SACRAMENTO — Thousands of California Democratic activists gathered Friday for a three-day convention as they look to lift the party’s national prospects after last year’s stunning loss to President Donald Trump.
In a state where Democrats are itching to lead the liberal resistance to Trump and the Republican Congress, the party’s activists find themselves singularly united behind the goal of stunting the GOP. The annual meeting caps a dizzying week that saw the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.
But the Democrats are also a party divided, still nursing deep divisions between insurgent supporters of Bernie Sanders and the party’s establishment wing.
That schism is at the heart of the hard-fought race for party chair, which will be decided Saturday night. A contingent of Sanders loyalists won a bloc of convention seats earlier this year and is clamoring for changes in party leadership.
Democrats have a tight grip on all of California’s levers of power with control of all statewide offices, supermajorities in both legislative chambers and an overwhelming majority if the congressional delegation.
“We’ve had tremendous success in the electoral sense. We haven’t always used our success to advance progressive ideas,” said Naida Tushnet, a 75-year-old retired educator from Long Beach who said she’s a longtime party volunteer but attending her first state convention.
Tushnet is baffled that such a strong and proudly Democratic state has not adopted universal, government-funded health care — a policy known as single-payer health care that’s become a rallying cry for many liberals. It’s time for the party’s progressive wing to flex its muscles, she said.
“We’ve got a two-thirds supermajority. Why is there even a discussion about passing single-payer?” Tushnet said.
While both major candidates for party chair endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, Sanders…