United they stand

Hell hath no fury like an Alameda “progressive” spurned.

Three local lifelong Democrats learned that lesson the hard way after they formed an organization called the “United Democrats of Alameda” this October.

On its face, the stated purpose of the organization would strike many, if not most, Alameda Democrats – and 62.67 percent of registered voters in the city are Democrats – as admirable:  “We are committed,” the UDA website says, “to providing Alameda honest, community‑based perspectives on public policy and support[ing] people and initiatives that align with our Democratic values.”

But to the small but vociferous group of Alameda progressives who consider themselves doctrinal enforcers, this amounted not to a statement of principles but to an act of defiance.  And they unleashed a multi‑barreled fusillade in response:

  • Egged on by two of the most prolific Twitter trolls, the chair of the County Democratic Party asserted – falsely – that the use of the word “Democrat” in the organization’s name was illegal and demanded that the UDA “cease and desist” from using it;
  • A sitting Council member slandered one of the organization’s founders by calling her, in an email to state and local party officials, an “ethically challenged individual” who was guilty of “subterfuge” and “misappropriation”;
  • One of the social‑media mavens went so far as to check out the front yards of homes where “people who happen to be supporting” the UDA lived, and then posted his findings on NextDoor: “Quite a few,” he reported, had a lawn sign for the candidate running against Mia Bonta for State Assembly!
  • The left wing’s favorite blogger, who usually reserves her venom for the likes of Trish Spencer and Tony Daysog, ridiculed the group as “Fake Ass Democrats” who “only recently started paying attention to what’s going on in the City.”

Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson wept.

The idea for the United Democrats of Alameda was hatched by a man named Rohit Reddy, a former Peace Corps volunteer and the son of an Indian immigrant, who has lived in Alameda (on Bay Farm Island, if you must know) since 2016.  He works in marketing for Abbott, the healthcare company, and has two sons, ages six and nine.

Mr. Reddy has a long history of activism on behalf of Democratic candidates and causes.  After he volunteered in Mike Honda’s first run for Congress in 2000, the state Democratic Party hired him as a full‑time field organizer directing the Honda forces in Santa Cruz County.  He knocked on doors and did phone banking for the Gore, Obama, and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns.  He spent weekends in Modesto working to flip a Republican‑held Congressional seat to Democrat Josh Harder.  In addition to supporting candidates, he campaigned for both local Measure A, which added a new parcel tax to fund pay raises for teachers, and statewide Proposition 15, which would have closed the commercial property tax “loophole.”

After moving to Alameda, Mr. Reddy and his wife joined the City of Alameda Democratic Club, and in November 2020 he was elected to the Club’s board of directors and put in charge of its newsletter.

It didn’t turn out to be a pleasant experience.

The Board was homogeneous, both racially (all of its members were white) and ideologically (the coterie who dominated the Board subscribed to the orthodox progressive canon on every issue).  More troubling was their unconcealed antipathy toward any view that departed from the officially sanctioned party line – and toward any person who had the temerity to express it.

For example, when the idea of holding a meeting to discuss housing policy – a hotly debated topic in Alameda – came up, Mr. Reddy suggested arranging for speakers on both sides.  He was quickly slapped down:  for real Democrats, he was told, this was not a “both sides” issue.  Indeed, even inviting a speaker who might stray from progressive dogma would “legitimize” ideas that were “racist.”

The last straw came when new assignments were being handed out to the Board members, who customarily rotated performing various functions, in late 2021.  Board president Cheri Johansen informed Mr. Reddy that he wouldn’t get one of these jobs because he “didn’t understand Democratic issues.”  Instead, she proposed that he serve as the Club’s liaison to the County Democratic party so that he could “learn” the party’s approved positions.

To Mr. Reddy, it seemed like he was being assigned to “reeducation camp.”

And then, in November 2021, a new Board was elected with former Councilman Jim Oddie as president and incorrigible insult comedian Zac Bowling as vice president.  (Mr. Bowling recently ascended to the Club presidency.)  Gone were stalwarts like former School Board member Mike McMahon, who had served as Club treasurer since 2002.

This was no longer a club, Mr. Reddy concluded, of which he wanted to be a Board member.  So he left.  But rather than sit in the back row and confine himself to taking notes as the expert professors (and professed experts) delivered lectures on what it meant to be a Democrat, Mr. Reddy came up with the idea of creating an organization where party principles would prevail, but divergent views could be expressed, and indeed would be encouraged.

At the time, Mr. Reddy was among a group of school parents who were pressing the Alameda Unified School District to re‑open local public schools, which had been shut down since the pandemic began.  From that contingent he approached two like‑minded people to join the effort to set up a new Democratic community group:  Joyce Boyd, who has worked in the non-profit affordable-housing sector for 20 years and now is employed by the Unity Council, a community development organization that runs programs in the Fruitvale District in Oakland and in Concord; and Felsha Zuschlag, who served with AmeriCorps VISTA right out of college and then worked as a disability rights advocate for a non‑profit called Congreso Familiar before getting her M.B.A.

And so the United Democrats of Alameda was born.

The intention behind the new organization, Mr. Reddy told us, was not to undermine the City of Alameda Democratic Club.  Rather, it was to espouse an ideal – diversity of perspectives – that the existing club seemed determined to reject, and to offer an opportunity – an open forum – that the existing club seemed unwilling to provide.

Moreover, the UDA would promote the often discussed but seldom practiced value of civility.  “Politics doesn’t have to be nasty,” Mr. Reddy told us.  “We wanted to dial down the vitriol.”

He was soon to be disappointed.

We’ve already referred to the slanderous accusations levied by John Knox White (the Council member) and the juvenile name‑calling published by Lauren Do (the blogger), and cited some of the antics of their acolytes and admirers.  Alas, that’s what this crowd does when its members perceive a threat to their self‑importance, and there’s no reason to recount any more of it.

We do, however, want to spend a minute on the far more serious contention that the United Democrats of Alameda are engaging in illegal conduct.

That claim is, as H.L. Mencken would put it, balderdash.

In the first place, the word “Democrat” is not a registered trademark, nor has it acquired the “secondary meaning” necessary to qualify for common‑law protection.  If Zac Bowling or Igor Tregub (the chair of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee) thinks he can convince a judge that the average consumer immediately thinks of the City of Alameda Democratic Club or the Alameda County Democratic Party whenever she sees or hears the word “Democrat,” good luck.  For our part, we know of no such fool on the bench.

Moreover, contrary to the assertion – made by Mr. Tregub and echoed by Ms. Do and her followers – that state law forbids the United Democrats of Alameda from using the word “Democrat” in the organization’s name, there is in fact no such statute.  Their argument premised on Elections Code section 20201 shows only that they don’t know how to read or apply the law.

The analysis really isn’t that hard.  “It is unlawful,” the statute provides,

for any person that includes in any part of its name the name of any political party that was qualified to participate in the last preceding primary election, to directly or indirectly solicit funds for any purpose whatsoever upon the representation either express or implied that the funds are being solicited for the use of that political party unless [the person obtains consent].

The bold-faced language describes the offense.  Had the UDA “solicited funds” by “representing” it was raising money “for the use” of the Democratic party, it would have violated the statute.  But it hadn’t and it didn’t.

Only someone whose J.D. was issued by the John Knox White School of Law would cite this statute as the basis for claiming that it was illegal for the UDA to use the word “Democrat” in its name.  And we’ll bet that any prosecutor asked to file such a frivolous charge would laugh the requestor out of her office.  Right, Ms. Price?

Yet, in the eyes of the local progressive illuminati, the UDA had committed offenses far more heinous than any purported Elections Code violations:  The organization endorsed Trish Spencer for Mayor and Paul Beusterien and Tony Daysog for Council.  Moreover, its webpage stated that the group supported Article XXVI of the City Charter.

The UDA thus piled heresy upon heresy.  And what’s worse:  They said they were Democrats!  It was if someone calling himself a priest had started teaching Luther’s Catechism to the First Communion class.  Such apostasy demanded excommunication at the very least.

And what if there were other Alamedans who considered themselves Democrats but favored candidates and policies similar to the ones backed by the UDA?  (After all, Mr. Daysog did get the most votes in the recent Council race, and Measure Z lost by a 20 percent margin.)  Maybe those people would flock to a new organization where they felt respected.  And if they did, the most aggressive progressives might lose their grip on the local Democratic party.

No, we suspect that it wasn’t just arrogance and self‑righteousness that caused the progressive elite to go after the UDA with such vehemence (though arrogant and self‑righteous they surely are).  The power brokers and influencers may well have just been trying to protect their own hegemony.

For their part, Mr. Reddy, Ms. Boyd, and Ms. Zuschlag all vowed in interviews with the Merry‑Go‑Round not to be intimidated.  To the contrary, each of them envisioned a constructive role for the UDA to play in the future.

Here’s how Ms. Zuschlag put it:

I view the United Democrats of Alameda serving as a group that will energize and organize Alamedans who have felt disenfranchised from local issues and politics that impact their daily lives.  My hope is that UDA will give people the confidence, information, and shared community that will drive civic engagement and community bonding.  I want a community that is willing and able to discuss tough issues with respect and tolerance; I want a community that is thoughtful about public safety, housing, a thriving economy (commercial corridors), and education.  I’ve observed local politics in Alameda for the last five years and I’ve seen plenty of what I don’t want – name‑calling, intolerance, demagoguery, and lack of nuance.  In that last five years, I haven’t seen a lot about what I do want – respect, tolerance, rational, informative information, and nuance.  I hope that UDA will showcase these values and serve as a beacon for those who feel these qualities are important.

Any club that wouldn’t welcome someone who can write words like these doesn’t deserve to have her as a member.

Websites:

United Democrats of Alameda: https://alamedademocrats.org/.

City of Alameda Democratic Club: https://alamedademocraticclub.org/.

About Robert Sullwold

Partner, Sullwold & Hughes Specializes in investment litigation
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30 Responses to United they stand

  1. dodikellehercomcastnet says:

    Thank you for reporting on the outrageous, ugly, and alienating response of the local “progressives” to the forming of United Democrats of Alameda. I too am a life long Democrat, who has long considered herself a progressive until I recently learned that I must be a conservative imposter because I do not wholly agree with the the local progressives on every issue or every candidate. I have joined with the United Democrats of Alameda because the group better represent my principles.

  2. permanentevigilante says:

    As history has shown, the most extreme progressives usually end up as fascists.

  3. William says:

    Alameda’s City Council has been dysfunctional for a number of years now. Too many council members take orders from Rob Bonta because they wish to secure a position in Sacramento. They will do whatever it takes for that to happen. As Elon Must has helped to identify, we can not trust Democrats. In Washington DC or California. They lie. The cheat. The simply try to get everyone to drink their water, which is tainted with with half-truths, Social Media inaccuracies and out and out lies. I am not a conservative or Republican. I am a Democrat (am I using that term correctly Robert?). I am ashamed at how the Democrats in Sacramento, Washington DC and Alameda mismanage issues and decisions. The needs of the people must come first. The needs of the politicians must come after that.

  4. Bill Pai says:

    I support the UDA and its mission

  5. Publius says:

    This is emblematic of the current “progressive” coterie:
    For example, when the idea of holding a meeting to discuss housing policy – a hotly debated topic in Alameda – came up, Mr. Reddy suggested arranging for speakers on both sides. He was quickly slapped down: for real Democrats, he was told, this was not a “both sides” issue. Indeed, even inviting a speaker who might stray from progressive dogma would “legitimize” ideas that were “racist.”
    —–
    Any idea, thought, or opinion that doesn’t follow their dogma will be labeled as racist.
    R is the new Scarlet Letter that hypocrites hang on others

  6. Tim says:

    This small group of Alamedans are bullies and zealots, not progressives. I welcome the more inclusive and kind community the United Democrats of Alameda are trying to achieve.

  7. Common Sense says:

    Thank you for your analysis. Although I am not a member of UDA, I am also a lifelong Democrat unhappy with the direction Bonta is taking this town. It’s high time voters stop the Progressive bent to censure, shadow ban, boycott, label, name call and eliminate all opposition. You’ve named the people with the worst impulses. No disagreement is tolerated and even a discussion is apparently not allowed in their toxic world.

    As Elon Musk has shown us, a healthy public discussion requires kicking over that rock and see what crawls out from underneath.

  8. untieddemocrat says:

    you are spending a lot of energy and space defending an organization that was started to endorse candidates not endorsed by the actual democratic party, all for the purpose of attempting to confuse voters. While the actual democratic party continues the work, this other group has gone silent. It is also telling that while they claim to want to present both sides, they have only had republicans as guest speakers at their “meetings”. And you citing Elon Musk as a paragon of open discussion is one of the most hilarious, and stupid remarks I have ever see you make.

    • Observer says:

      I won’t trade insults with you, but simply point out that progressive democrat Rep. Rho Khanna also felt that Twitter censorship of the Hunter Biden story violated the First Amendment, and your impulse to censor or cancel people who disagree with you is unAmerican.

      • Fall Back Twice says:

        Censorship of the Hunter Biden story is the new myth. In fact, the “story” at that broke three weeks before the election was based on a purported copy of his disk held by the Murdoch NY Post who got from Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. They – Giuliani and the NY Post – refused to allow other news sources to have access or a copy. So, reputable news sources refused to report it as factual, including the news side of Murdoch’s own WSJ (creating friction with the editorial side that was happy to talk it up) because of the suspicious source and timing and because they could not verify the dick or its contents. All they could do was repeat what the NY Post was saying.

        It was not until much later, after the election, that other news sources got access to copies, were able to authenticate it, review and report on all its contents, not just the few snippets from the NY Post. That reporting is more nuanced than the vitriolic NY Post reporting – again including the news side of the Murdoch WSJ.

  9. Name withheld says:

    This blog continues to knock it put of the park when it comes to reporting in Alameda issues. The individuals in this post who are going out of their way to suppress political views need shaming and worse. Libel and slandering is illegal, and going to people’s homes who may disagree with them smacks of stalking.

  10. Name Undisclosed says:

    This blog continues to knock it put of the park when it comes to reporting in Alameda issues. The individuals in this post who are going out of their way to suppress political views need shaming and worse. Libel and slandering is illegal, and going to people’s homes who may disagree with them smacks of stalking.

  11. tony daysog says:

    Thank you, United Democrats of Alameda, for your endorsement of my re-election! I very much appreciated it — good luck in your future efforts!

  12. Amy Rumberger says:

    What a load of garbage. If you don’t support the Democratic platform, you are not a democratic organization. Stop whining. You can’t “both sides” this. The Democratic Party has a position. You either support it, or you AREN’T Democrats. Not rocket science. Go form a 3rd party if you don’t want to acknowledge that you’re really Republican in your actual positions.

    • Publius says:

      Tell me you’re incapable of independent thinking without saying you’re incapable of independent thinking.

    • Steven Dong says:

      How asinine and pretentious to assume that just because one don’t support all of Democratic Party platform, one is not a Democrat. Remember, there are all sorts of Christian sects and branches in the world. Just because you’re a Baptist doesn’t make you any less of a Christan than a Catholic. In fact, that holier than thou attitude was what led to the schism in the church in the first place. The hardline Democrats are in for a reckoning with their current attitude.

      • A Real Democrat says:

        I suppose you are fine with people like Tulsi Gabbard and Krysten Sinema, those who until recently carried the “Democrat” label to get any traction but have consistently duped the voters who put them into office. You shouldn’t have to support all of the platform, but at least a sizeable chunk of it, and work from within to help the platform evolve over time. The fact that the people who support this “United Democrats of Alameda” also support Mindy Pechenuk, Elon Musk, believe the conspiracy nonsense against Hunter Biden, are bashing mainstream Democrats, etc all in this comment section should all be huge red flags for what this is really about, an astroturfing attempt by the local Fox News crowd to dupe democratic voters. Perhaps you should worry about the MAGAs in your party before worrying about any schism in ours.

      • Publius says:

        Even the Soviet Communist Party had wings & factions, and even they debated issues internally.
        Refusing to discuss such a major issue as housing & density by declaring it settled is not just foolishly incorrect — a big chunk of the 60% that voted no on Z were Democrats, for example — but is also a very bad look for a party that purports itself to be a rational actor. How solid can an opinion be if one refuses to defend it open debate?

  13. Astroturfing says:

    Let’s see…

    “UDA” had guest speaker ex-police chief Burny Matthews, who spoke out against police reform. No guest speakers from any of our police reform committees.

    “UDA” had guest speaker Paul Foreman, anti-housing advocate. No guest speakers from any of the many YIMBY organizations out there.

    “UDA” treats Article 26 as sacrosanct. Article 26 clashes with President Biden’s housing policy, which seeks to crack down on exclusionary housing laws.

    “UDA” endorsed Trish Spencer for mayor on behalf of the 60% of Alamedans who are Democrats. Trish Spencer lost in an embarrassing landslide, ironically 30% to 60%.

    “UDA” endorsed Paul Buerenstein for council. Paul Buerenstein came dead last of all candidates, despite being the “Democrats’ choice” in a Democrat-heavy town.

    “UDA” endorsed Tony Daysog for council. Tony ran on a platform of the current council is headed in the right direction, and convincingly won.

    We need to call spade a spade, and admit that this so-called Democratic organization was set up to intentionally dupe voters. Despite being in existence for less than a month, Trish Spencer and Paul Beusterien wasted no time listing “UDA” at the top of their lists of endorsements. Let’s call this what it is, astroturfing. Same as all the landlords who threw up hundreds of Trish lawn signs to make it look like all their tenants were supporting her.

  14. dodikellehercomcastnet says:

    It is ironic that the vitriolic comments that this blog has provoked, replete with a barrage of incorrect information, false assertions, and conspiracy theories regarding the UDA, are the same “hell has no fury” responses Robert has written about in this blog post.

    • Astroturfingcomcastnet says:

      When all you have are insults and virtue-signaling, you don’t have anything at all. Good day to you. Trish Spencer losing 30% to 60% against Ashcraft, in seemingly indirect correlation with the number of lawn signs out there for the two candidates, isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s a factual observation.

      • dodikellehercomcastnet says:

        Perhaps I should have been more explicit by what I meant by conspiracy theories. What I meant was that there was and is a consistent assertion here, on NextDoor, and on other social media that the UDA, their members and associates exist to dupe unwitting Democrats and are really all Conservatives and/or, by inference, Republicans. This is despite the fact that UDA founders and persons like myself are long time Democrats.

  15. Mike McMahon says:

    Many label me as “DINO” so take my observations with LARGE grain of salt.
    – The primary reason for someone with political aspirations gets involve with an organization is to improve their chances to win an election. After suffering defeats in 1994, 1996 and 2000, I decide not to fight them but join them. In 2002, after being elected to the School Board, I joined the Executive Board of the Alameda Democratic Club. I served as Treasurer from 2002 until 2020.
    – For the first dozen years, individuals who were interested in becoming a City Council members engaged with Alameda Democratic Club as means to get elected. With the 2016 election cycle, the split between Clinton/Sanders faction led to the initial decline in the club’s importance. Demographic membership changes and focus on member issues also contributed to diminishing effectiveness of the club.
    – Without the participation of potential City Council candidates actively participating in the club prior to an election cycle, the core group running the club ran out of fresh blood to engage the community. The 2020 pandemic restrictions of in person meetings removed the last part of successful community engagement by removing the social aspect of monthly meetings.
    – As a result, by 2022 the club’s relevance was non-existent. It appears others were looking for other methods to engage Alameda Democrats.

    • The Emperor Has No Clothes says:

      Thank you Mike for explaining how this once important group lost its relevance. At the last club meeting when officer elections were held, only 16 attendee were present and that included those running for the club board. Not exactly a mandate.

  16. A Real Democrat says:

    Somehow “Hey, I noticed that a couple of my neighbors who have Republican (Mindy Pechenuk) lawn signs are supporting this so-called Democratic club, isn’t that hypocritical?” Got morphed into “Oh my god they’re stalking our houses!” This manufacturing a controversy to feed into the group’s persecution complex is why they don’t have a lot of credibility right out of the gate. Nothing they have done has felt genuine but meant to sow confusion and discord among voters. If they simply had gone with “United Alamedans” they would’ve garnered far less controversy and maybe Andrew Thomas wouldn’t have been too embarrassed to show up to speak opposite of Paul Foreman.

  17. permanentevigilante says:

    I am registered to vote, but not as either GOP nor Dem. I attended the United Dems mtg not b/c I’m a dem, but b/c it is te most reasonable political voice in town. I would prefer the group rename itself United Voters of Alameda, or something similarly nonpartisan. I’m really not in favor of what the big Democratic machine run by Scott Weiner and Toni Atkins is doing to California. They are behind everything Andrew Thomas is trying to do to Alameda and they are all Democrats.

  18. Milt F says:

    When this issue first arose, I decided to compare both groups by going to their meetings, but unfortunately the official club has not had a meeting since June as far as I could tell. Not sure if they still exist. Certainly not following their own bylaws about monthly meetings.

  19. Observer says:

    This commenter on Twitter confirms why people should be suspicious about the intent behind this group. “I was the person in charge of programs when Mr. Reddy was at the club, and he routinely tried to add speakers or issues that were against the platform of the Dem party, particularly where housing or union support were involved.” Mr. Reddy and his two pals don’t agree with Democratic principles nor Democratic voices, but are too embarrassed to call themselves Republicans or Libertarians.

  20. Fall Back Twice says:

    “…and the juvenile name‑calling published by Lauren Do (the blogger)”

    Pot, meet kettle. Both of you, unfortunately, make liberal use of snarky juvenile name‑calling. Do you think it’s clever? It is not. It’s predictable and tiresome. It detracts from your otherwise informative writing.

  21. Reality says:

    To be consistent with their theme, perhaps they can ask Krysten Sinema to be the next guest speaker for United Democrats. Or does she have to fight Tulsi Gabbard for the speaking slot.

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