With Ballast Sinking Democratic Lifeboat, Jay Chen Nobly Dives Overboard

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Faisal Qazi with Loretta Sanchez, Jay Chen and others

Jay Chen (with mic) also serving his party a few years ago, speaking at a CAIR-PAC function for then-Michigan Congressional candidate Syed Taj, (far left), with (between them) then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez (at left). Faisal Qazi, and CAIR Los Angeles Executive Director Hussam Ayloush.  Taj lost, but Jay did the right thing then too.

The Democratic side of this year’s Congressional races has been typified by enormous and egotistical stubbornness, leading to gluts of candidates that could conceivably lead to shut-outs of  Democrats in all four targeted races in the June primary.  In such a context, the choice of the most qualified Democratic candidate in any of the four races, Jay Chen, to step away from his race the day before filing ends may seem crazy.  If it seems that way, that’s because it’s noble — like a Naval officer abandoning a lifeboat that already holds too many people to stay afloat — and therefore the last thing that you’d expect to see in politics.

Let’s be clear: Jay is the leading Democratic candidate in CA-39th polling.  (Forget the custom-made in-house attack polls from other candidates.  Everyone else has.)  He is the last one who should be exiting the race.  But his own decision is the only one that he can control.  And so that’s what he is doing.

To be fair, it’s possible to characterize Jay’s decision as self-interested.  With so many Dems in the race — and the possibility still existing, with only two days of filing left, that the third “varsity”-level Republican Bob Huff won’t enter the race at all, meaning that Young Kim and Shawn Nelson would be dividing up the lion’s share of Republican votes in the primary only TWO ways instead of three — Jay is in a sense sacrificing nothing.  His campaign was already dead in the water, stalled by the seaweed surrounding him.  And in his statement — to which Ryan has linked in a companion story (and I put into a comment) — he lays claim to being the first entry in the race for 2020 (probably another theoretically good Democratic year in President Trump survives in office that long) if a Democrat doesn’t win this time out.

One other thing distinguishes Jay from any other Democrat in the race other than Sam Jammal  who should be taking a huge hint from Jay’s action right now, as it is practically an IQ test  in that, rather than being a dilettante, he has a future in Democratic politics.  The difference between this and a sailor nobly abandoning an overcrowded lifeboat is that he doesn’t die nobly as a result of this; he just lives to fight another day.  What he does do is evade his share of collective responsibility for the coming clustercrash. And that’s worth way more than being the last person in the lifeboat to drown.

I’ve tried to put this gently to the other candidates who remain in the race, but I’ll do it less gently now: when the clustercrash comes and Dems are off of the November ballot, your names will be absolute shit.  If you’re large donors, people will curry your favor and be nice to your face — but behind your back you’ll forever be one of the bunch who stubbornly refused to leave the lifeboat when it was the only path to a plausible victory for the party.

I understand why the centi-billionaires remain in the race; the phrase “fuck-you money” exists for a reason.  I understand why Janowicz remains in the race; he doesn’t need to care what the party establishment thinks of him, and his presence on the June ballot would at least perk up party activists.  And maybe the party could still have a chance if they were the only three Democrats left.  But Mai Khanh Tran should get out of the race, because she does have a potential future ahead of her and she should not want to be tarnished by what is to come.  Sam Jammal — for God’s sake, man, GET OUT!  This race no longer does anything for you but to stain your future reputation.  This is what you’ll be known for, for years!  Jay has shown you the way and give you the argument you need: dive into the icy water — which is surprisingly shallow — and survive.  Rusk will stay in the race because he’s an anti-Democrat; Park Leggett can justify staying in the race if her purpose is to sabotage  Young Kim, but it’s not like staying does her any real good; as for the others, who are you?

But none of that will likely matter: even if a candidate who has been sworn in leaves the race now, their name remains on the ballot, a dead hand grasping for votes that could otherwise contribute to Democratic victory.  Jay is the only Democrat who could actually improve the party’s chances by leaving, because he had had the foresight NOT to file when idiots (well, me, specifically) were texting him to get into the race damn already.  (Needless to say, I did not see this decision coming, though given Jay’s character and intelligence it made perfect sense the moment I heard about it.)

For more than six years now, before this action, I’ve held Jay in what I thought was the highest esteem.  I was wrong.  My esteem for him could grow higher — and has.  The DPOC should endorse him for the 2020 nomination the day after the 2018 primary if no Democrat makes the runoff — yes, this is hyperbole — and foreclose any repeat of this fiasco.

Meanwhile, the question remaining is whether any other Democratic candidates in CA-39 will profit by his good example.  I’ll predict that none will — and would be very happy to be wrong, five or six times.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)