State party conventions are usually pretty wonky affairs, especially in years without a national election. They are a chance for state and local lawmakers to talk policy, rub hands and start thinking ahead toward the next year’s legislative session.
But the 2017 California Democratic Party convention, which concluded Saturday, ended on a note that felt more tribal and emotional than wonky.
Outgoing Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, a five-term congressman (1974 to 1983) from the San Francisco Bay area, finished his speech by asking attendees to join him in a chant.
“Now all together . . . (expletive) Donald Trump!” he yelled, as the crowd applauded, waved middle fingers (with both hands, in some cases) and laughed.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), standing far to Burton’s left, was mostly out of the frame when the finger-waving took place, but the few visible frames appear to show Pelosi, wearing a white pantsuit, putting her arms down instead of joining in.
Foul language is nothing new for Burton, who cursed throughout the convention. But it’s somewhat unusual to see a state party chairman leading an entire convention in such a chant. That’s partly because cursing at opponents is not much of a political argument on its own.
In video form, it also lacks the context of the rest of the convention: no policy proposals, no solutions to problems Californians are facing — just open anger, expressed with a sort of glee, perhaps because of the target of their ire.
It’s no secret that Democrats are angry at President Trump — not just his specific policies but, in broader terms, his very presence in the White House. So in that sense, perhaps the cursing and middle fingers aren’t surprising, especially at the conclusion of a convention filled with passionate, like-minded people.
But is it a strategy that will persuade voters to turn out for Democratic candidates in the next election? Or will voters, weary of a polarized political culture, be turned off by it?