running who has made up her/his mind to do so than it is to convince someone to run.” Furthermore, the process of narrowing down candidates is called democracy.

Moreover, the author makes the logical error of stating that endorsements (for both the Democratic Party and the CVPPAC) are problematic because of positions that electeds took after they were in office. In many cases, these positions were not known at the time of the actual endorsement.

Democrats should adhere to and actively promote the principles of our party. The more effectively that we can communicate these principles to the community at large, the sooner we can make public policy changes to better our society.

By Thonas J. Hernandez

The opinion and analysis column in the September issue (“Primarying Bad Fresno Dems Should Be a Priority in 2018” by Emily Cameron) was an unbelievable hit piece, almost laughable. I suppose in the age of fake news, distortion and innuendo, this opinion/analysis might make sense. I am a Democrat, always have been, and a progressive, always have been. I’ve been around the political block for several decades.

Have I campaigned for what might be self-labeled progressives? Yes I have. Have I campaigned for a candidate that was labeled more moderate? Yes I have. I am a Democrat, a liberal, a progressive. And here is my rub with the September opinion article: Who decides who is a Democrat or a progressive? Not the writer of that September opinion piece or the Community Alliance.

As a fourth-generation Californian, I have had the pleasure of living in several different great California cities and worked with and for different candidates. I find making insulting allegations and untruths about local, state and national candidates is rude, divisive and sounds more like an angry Republican than I assume a progressive. So if the Community Alliance decides to place a hateful hit piece like the one in September 2017 issue, maybe you should just close the ethics doors completely. It’s as if you all signed up for “fake news” or a Russian-written opinion/ analysis. I am a proud elected member of the FCDCC and a proud member of the CVPPAC, and I am not being deceptive here! However, your September opinion analysis hit piece is clearly deceptive.

By Dee Barnes

I am getting frustrated with the growing divide and the aversion to compromise that seems to be growing in our community and our country. After close to 43 years of marriage and 62 years of living, I know it is impossible to agree with anyone on every single issue.

Have I been disappointed in some of the votes of even the politicians I supported and worked to get elected? Absolutely! Will there be issues and votes in the future that will disappoint or anger me? Absolutely!

However, I recognize that not everyone is going to agree with my opinion and that I will not always get my way. In fact, there will likely be periods of time when I disagree with every vote of my elected representative, even if I worked to put him there. As an adult, I must recognize that I live in a diverse community and a politician is elected to represent everyone in her district, not just me and my issues.

I read opinion pieces, news articles, and watch and/or attend many Fresno City Council meetings. When it comes to Council meetings, I try to educate myself on the issue, read the documents submitted in support and opposition of the issue, and listen to all the speakers and the Council members. Even when I am still sure of what I would like the vote to be, I can understand why it might not be the result I want. I sometimes wonder how the elected official can decide which option is best for his constituents and our community. I also recognize that we have a representative system of government and many times they will have access to information and in-depth knowledge of the issues that I do not have.

I consider myself very progressive but recognize that progress and change can be difficult for some people and that major change and real progress usually take time. I believe that the individuals that would rather see the house burn down than perform the difficult and time-consuming work to “remodel” or “rehabilitate” are extremely short-sighted and hurt the progressive movement.

When you consider the conservative to liberal spectrum, there are extremes on both ends and all political parties have some members that would be considered ideologues or fanatics. I believe that most educated and informed people fall closer to the middle, do have the ability to see both sides and understand the need for compromise when sides do not agree. I don’t care if we are talking about a School Board, City Council, County Board of Supervisors, State Legislature or Congress, one vote is still only one vote and an elected official that is unable to compromise or work with other elected officials might be able to please her hardcore base but will probably not be able to accomplish anything significant. Some progressives might be happy if we had an ideologue like Ted Cruz, but would our cause be helped?

I may be wearing “rose-colored glasses,” but I believe voter education and hard work will do more for the progressive cause than “burning down the house, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or picking up our toys and going home.” When I look back at history, I see how hard people had to work to bring about change and how long and painful the process could be, sometimes even requiring the ultimate sacrifice of life or freedom for those fighting for progress. Civil rights, getting the vote for Blacks and women, labor unions, equal rights, the minimum wage, stopping the Vietnam war, gay rights, opposition to nuclear weapons and environmental protections are just a few of the progressive causes that not only took years to change but require continued vigilance and attention. I think the ignorance of history and our instant gratification society have made it more difficult for people to accept that progress and change take time, commitment and a lot of hard work.

The Democratic Party is not perfect, but neither am I. Do I wish that my party was more progressive? Yes. Do I wish that more of our elected Democrats were pushing for and voting yes on my progressive issues? Yes. Do I wish we had more progressive candidates running for office? Yes.

However, I am an adult and a realist. Although I will always work for my progressive values and causes, I will not “burn the house down” or “throw the baby out with the bathwater” when I do not have my dream candidate. I look at all the issues, along with the Party Platform, and I realize that the official stated values of the Democratic Party are more in line with my values and the issues that I care about.

I was a 100% Bernie Sanders supporter even before he officially declared himself a Presidential candidate in the 2016 election. I was disappointed when Hillary Clinton received the Democratic nomination, but I fully supported her in the general election and worked to get her elected. Not because she was my dream candidate, but because she shared more of my values and I believed she would do more and work harder to accomplish the things that I do care about than any of the Republicans that ran and especially more than the person who was elected President in November.

My hope for next year is that no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you will recognize that no candidate is perfect, you will never agree with anyone all the time and a glass half full is always better than an empty glass.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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