By Jeffry Umana
April 18th, 2020
Empty classrooms, ravaged stores, endless internet memes and rants from the Class of 2020.
This is America on COVID-19. The novel Coronavirus has completely taken the world by storm and
upended the daily normalities of our lives.
While the world scrambles to flatten the curve of contagion and the doors of our homes become our greatest safeguard for a healthier future, it is important to remember that our democracy faces a crucial test in November when Americans head to the polls to cast their vote as a referendum on the President. As recent events in the primary election demonstrate, the political machine of America waits for nobody and nothing.
But the politics of America relies much on Americans' affinity towards social interaction. With social distancing and stay-at-home orders in full swing, at least in the Golden State, classic, iconic political activities from canvassing to marching are virtually frozen. So the question now becomes; in the face of a never before seen fight, how do we mobilize our forces and participate effectively in the political process?
Simply put, much like the rest of our society, political participation can also be accomplished while protecting public health and safety. From measures such as phone banking, virtual town halls, petitions, massive social media campaigns, etc. the American democracy and its members are now in a unique position that allows them to test the strength and viability of their government and society as they forge ahead into the 21st Century.
Spring of 2020 was meant to be a time of mass mobilization on the part of the California High School Democrats, especially as the Executive Board prepared to host its first ever statewide summit and provide their members with various canvassing and volunteer opportunities as the 2020 race moved towards the general election in every race from the presidency to city council. But now the Executive Board is mobilizing its efforts to continue to support the Democratic cause in California.
For example, under the leadership of Political Director Adam Tobeck the California High School Democrats have prepared the first slate of endorsements of the 2020 season (national bylaws prevent endorsements from being made until after the primary election has been decided and only in races where only one Democrat is on the ballot). Members have received an email from Director Tobeck in which they are provided with avenues to present their input on the races that have been selected thus far for endorsement.
Furthermore, various members of the Board, from Communications Director Sarah Nachimson to Southern Regional Director Jeffry Umana (and many others), have been actively developing methods through which members can continue to contribute to the political process from the safety of their homes. Both Directors Nahcimson and Umana have actively sought to establish contact with campaigns in competitive races like those of Christy Smith and Chris Bubser. Specifically, Umana has been in contact with the Bubser campaign, which seeks to flip CA-08 blue with the retirement of Paul Cook as he views for a seat as a County Supervisor, working to establish both a phone banking opportunity and a virtual town hall with Bubser.
Additionally, the Board begins to prepare for the upcoming election for Chair and Vice Chair of the California High School Democrats and continues to work on various other projects to close out its year of massive growth and expansion in a successful manner to propel next year’s Board into the future. Those projects include a California High School Democrats’ e-newspaper outlet (modeled after HSDA’s The Progressive Teen), planning and executing the virtual alternative to state summit, developing regional virtual chapters, and continuing to reach out to interested high schoolers to create new chapters up and down the state.
All in all, despite the freeze that the pandemic has had on the world, the California High School Democrats remain hard at work. Recognizing that their membership is now spending most, if not all of their time, at home provides them with a unique opportunity to explore the possibilities of creating effective virtual methods of involvement in politics and activism. Though the current Executive Board is now nearing their final months at the helm of the organization, the term is not over yet and there is still much more to come out of this Board than anyone is expecting and it’s going to be incredible.