South Bay Progressives Cheer Democratic House Takeover

Before Donald Trump’s 2016 election, “snowflake” as an insult for liberals hovered on the fringes of the lexicon. At Orchard City Indivisible (OCI)—a local affiliate of a national political group that coalesced as a countervailing force to Trump’s rise—the pejorative has become a badge of honor.

In a packed sanctuary at Campbell United Church of Christ Tuesday night, OCI members wore snowflakes on T-shirts and lapel pins. Mara Privitt, who ran the check-in desk at the entrance, wore a glitter-dusted snowflake crafted from cardboard and feathers into a theatrically oversized hat.

“I know about 20 or 30 people here who got snowflake tattoos,” said John Comiskey, vice chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, who sported the crystalline icon on his name badge. “We’ve embraced it. Enough snowflakes make an avalanche.”

Behind him, MSNBC and CNN played on two projectors. The room burst with applause when both channels announced that the Dems were on track to win back the House, and with “boos” when the returns showed Beto O’Rourke trailing Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.

Basil Saleh, a political newcomer in his early 20s who ran against candidates nearly twice his age for the Campbell Union High School District school board, lingered toward the back of the room before the first round of results posted. Although he lagged far behind Robert Varich and incumbents Stacey Brown and Kristiina Arrasmith with nearly half of precincts reporting at that hour, he said he felt hopeful—and that he owes a debt of gratitude for the support of OCI.

“I wouldn’t have made it this far without this group,” said Saleh, clad in a casual bright red felt button-down shirt, khakis and sneakers.

OCI has worked tirelessly in the past two years to support left-leaning local candidates like Saleh. But the chapter’s reach extends far beyond the South Bay.

By teaming up with groups such as the Sister District Project to channel the South Bay’s progressive energy, the Campbell-based OCI chapter flipping seats in other parts of the country. Though the so-called “Blue Wave” was less mighty than OCI had hoped for, it was enough to undermine the Republicans’ one-party rule in Washington and enough to validate the activism that fueled the political shift.

There was a similar mood a 20-minute drive north at San Jose’s Art Boutiki, where owner and noted comic book publisher Dan Vado served up bottles of Lagunitas IPA with small plates of garlic tots, meatballs and crab rangoons to a roomful of politically conscious folk music fans. “We did this two years ago,” Vado recounted. “In 2016, though, it started like a party and ended feeling more like a funeral.”

But he said enough artists, poets and singers implored him to lend his venue to another election-watch shindig that he relented. “Even if it doesn’t go the way they hoped, at least they have a place to perform, to express themselves,” Vado said.

Though the Dems failed to take the Senate and lost some key races in Florida and Georgia, the House victory gave Art Boutiki guests plenty to celebrate.

Over on Moorpark Avenue in San Jose, the atmosphere felt a bit rowdier at the county Dem Party’s campaign HQ, where some attendees tossed down tequila shots from mini red solo cups. The room lit up with uproarious applause each time MSNBC showed a congressional seat being won by a Democrat.

Bill James, the county Democratic Committee Chair, addressed the lively crowd with some celebratory words despite his disappointment in Dems being unable to seize control of the Senate, where the GOP gained even more control Tuesday.

“The image for me that I’ve been looking forward to in my mind is Donald Trump with some poor staffer teaching them how to say ‘Madame Speaker,’” James said, referring to impending Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

'Indivisible:' Three Snapshots of South Bay Anti-Trump Groups

Dozens of political action groups have popped up around the South Bay as residents are joining factions of a national group called Indivisible, an anti-Trump resistance group which organizes individuals to be politically engaged at local and regional levels.

More than 4,500 small political groups have popped up around the nation following the Inauguration of President Donald Trump.

While each group exists to “resist the Trump agenda,” members in various cities have designated focus areas organic to their area.

Below is a snapshot of the top agendas of three South Bay Indivisible groups.

Milpitas

Indivisible Milpitas is focused on connected with as many members of congress as possible.

In an email, administrators said the group will participate in Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-17) upcoming town hall and any other events where they can “show support to the good work they are doing, make issues that are important known to them, and maybe ask specific items that we would like more checks/balances on.”

While the group does meet in person, much of the interaction is online between its dozen Facebook group members.

Campbell

The Orchard City Indivisible group includes members of Campbell and surrounding communities. Over 700 people have joined the Facebook group, and dozens have been attending meetings since January.

Administrator Celeste Walker said the group started with 12 individuals back in January. Their latest meeting had 130 people.

Walker says the group is now simply “stopping the bleeding” because topics vary week to week depending on actions being taken federally.

A top priority is encouraging the Campbell City Council to become a sanctuary city, as members are urging local government to draft a city proclamation.

Most recently, members attended the group’s first Orchard City Indivisible event on President’s Day called “Not My President’s Day.” Protesters rallied in front of San Jose city hall against President Trump and recent actions taken by his administration.

The next meeting will focus on action items including refocusing the Democratic National Committee and bridging the divide within the party.

Members are also forming subgroups around topics including divestment.

Orchard City Indivisible meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Stanford

The Indivisible Stanford group includes members of both the University and larger Palo Alto community. More than 460 people have joined the group’s Facebook page.

The main focus of the group, according to administrator Meghan Koushik, has been applying pressure on Representative Anna Eshoo (D-18). Members have organized stand-ins at her Palo Alto office, called for meetings and urged the congresswoman to advocate for bills that push their anti-Trump agenda.

“By having a direct relationship we can push her to do a lot more on issues she has a say in,” Koushik said.

Members have a meeting with Rep. Eshoo and her office staff March 6th.

In addition the group’s congressional focus, members are also cultivating relationships with Stanford law professors and other campus faculty to become educated on who they as citizens can be more active in state education, immigration and health care policy.