“From the President”

from March 2024 Newsletter:

Good News/Bad News

Our County Democratic Party leadership and a sizable array of energetic volunteers went into 2024 primed to accomplish a very particular goal—not just keeping the first and third supervisor districts in steady, experienced hands, but to do so in March, before voters turned their attention toward choosing a president, their next U.S. senator, or the usual avalanche of ballot propositions headed our way in November.

To the surprise of many of us with volunteer skin in the game, the results of the March Primary turned out a mix of good news and bad news. While our canvassers, phone bankers, and behind-the-scenes workers put their hearts, feet and voices into the campaigns of Joan Hartmann and Das Williams—both endorsed incumbents with strong records of public service and performance—only Joan was able to claim victory. Facing two opponents in a redrawn district, hers was the less assured of the two contests, yet the margin was decisive.

For reasons that will no doubt be debated long past this election season, Das received a few hundred votes less than Carpinteria City Councilman Roy Lee, a registered Democrat, who the Independent describes as “best-known as a really nice guy whose family owns Carpinteria’s popular Uncle Chen restaurant.”

Let’s try to explain that outcome: First, congratulations to Joan and her campaign staff for doing the work to meet and win over a substantial number of voters who hadn’t been in the 3rd District during her previous two terms on the BOS. The party’s field organizers—one in the north and one in the south of the county—did stellar jobs of keeping the Hartmann campaign supplied with spirited volunteers, through rain and shine, knocking on doors, talking with voters.

I can assure you, the same strategies, commitment, and volunteer energy went into Das’s race as well. Das himself worked every bit as hard, answered as many hard questions, and articulated his vision for the county as clearly as he ever has in winning multiple Santa Barbara City Council races, State Assembly races, and twice before in the 1st District.

The difference seems to be one of political context and perception—factors not entirely beyond a candidate’s control, but not always rational forces either. For better or worse, Das has become tagged, somewhat disparagingly, as a product of the Santa Barbara “Democratic machine.”

Snarky journalists have used that vague term so freely, for so long, that readers rarely think about what it means. It’s true that the County Democratic Party is organized, has experienced leaders who meet monthly, has drafted a lengthy, coherent platform expressing shared values, represents the entire county, and knows how to marshal volunteers to reach voters with their candidates’ messages. Yes, I guess that’s sort of like a machine in that it has been assembled for a given task—winning elections—and if maintained, can be put into service over time as required.

It doesn’t take much insight to guess that various other people or institutions in the community would like to wield the power that such a machine affords. Newspapers make endorsements, but have little active follow-up. This time, though, calling Das “arrogant” and suggesting he’s “more interested in being right than effective” was sufficient for the Indy‘s editorial board to peel off a portion of voters who may be bothered by the odor of cannabis plants and yet not want to consider how difficult it might be to tap the potential for generating county revenues from a previously demonized but now perfectly legal substance.

And despite the “machine” metaphor, the county Democratic Central Committee is not without its independent thinkers. Democratic Women of Santa Barbara, for instance, one of seven currently chartered clubs, makes its own separate, sometimes contending, endorsements each election cycle. This time they chose not to endorse Das Williams. While that’s their prerogative, there is a good chance that some voters thought that difference within the party noticeable and significant enough to make them take a chance on a newcomer with a broad smile and a clean political slate.

Those are a couple plausible factors in what many of us may describe as a shocking event. There are no doubt others, but it doesn’t require much to account for five hundred votes. Still, our volunteers can be proud of their work this time around as much as we are when every race goes our way—not an uncommon outcome! We stuck together, and the machine is ready to go again.

Charles Clouse,
Pres., Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com

from February 2024 Newsletter:

“Service” Is Our Middle Name

When the Democratic Service Club came into existence twenty years ago, it was often mistaken for the County party itself, which was far less organized and effective than it is today. By all reports of those who were there at the time, our goal was to provide Santa Barbara Democrats with the willing hands and effective leadership needed to contend in local elections that historically had favored Republican candidates.

Without any particular expertise or experience, the DSC jumped in to marshal the volunteers and support services that could make good Democratic candidates successful in a region that was, not surprisingly, turning decidedly blue. Helping shore up a countywide party that often felt divided at the Gaviota Tunnel, recruiting volunteers to walk precincts or staff campaign headquarters, taking on mass mailings, and tabling campuses and community events to register voters—all those time-consuming gestures of volunteer “service” got us labeled the “worker bees” among local Democrats.

Given these tasks, the DSC workforce has always relied heavily on folks who have left the traditional workforce, but don’t really see themselves as “retired,” a term that implies somewhat aimless leisure. Many of us can recall images of campus activism in the 1960s without having to consult a history book. That doesn’t make us any more righteous or authentic, but it does make us noticeably older than most political activists these days—except, perhaps, those running for president!

Our membership, I believe, still wants to be active and contribute to winning elections for the candidates we believe in, but our role is clearly changing. It’s harder to walk those neighborhoods, harder to turnout out for those protest marches, or even to make it to HQ for evening phone banks. At the same time, candidates find it more efficient and effective to raise funds through online appeals and digital contributions rather than through direct mail appeals to supporters. Even in-person fundraisers—which DSC volunteers used to regularly help staff—have become less frequent.

What remains the same, though, is the interest in and commitment to supporting the causes and candidates that we know are right for our community and the nation. We have always valued our voice on the County’s Central Committee and our input on its endorsement process. We still have folks who know how important direct contact with voters is to winning elections and are willing to walk and talk to their neighbors when the party’s chair or its paid field organizer calls. We will still work for hours at the spacious office on Carrillo St. to prepare lit. packets for canvassers and label slate pieces for strategic Get Out the Vote operations.

While we can no longer claim a dominant role, the DSC has spent twenty years helping build the much-noticed “machine” that wins elections hereabouts, and to the greatest extent possible for us, we want to keep it humming.

Charles Clouse,
Pres., Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com

from August 2022 Newsletter:

Stay Tuned, Answers Are Coming—Like Them or Not!

Here’s a compelling question to consider as we head into the 2022 midterm elections: Why is Donald Trump still a thing? Really!
Not just “a thing,” but the biggest thing the news media and political persuaders want us to know about and weigh as we exercise our sacred rituals of self-governance.
We’re all supposed to be interested in, curious about, alarmed by—pick your poison—this pathetically needy and mendacious creature. But why? What’s so special about this tiresome windbag?
If your answer is that he’s in full control of one of our two political parties, keeping its leaders quaking in terror, and commanding the mindless devotion of tens of millions of our fellow citizens, well, you’ve got a point. But if that’s your answer, then we’d better be ready for a difficult reckoning regarding the overall state of national affairs and our very character at this moment in time—and perhaps historically as well.
What brought us to this point? Is the problem Trump or us? Is it the ridiculous TV clown or something much more general about our flawed social order?
Are we really the great nation we tell ourselves we are or just a very prosperous one with a superior military? There’s a big difference! And are we still seeking that more perfect union, or are we sadly condemned to revisit our fundamental divisions forever, rehashing issues that could never realistically be settled by constitutional compromises or even Civil War?
If all that seems vague or at best unknowable, I’d suggest that clear answers, one way or the other, are coming in the next two years or so, starting this November. The actors are now mostly cast by the summer’s primaries, and the “previously on…”  images of how we teetered—and continue to sway—on the brink of authoritarian rule are being laid out for us graphically by a bipartisan congressional committee. And in the next few episodes, we will see how a onetime reality star brings out the best—or the worst—in the role players in Washington and in state capitals around the country.
Whatever emerges from the midterms around the country this year, and whoever ends up counting the votes in places like Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, will tell us clearly where we are headed in 2024 and beyond.
We may not like it, or we may be vastly relieved, but I don’t think we’ll misunderstand what we’ve seen when it’s all over.

Charles Clouse,
Pres., Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


August 2021 Newsletter


For those who feel a lack of editorial opinion in their lives…

A Pandemic of Ignorance

After 18 months of agony and mortal combat with a ruthless contagion, what ails us now is not so much a spiky virus, but rather sheer human ignorance. The virus, designated COVID-19, had its origin sometime in late 2019. Our current nemesis–let’s call it STUPID-21–is much older, and yields to no vaccine. And by the way, masks are useless against it.

We’ve thrown unlimited scientific and governmental resources into designing an effective response to the coronavirus, and yet right now ultimate success seems no more likely an outcome than a future of chronic suffering. As a nation of virulent individualists, who believe a layman’s logic is as valuable as scientific data, Americans seem determined to turn a disease we could wipe out–as we have so many others, from smallpox to polio–into a permanent feature of 21st Century life.

Not surprisingly, the symptoms of STUPID-21 are more prevalent on the political right, where weird conspiracy theories hatch so naturally and spread in the miasma of right-wing media. But the origins of this condition are deeper in our culture and national character than Facebook and Fox News.

Explaining our current dilemma–as a country with an advanced medical infrastructure and yet by far one of the highest covid death rates in the world, among the first to have access to a stupendously effective vaccine and yet such a huge proportion of vaccine holdouts–requires facing some basic truths about ourselves: We’ve always valued individual liberty over social welfare; we often regard “smart” as the antithesis of “educated” and being gullible as worse than being wrong.

Historically we are a people who at one point or another chose sudden separation from familiar social arrangements that we found unendurable. So we’re used to risk. It could be our past shaped by an enticing though dangerous frontier, where self-reliance was an essential personal asset. Or we could just be inveterate gamblers.

However we describe them, though, Tucker Carlson didn’t instill these values in his audience; he simply exploits them. We all choose who we listen to, where we turn for the truth, and who we trust with our health. People who let themselves be duped by hucksters, and demagogues certainly suffer consequences, but in the case of vaccine resistance we all pay the price for their stupidity. They are literally holding open the window for more and far worse forms of the menace to enter our daily lives and challenge the barriers we’ve been constructing to protect ourselves.

And for that reason I find little sympathy for their peculiar worries and suspicions. I don’t want to convince them or persuade them. I don’t wish to educate them. And I cringe to hear our president pleading with them.

It’s even hard to see why we are still debating how much pressure should be exerted to compel full compliance for the common good. An enlightened society would set deadlines, restrict access, and make ignorance simply unsustainable. By any means necessary.

Charlie Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from September 2020 Newsletter

Election Day Approaches–Who Cares?

Before we start predicting election results for this November, let’s remind ourselves of some pertinent numbers from four years ago: In 2016, 63 million people voted for Donald Trump. Almost 3 million more than that voted for Hillary Clinton. Under the U.S. Constitution that made Trump the winner!

Let’s not quibble, though. We have never, ever elected a president by popular vote. The congruity of Electoral College and popular votes has always been a happy coincidence, and 2016 was only the most recent of the five elections where that expected coincidence failed to occur. But that’s an issue for another day.

There’s a different number that we should pay attention to. In 2016 there were about 232 million Americans potentially eligible to vote. So, if we look past the Trump voters, the Clinton voters, and those who favored third party candidates, we are still staring at about 100 million citizens who apparently don’t care.

Capitol Dome, Washington DC

That’s a worrisome 43% who for whatever reason either hadn’t registered or were registered and didn’t get around to marking a ballot.

That’s pretty discouraging, and justifies all sorts of cynicism. But while it’s true that in a democracy we get the leaders we deserve, we also have ample opportunity to prove ourselves better (or worse!) than we seem. The 2018 mid-terms were such an opportunity, and at least for the entry level chamber of Congress and several key states in the union, there was clear evidence that Americans sought redemption for past mistakes. But 2020 is the big one.

There’s wide understanding that unless we get serious and change direction in the more critical, centralized levels of government–the presidency and the U.S. Senate–there will be no significant portion of this democracy left to salvage next time. It will be a matter of either accepting self-serving authoritarian rule or conceding irreconcilable differences among the states or regions. Neither is exactly what our Enlightenment-era founders envisioned.

So, what can we do here in our well-intentioned corner of the country and from our protective social bubbles? Thankfully, there’s plenty! And much of it is surprisingly simple. First, I’d suggest quickly checking the status of your own registration on this very useful site: Vote.org. Of course you’re registered, and you haven’t moved since you voted in March, but can you say the same for every one of your friends, relatives, and social contacts? Why not take responsibility for an earnest reminder to others? That could get a few people to check, but a follow-up email a week or so later will establish that someone they know, love, or perhaps regard highly, cares.

Ask people to do the same thing you’re doing but with their own contact lists. That’s how viruses of all sorts work. Why not spread something positive? It’s a certainty that some of those people will be surprised to find they need to re-register. And some will go on to find out exactly how mail-in ballots work.

If by chance you’ve moved or changed names, you can easily re-register online with the California Secretary of State’s website. Again, how about a reminder or the offer of guidance to friends and relatives, especially those elsewhere in the country? For the latter, Vote.org covers the whole map. Another similarly useful site for accessing state elections information and websites around the country is provided by the Lincoln Project. The key is the feeling that someone I respect cares enough to get me onboard with democracy. It’s a powerful message even for those who start as skeptics.

I know my audience here, and I know how many of you want to do something beyond friendly reminders–though consider for a moment those 100 million eligible non-participants in 2016. Would a little nagging have helped somewhere with someone?

Anyway, if you read on in this newsletter you’ll find specifics about the DSC’s current voter registration tabling on State St. in downtown Santa Barbara. We’re scheduled to go repeatedly to where potential voters are, and we’ve also designed things to be safe and sanitary.

You might also tackle writing postcards to voters in crucial races here in California and elsewhere. The DSC supplies the postcards, the folks at Grassroots Dem HQ provide the script and addresses, and you supply the ink. Our volunteers went through 600 postcards for the spring primary, a thousand cards earlier this summer, and I have a thousand more for you now that things are really getting serious.

And for those who are most gratified by direct voter contact, the SB Democratic Party is scheduling virtual phone banks from now until Election Day. See below for details.

So much to do, so little room for error.

Charlie Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from June 2020 Newsletter

“Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country.”

–Marquis de Lafayette

When my wife and I spent a week in Washington DC last October, we made the rounds of that city’s significant sites of national identity: Lincoln Memorial, Supreme Court, Capitol building, National Gallery, National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and many others. We saw the House in session for a bipartisan tribute to Rep. Elijah Cummings the day he passed, and we had lunch that day with our congressman, Rep. Salud Carbajal. We felt welcome. We felt very “American”–in the best sense.

Because it was nearby to our hotel, we first went to check out the façade of the White House and appraise its curb appeal from the south side of Lafayette Square on Pennsylvania Ave.

Tourists can’t get that close these days. New, taller fences, barriers and security forces of various species have created a fortress around that bit of real estate once thought of as “the people’s house.” Many locals are calling the area a Green Zone, which is not a reference to the grassy park that surrounds a grand statue of the French aristocrat who fought alongside American colonists during the revolution. It’s an allusion to the futile efforts two centuries later to keep deeply unwelcomed American soldiers safe in Baghdad.

I think of that part of Washington now not just because of the dire images of discord that have been our national occupation for the past couple weeks, but because of its long association with the heroes of the American founding. It’s a location that celebrates revolt against tyranny and its international appeal at a time in the past when given a choice between self-government and autocracy we knew which direction to move in.

The Marquis de Lafayette, drawn to America’s cause as a young man, had impressed Ben Franklin, our envoy to France at the time, and parlayed his recommendation into a meeting with Gen. Washington, who was also much impressed with Lafayette’s passion and military potential–and was certainly not above European alliances. The French nobleman was made a major general in the Continental Army at age 19.

All of which is to remind you that we’re getting close to our national birthday. The Fourth of July is a pointedly areligious holiday, noisy and decidedly given over to communal feasting and hokey displays of nationalistic symbolism. This year, though, we recognize fresh dangers in both.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the DSC will have to forego its traditional July 4th BBQ for our local Democratic community. That event’s essence doesn’t lend itself to standing apart, touching nothing and no one, and speaking softly through cloth masks. And I’d suggest there can be no satisfying virtual substitute.

The best we can do is assure our friends that we’ve reserved Stow Grove Park for July of 2021 and have every intention of regathering the community next summer–free from fear of contagion and under new leadership in Washington!

The Fourth of July BBQ, though, is our only annual fund-raiser and offers a mid-year opportunity to remind guests they can join the club or renew their membership on the spot. Indeed, that aspect of the gathering can be simulated online: Though many of you have already, if you have not yet joined or renewed for 2020, you are encouraged to do so on our website.

Until then, stay strong, stay safe, stay involved. There’s much to do.

Charlie Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from March 2020 Newsletter:

The Best Laid Plans…

SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020. We had great plans for today: Throw a party to celebrate recent victories in local races. Give it a bit of a St. Paddy’s Day theme, but make sure to distinguish luck from hard work. Honor our great volunteers and supporters, encouraging them to mingle informally with grateful electeds. We’d even found a perfect setting and friendly hosts at Live Oak Unitarian in Goleta.

Sadly, lots of great plans aren’t working out these days, and certainly ours was not the most disruptive to cancel. Unity and shared endeavor are core ideals for the DSC, but right now literally coming together is not cool.

Still there are a couple things that can be accomplished from a safe social distance. One is that our friends can still join or renew memberships for 2020. Some of you already have, using the remit envelopes that came with our snail mail invite, and others who planned to attend the event may have intended to do so on arrival. Those can still be used. We also offer a handy ActBlue donation page on our website. Thank you all for your participation as volunteers and supporters however you engage.

Secondly, today’s party was also to serve as our Annual General Meeting, required in our bylaws. The main order of business was to elect two of the four club officers: this year, President and Secretary. To keep things “regular,” please take a moment to click here and vote by email ballot. Thank you for that sign of support as well.

Finally, as we planned to fête our volunteers, the DSC was also invited to join a dedicated cabal of local activists plotting material support for the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s efforts to make sure that state repeats its striking successes of 2018. Alas, that plan for a live Santa Barbara WinWisconsin presentation has morphed into a webinar. See front page for details.

Otherwise, we’ll get through this and (with the luck of the Irish?) survive to work on many more elections together.

Charlie Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com



from October 2019 Newsletter:

Having It All

Democrats in pursuit of a presidential candidate seem to be caught up in the middle of an old beer commercial these days. Should we embrace the one who tastes great, or the one who’s less filling?

In 1973, Miller Brewing Co., a subsidiary of tobacco giant Phillip Morris, told beer drinkers that with their new product, Miller Lite, they could have it all–a beer that would deliver both what they want (satisfying taste) and what they need (fewer calories).

Now, we on the left are similarly debating which appeal will convince more voters– progressive policies or the assured defeat of a rogue presidency. With the media’s help, we keep mulling over the same issues again and again. We want both a grand visionary and a reliable winner. But we’re skeptical–as well we should be–that such a product exists. Pursuing ideals involves risk of failure; seeking safety above all can mean sacrificing vision.

We just don’t have John Madden and Rodney Dangerfield pushing the discussion.

I’d say the way out of this conundrum is to take a fresh look at what it means to “have it all.” Instead of scanning a huge field of individuals for a winner and new champion–our own Great (You Name the Color) Hope–perhaps all these hopefuls should start working as a team to deliver a win in 2020. After all, what else would “all” mean if not victory in November?

Instead of the Democratic version of the “I alone can fix this” approach, why not put this diverse array of personal backgrounds and political experience to work as a unit? Liberal senators from both coasts, red-state electeds who’ve bucked the odds, one-issue zealots, successful entrepreneurs, and even an ex-VP. All these Democrats–the more the merrier–could together raise money, craft policy alternatives, and spread out across the country campaigning broadly instead of clotting for months in one or two small, atypical states.

At least at this point, so far out from the election itself, let’s not spend our time debating, but rather speaking in one coherent Democratic voice. I am already tired of the constant demand that we distinguish marginal differences among good people with basically common values. Or trying to diminish someone’s admirable past service with reminders that the nation has moved to higher ground. Until we absolutely must choose between good and better, between bright ideas and brilliant ones, let’s concentrate on the contrast between them and us.

We can see this unified, tag-team strategy at work in the campaigns of the twin uber-progressives, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Whether you favor them or not, though, it’s hard to claim they represent anywhere close to the full range of Democratic voters, much less independents. Each wants badly to be president, and they refuse to turn on each other.

As with any team in pursuit of a coveted championship there are stars and role players, and eventually teams are led to victory by MVPs. And a democracy, of course, has to have a way to find those figures before the finals begin. But we’re almost a year out from Milwaukee and I’m sure the fickle finger of current events will in the end point to a logical nominee.

In the meantime, let’s think like a team: give those useless labels (socialist, moderate, pragmatist, political revolution) a rest, mute for a while the grandstanding proposals ($1,000/month guaranteed income for everyone, decriminalizing all undocumented border crossings), and keep pointless divisions (Who was for the war in Iraq? Who’s against busing?) to a minimum.

Keep it together. Keep it real. Have it all.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from July 2019 Newsletter:

Are You Ready to Choose?

When I say that Democrats are going to have to make some big choices very soon, I’m not referring just to culling the stupendous herd of presidential aspirants. That issue will pretty much take care of itself, probably sooner than we might think. A half-dozen televised debates before the end of the year should trim that field down significantly and the brutal winds of political warfare will take care of it from there.

No, the choices I’m talking about are fundamental decisions about what sort of nation and world we want to spend our future living in, and what commitments and sacrifices we are willing to make to get there. General desires won’t be enough. We have to draw up plans for exactly what we want to build, budget resources for those projects, and then hire the contractors.

We all agree that climate change is a crisis, but how substantially are we willing to alter our lives to avert that crisis? Is it worth shifting unknown trillions of dollars out of private wealth into public enterprise? Are we willing to make the daring Jeopardy bet that green technology can provide not just a portion, but 100% of the energy demanded by a growing world population? If not, why bother? Let’s just buy the biggest boat we can afford and lather on the sunscreen.

We say, “Quality healthcare should be a right for all, not a privilege of the few.” Okay, how deeply do we believe in that proposition? Enough to trade familiar but expensive private insurance coverage for an expanded Medicare system provided for by noticeably higher taxes? Are you willing, if necessary, to rely on a medical group rather than an individual practitioner for our personal care? Can you bear to wait for elective surgery? There will be bumps and detours on the road to single-payer reform, and perhaps some delays. Still want to go there?

We gleefully call ourselves a “nation of immigrants.” Indeed, we are. We know exactly all the ways that immigrants enrich our society and strengthen our nation. We can’t bear to see desperate refugees made even more miserable for their efforts to make a better life for themselves and protect their children from imminent dangers in violent homelands. We are appalled that the wretched of the Earth should be demonized and blamed for crimes they have not committed or commit at vastly lower rates than the population they seek to merge into.

But the Democratic Party, if and when it achieves bi-cameral majority in Washington, will have to decide what “humane immigration reform” really looks like, and what compromises with die-hard opponents it is willing to make to solve a problem that has stymied the country’s politicians for an incredibly long time. Dreamers should be easy. But eleven million undocumented residents who may not be going to college or even be interested in mastering English could be trickier. Are they included in the “All” part of Medicare for All? Do they owe anything significant–cash or otherwise–to get right with the law? Landmark legislation means choices. Can they be honorable and consistent even in a Democratic administration?

And, of course, the decision du jour: Should we “impeach the f****r”? Whether it’s a moral stance, high-minded constitutional principles, or pure emotional outrage, there are more than enough valid reasons to judge this president unfit for office.

But the outcome here is hardly likely to be removal. Impeachment is just a
charge of misconduct. Anyone who actually hopes to replace Trump with Pence (God help us!) needs to tell us the names of the twenty Republican senators who will vote to convict. If we can’t do that, then we have to accept that staking out the moral high ground is worth fortifying Trump’s 2020 campaign with the uniquely ironic image of invincible victim. The process could very well be as simple as 1,2,3: Impeach, Acquit, Re-elect.

Taking that stand may still be worth it even at that cost, but we have to face up honestly to the difficult nature of the choices we are making. Principled solutions and multi-point plans all have consequences.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from August 2018 Newsletter:

Politics Wherever We Go

Sometimes even committed Democrats need to get away from politics for a little while. It can let other things into our lives, and July/August seems like a natural time to do so. We’re enjoying a break from a long year of protest marches, Congress is in recess, the president is on vacation from everything except compulsive tweeting, and even Rachel Maddow took a week off.

Accordingly, I spent about 10 days recently in red-state America indulging my passion for playing acoustic guitar at a weeklong “camp” in Memphis with the masterful Tommy Emmanuel, and then driving on for brief stays in Nashville, Knoxville and Asheville, NC–that corridor of iconic musical influences along an otherwise tedious interstate highway. Political issues never came up, either over meals or on stage, among about 120 folks from all over the country and around the world who were engrossed in sharing and improving their musical skills. In fact, the prevailing ethos of a musical jam is to listen to others and enhance the whole with one’s talents, not bludgeon others into submission.

Still, the political lens is unavoidable even if the focus is on other matters. This part of the country is still in the midst of primary election battles, so billboards and cable news shows are rife with candidate ads. At least among those running for governor of Tennessee, Democrats seek votes by supporting medical marijuana, and Republicans mainly want to convince people they will be super tough on immigrants of any sort.

For Californians, so used to cultural diversity, it was nonetheless striking how well the South has at least publically come to terms with its racially problematic history. Certainly the scars of that long process are still present, but I found far fewer monuments to Civil War “heroes” than plaques recognizing the notable contributions of black luminaries. Along Beale St. in Memphis, for instance, I read about the work of Ida B. Wells (1862­-1931), a co-founder of the NAACP, who began her activism teaching school and publishing a truth-telling newspaper in that city. And touring Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, TN, I heard frequent homage paid to Nathan “Nearest” Green, the onetime slave who taught Jack Daniel the art of making fine Tennessee sippin’ whiskey.

Not surprisingly, the music of that region–blues, jazz, ragtime, and early rock ‘n’ roll–joyfully belies the prejudices and constrictions of the society that produced it. Sun Records may have focused on white artists–Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and, of course, Elvis Presley–but the music itself was clearly the bi-racial stepchild of what had previously been pigeonholed as “race music.” And Stax Records, renowned for its prodigious output of blues, gospel, funk, and the emergence of “Southern Soul,” built itself from the start as a conscious model for a racially integrated recording business.

In travelling southeast, though, it was admittedly difficult to decompress from the typical Left Coast atmosphere of constant political outrage. The president or his disgusting tribe of enablers in Congress must be doing their worst while I looked away at things more pleasant. Surely there were new indictments, accusations, or secret recordings to know about. At home, among like-minded friends, how often we could joke about moving to another country–separating ourselves from the collection of states that seems so disunited.

But it did not take long before the music we immersed ourselves in and the brilliant artists we learned from and socialized with daily took control and set a very different mood. It was partially the grandeur of the humble art form, the charisma of great artists, and perhaps also the benefit of simply getting away.

I was most moved, I believe, at the final day’s farewell session after breakfast when rather than speaking about music, the 63-year-old Australian-bred, globetrotting Tommy Emmanuel explained why he is at this moment applying to be an American citizen. As a much younger musician, he recalled, he would habitually learn and earn what he could in Australia, only to spend it all on a plane ticket to Los Angeles so he could join in the music scene there for a few days until his money ran out. What he knew was that everything he considered “the best” was American–the music and musicians, the cars, the guitars, the clothes…everything! And the overwhelming negativity of this political moment is not going to ruin what he knows to be true and worthy of admiration.

Something for the jaded among us to think about while away on vacation.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com



from June 2018 Newsletter:

Impeachment is Not a Panacea

“Flip the House!” That sweet-sounding phrase is in the air like a siren’s call these days. Its attractive intoxication for Democrats is undeniable, though it may unfortunately drive us crazy. The danger, if there is one, lies in thinking that control of the House should include impeaching the president. It shouldn’t.

I’m not saying this monster isn’t a monster, or that he’s anything other than a dumpster fire disaster as a president. But impeachment is too good for him–and more to the point, too easy on the rest of us.Working to “flip” one or both houses of Congress is not just a goal for Democrats; it’s an emergency.  Impeachment, on the other hand, is both futile–there will never be 67 senators willing to convict–and misdirected as a cure for what ails us.

America has willingly descended into a darkness of its own making. Let’s face it, no one was tricked or hoodwinked as to the character or values of the Republican candidate in 2016. We all knew what he stood for and how he operated. I could, in fact, argue that a lack of racism and sleaze was exactly what a substantial portion of Republican voters found uninspiring about their previous two presidential candidates.

Let’s stop pointing fingers at Facebook and the FBI. The electorate is hopelessly polarized–remember? We listen only to what we are predisposed to believe. And please, skip the one about popular vote vs. the Electoral College. Democrats would gladly have taken it if the situation had been reversed. No, the nation as a whole, eyes wide open, with its plains and pastures, haunts and hollers all counted on equal footing with its cities and suburbs, has gotten exactly what it was looking for, and for all the clamor and protest to the contrary, I’m not sure that a decided majority isn’t perfectly satisfied. Hard to swallow, huh?

If I’m wrong, if we really are better than this, then we can prove it with unequivocal election results this year and in 2020. Impeachment is a shortcut, an easy way out, a pardon, if you will, that avoids reckoning with the crime and the shame. A newly constituted House of Representatives will have plenty of work to do, but saving us from this exercise of self-reflection and moral redemption is beyond that body’s duties.

Besides, impeaching the president would simply turn the White House over to someone equally loathsome, yet even more dangerous for his depth of experience in politics. And after the extended trauma of impeachment (were it by chance successful), that pious faker would surely be greeted with a great national sigh of relief.

Worse yet, it would leave in place the entire abhorrent superstructure of cabinet secretaries and agency heads, all the while making us believe things had improved.

Locally we must all pitch-in to retain our current progressive member of congress, but we shouldn’t be expecting him to waste time with an impeachment circus. Your opinion may vary, and I’d be happy to hear from you (as would, I’m sure, Rep. Salud Carbajal, but for my money, there is more serious work to do in the House if we’re lucky enough to flip it: insuring healthcare for all, restoring bygone environmental regulations and consumer protection, pressing forward with gun control, and not least of all crafting just and humane immigration reform.

If Democrats consider impeachment at all, it should be done by waiting for scared and desperate Republicans to beg them for the votes to put an end to their embarrassment and suffering. If and when it comes to that, Democrats should turn them down.

For the nation as a whole our job is to come to terms with exactly how we got here, wrestle our many devils, find a better path, and, since we live in a democracy, voice and vote our better values. If we can’t do that, then we may need more time in Purgatory.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from March 2018 Newsletter:

Let The Games Begin!

The birthplace of the modern environmental movement…ground zero in the battle for immigrants’ rights…a potential test lab for post-ACA single-payer reform…land of the “living wage” and a model for inclusive institutions.

California would appear to be a progressive paradise these days–at least a sunny refuge from the dark scourges of Trumpism. Democrats hold every statewide executive office as well as supermajorities in both legislative houses. Both U.S. senators and the decided majority of our House delegation are hard at work–often futilely–trying to protect our citizens from the economic injustice and environmental neglect oozing out of Washington.

We are, in fact, so awash in inspired, passionately liberal political leaders that we need to exercise some caution that we don’t forget how far out ahead of the country we are. My experience last weekend at the annual state Democratic convention made me exceedingly proud to be a California Democrat, and at the same time a bit worried that we might consume ourselves in pursuit of progressive purity.

The startling national news of the weekend was that Dianne Feinstein was denied the party’s endorsement for a fifth term in the Senate. Not just denied, but humiliated. She not only failed to reach the 60% approval threshold, but landed well behind her far lesser known challenger, Kevin de León.

Kevin de Leon’s near-miss was a convention stunner.

That turn of events should not be so surprising. De León is youthful, with a record in Sacramento of always pushing new ideas. Feinstein is in all respects the essence of “seniority” and moderation, while convention delegates are inevitably positioned to the left of the average Democratic voter. But it does presage a year of nasty, Dem-on-Dem discord. Could progressive energy be otherwise better expended?

Convention delegates also did not agree on an endorsement for governor. There are four of our tribe in that race (Gavin Newsom, John Chiang, Delaine Eastin, and Antonio Villaraigosa); two will move on after the June primary, when the campaign will become a noisy, brutal endeavor to magnify very slight differences in position. Single-minded devotion to the stalled single-payer healthcare bill SB 562 will be the single biggest issue. But when policy debate becomes overly arcane, the campaigns will most likely turn to attacks on character and integrity. I saw that this weekend and wondered, is this really what paradise looks like?

Likewise, who becomes the next California Attorney General will no doubt be decided after much blood is spilled between two very admirable candidates, Dave Jones and Xavier Becerra. Both have great records of battling the forces of corruption and injustice on behalf of the people of California. That campaign could be instructive as to what sorts of issues the state must legally engage with at this point in history, but from what I saw in San Diego I sense the tone will not be entirely educational.

It was also clear that the effort to “flip the House” will face a serious obstacle–too many Democrats in districts with open seats or vulnerable Republican incumbents. For instance, the retired marine colonel who nearly knocked off Darrell Issa last time in Orange County is now just one among five Dems seeking the seat Issa has decided not to run for. Another entrenched Republican seat in northern Orange County opened up when Ed Royce decided not to run. That platter of red meat has attracted no fewer than eight hungry Democrats. In a top-two primary system, though, it is entirely possible that two Republicans will end up on the November ballot.

It’s hard to call good intentions, pure hearts, and progressive ideals the snake in the garden, but if we aren’t careful California could be hosting the next Hunger Games.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from October 2017 Newsletter:

Do The Math: Multiplication or Division

I had a curious experience at my front door a couple weeks ago with a Santa Barbara city council candidate out walking my neighborhood canvassing for votes. She told me she was a Democrat, so I imagined for the sake of efficiency she was working from a list of Democratic households–no doubt augmented with folks from that other party machine, the Decline to States.

Whatever her game plan, though, I immediately informed her that I was supporting one of her opponents–the one endorsed by our county Democratic Party. She assured me she held Democratic values but was “such a better candidate.”

I tried to explain the futility of like-minded voters splitting up rather than unifying. I said the party’s governing body, the DCC, had interviewed candidates after they’d filled out a lengthy questionnaire. I sit on that body and I heard several aspiring candidates present their qualifications, answer pointed questions both in writing and in person. Each candidate got 15 minutes or more of our undivided attention, and the discussion preceding our vote was unlimited.

I wondered how this Democrat, who had not even asked for the party’s endorsement and had kicked off her campaign after Labor Day, could be so sure she was the superior choice for people who hold Democratic values, when she hadn’t gone through any vetting process–neither from the DCC nor the other politically focused endorsing groups in town such as Dem Women or the Women’s Political Committee.

I have to admit I didn’t inquire further about this candidate’s personal background or stated positions on important city issues, such as affordable housing, water conservation, or the Measure C sales tax proposal. I argued instead, that splitting the vote among numerous Democratic candidates was an effective way to get someone who does NOT share our political values elected to office. It’s simple mathematics, and considering our local election history over the years, it’s a concept that South Coast Dems seem to struggle with.

We are so convinced that we are invincibly blue, that we never consider the benefits to be achieved by all of us working together, pulling the same cart. And we quickly forget the past losses when we split up and follow our separate desires. We also like to ignore the fact that in some elections and in some parts of the county, Republicans outnumber Democrats–especially when you factor in propensity to vote. So even city races are not always a shoo-in for our side. Congressional races even less so.

The very earnest, probably quite liberal candidate at my door offered one more piece of persuasion–that she was being endorsed personally by an impressive list of local Democratic office holders present and past. The half-dozen names she provided are all of respected, progressive political figures. Perhaps not incidentally, they are all female. Most notably, though, they are all people who in the past have earned and enjoyed the endorsement of the Democratic party when they ran for office. They assuredly know the benefits of that endorsement.

My reply on the door step was simple: “They should know better.” To use the party’s endorsement and promote oneself as if it should matter to voters when one runs for office, but discard that loyalty when it suits some other purpose is unworthy of these fine public servants.

I was asked recently by one of our most active club members for a frank appraisal of how much sway the party endorsement has with voters. There is a long answer that describes the substantial power of unified grassroots action, political solidarity, and access to funding and know-how. But in sum, it is what we make of it. If we are trusted by voters and can offer effective strategies and a dedicated volunteer base, we become the endorsement most desired by the best candidates. And the question answers itself. If we treat party endorsements like loose change in the sofa cushions–why not pick it up if it’s there?–well, that’s what it becomes.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com



from July 2017 Newsletter:

Let’s Work, Not Whine

After months of agonizing consumption of news and commentary, I’ve come to the conclusion that we Americans get the kind of elected officials we deserve. After patting ourselves on the back for our carefully conceived and hard-won democratic institutions–the very point of the Fourth of July holiday–we can’t just turn around and blame our mistakes on the Russians or Fox News.

Whatever you think about the Trump presidency or the current Congress, it didn’t happen by accident or deception. Everything politicians do or say on the campaign trail or while in office is reported in detail and widely proliferated by a free press and hyperactive social media. And despite silly claims to the contrary, our votes are cast and counted scrupulously. We can’t honestly escape the conclusion that our elected leaders represent us–in all senses of the word.

If that’s the case, we should put our energies into improving ourselves, not whining about hackers. That story will be told, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are a divided and dysfunctional nation. We cannot seem to find a voting majority for wise, compassionate policies, yet ignorance and greed still manage to win elections. In such a state, the preoccupation with impeachment, resignation, or early removal from office is actually dangerous. These shortcuts not only ignore an administration full of venal incompetents and enemies of progress who would be left in place, but they promote an equally horrendous replacement, who will nonetheless be welcomed to the captain’s bridge with a great national sigh of relief.

Those of us old enough to remember the early 70s know that Mike Pence is not a Gerald Ford figure, yet the palpable goodwill for the poor guy who has to step in and govern under such volatile circumstances would be assured.

We would be far wiser, starting right now, to devote ourselves to a healthy turnaround–district by district, Senate seat by Senate seat–in 2018. The Republican majority has done plenty this year to alienate voters on so many fronts, but particularly health care. They are vulnerable in 2018, but not if the nation believes it has turned the corner with an impeachment trial.

Locally, our own district, CA-24, is home to several thousand more Republicans than Democrats who are likely to vote. Moreover, we have been officially targeted for unlimited GOP financial investment next year, and it’s a certainty that our newly elected congressman, Rep. Salud Carbajal, will be outspent by whoever becomes his opponent next year.

We have our work cut out in keeping that seat blue–registering voters, communicating with them throughout this year and next, and finally motivating them to show up on election day. We really haven’t got time to waste on the opioid of impeachment speculation. Unless Congress changes colors, changes in the White House are pointless.

The belief that we learn primarily through suffering–attributed to the ancient Greeks while they worked out this thing called “democracy”–is pertinent. The late syndicated columnist Molly Ivins used to invoke a Texas parable of The Chicken Killing Dog. In rural lore, it seems, the cure for an undisciplined dog that kills chickens on the ranch is to wire a dead chicken around the dog’s neck, right under its nose, and let the dog enjoy the ever-present fruit of its bad habits for weeks (or even months) while the chicken carcass rots.

It was a sure thing, Ivins said, that dog will learn its lesson.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from April 2017 Newsletter:

Hoping for Something Better?

Let’s be frank, after a hundred days of utter insanity our capacity for shock and outrage has been almost used up. The unacceptable is thrust at us daily, and the unthinkable has become routine. Yet we have to hold back on alarm because we know worse is on its way.

Opportunities to protest and resist are abundant–especially here in Santa Barbara, the shiny buckle on the Blue belt–but a sense of despair creeps in nonetheless as the affronts to our values, needs, and safeguards multiply faster than they can be beaten back.

In this frame of mind the other evening I viewed Michael Moore’s most recent documentary, Where To Invade Next. Filmed and released well over a year before our presidential election, Moore’s premise was to visit and film–“invade,” as his conceit goes–various nations around the world where progressive political and social policies are succeeding in enlightened societies. Though the concepts in many cases originated in the U.S., these other societies have taken our ideals and unfulfilled hopes and put them into practice. Tongue-in-cheek, a chubby, shuffling but ever-earnest Michael The Conqueror strives to claim and take home the riches found on foreign soil.

Italy treats workers better than we do. France feeds its school children more wholesomely. Finland achieves the highest of educational results by encouraging students to enjoy their childhood without standardized tests and nightly homework. Slovenia provides its youth (and some of ours as well) with debt-free higher education; Portugal demonstrates the benefits of decriminalizing drugs; and Norway takes an incredibly daring approach to prison reform.

Even Tunisia is far ahead of us in looking after women’s reproductive health. Iceland gave the world its first democratically elected female president 37 years ago, and though one of the hardest hit nations in the recent worldwide financial meltdown, it also has gone the furthest in prosecuting and punishing the bankers who caused it.

Perhaps most instructive for us could be Germany, a comparable economic powerhouse that has done so much better at balancing work and leisure for its citizens and has also modeled acknowledgement and contrition for its historic national sins. If we were to deal with our own foundation in racism and genocide as deeply as Germany has taken account of its Nazi past, we would probably not today be trying to figure out a demagogue presidency.

One wonders, will we ever catch up? Especially as we charge headlong in the wrong direction on every single issue. Of course, one obvious answer is that some of us already live in an enlightened, progressive nation–California! We are not without serious problems–nor are the societies listed above–but we are governed by a supermajority of forward thinking leaders in our legislature and statewide offices. Our economy is the sixth largest in the world and growing. We attract capital and innovation yet pay workers a living wage and make legal commitments to equality, diversity, and protection of the most vulnerable among us. California is influential, inclusive and fully aware of what makes it a leader in the world and what it has to lose under clown-tyrant rule.

What California lacks is national sovereignty. Perhaps that will one day change, and Michael Moore can invade us, too.

Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from March 2017 Newsletter:

Out In The Streets

I know, it’s been quite a while since the last full-strength DSC Newsletter–to be precise, since a few days before the Tuesday in November that lives in infamy. We all grieve a sudden loss in different ways, but typically it is a process of shock, adjustment, reflection, and then determination to proceed with the support of family and friends. And in this case, equally shocked fellow Americans.

Undeniably, we’ve lost something we love–at the very least a sense of national identity we were proud of. We’ve been brought face-to-face with some grim possibilities–for instance, America as an unpredictable, disruptive geopolitical force in the world–that we never seriously contemplated before. But that’s where things stand, and it’s time to carry on. Many of us already are doing so quite remarkably.

Well ahead of the actual transfer of power, many worried Santa Barbarans came together to form the Santa Barbara Progressive Coalition, which now holds bi-monthly meetings and organizes a broad-based resistance effort. And when the time came, our activist community turned out impressively for local demonstrations on both the Friday and Saturday of Inauguration weekend.

Pulling together our community’s contribution to the historic women’s march in Los Angeles was the extraordinary work of the SB Women’s Political Committee, but the participants came generally from a city determined to stand up for its values. A new factor in that devotion is a group calling itself Indivisible Santa Barbara, part of a nationwide Indivisible network that makes engagement with issues and our lawmakers into a daily exercise.

3 women holding signs that say Organize, Agitate, Educate and Join the Resistance Your life Depends on It

photo by Marian Shapiro

 The Democratic Service Club has generally focused on serving candidates and issues endorsed in an orderly process by our county and state Democratic Party. Our contributions are vital, but mass mailing, voter reg. tabling, and phone banking are by nature sedentary. Even precinct walks are typically solitary. Now we must embrace the need to force change through monumental communal pressure. The streets and town centers are really the only avenues for this, and we’d be remiss to wait for the next election cycle.

Two months of unrelenting chaos forces us to contemplate what two years of the same could look like.

The success of public protest is always uncertain, and beyond the California border perhaps hopeless these days, but that’s where the action is right now and may be so for some time to come.

No surrender!
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com



from November 2016 Newsletter:

It’s Not Over Yet, But We Wish It Were!

Safe to say, we’re all exhausted–if not a bit depressed. Those emotions
seem to go together these days. But there’s a lot left to do in the next
few days, and active volunteers may find meaningful work to be an
antidote for depression.

It’s no exaggeration to say we’ve been engaged in a monumental struggle
between good and evil. It doesn’t help that our nation–offered the
choice of being led by one of the most qualified and courageous Americans
of the post-War era or by a sociopath with a dark and pathetic vision for
our country–finds it a close call.

We constantly hear that both candidates are consummately unpopular. Even
if good triumphs, how deep then will such a victory run? And will virtue
be able to sustain itself when surrounded by iniquity? These are the key
questions of 2016.

Locally, at least, here’s what we know: For more than a year now the
Santa Barbara Democratic Party and its coordinated campaign has been
making sure an incredibly strong set of candidates has the political
scaffolding to win next week. We will need to finish off with a powerful
Get Out The Vote effort, but in our own backyard we have a lot to be
grateful for.

If you attended the lunchtime rally headlined by Kamala Harris a couple
days ago at our State St. headquarters, you saw and heard what is at
stake and what is possible for our region and our state. Listening to the
Attorney General plus Joan Hartman, Monique Limón, Hannah-Beth Jackson,
and Das Williams (speaking for Salud Carbajal, who was otherwise occupied
fending off Big Oil at a supervisors meeting) was a great answer to
political despair.

To be further cheered, check below for a brief history of what the DSC has been doing lately and find out what is being asked of us in these final days.

No surrender!
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from August 2016 Newsletter:

Something The Obama Era Taught Me

The thought of the Obama administration coming to a close is an almost embarrassing reminder of how little I knew about political activism eight years ago. Sure I followed politics in the media, but before that landmark election, I’d never really participated beyond casting my own ballot. I barely knew a phone bank from a piggy bank and had only the vaguest notion of what the deceptively cute term “grassroots” entailed. And I’d certainly never given money to a politician. I suspect my story is not unique.

In the eight-year period since the summer opening of the coordinated campaign office on the corner of Chapala and Gutierrez in downtown Santa Barbara, I’ve come to realize how much more was going on behind the headlines with campaigns and elections. I’ve been a delegate to numerous state political conventions, served on our county’s Democratic Central Committee, and gotten to know a lot of interesting, public-minded people, both those elected to office and those who want only to help in some small way.*

This whole process of political immersion has taught me some valuable lessons–too many to recite here–but one of the most important is the need to think and act beyond the narrow scope of one’s self-interest. Good government does not always operate the same as a market economy under Adam Smith’s proverbial “invisible hand,” where widespread benefits result from private individuals looking out for themselves alone. Democrats think, almost instinctively it seems, in terms of connections, communities and shared progress.

Right now, for instance, many of us who have finished a career and left the work force have gotten seriously concerned about college tuition. Why? And we’ve figured out that health care reform in this country demands people buy insurance while they are still healthy rather than wait until they are sick.

In a similar vein, most of us reading this reside in Santa Barbara County, but far fewer live in the 3rd District. For the sake of the county at-large, though, we need to support energetically, our spectacular Democratic endorsed candidate, Joan Hartmann, who hopes to represent that portion of our sprawling county. We who aren’t voting in any supervisor’s race this time can’t afford to leave that crucial seat–one of five on a perpetually split board–to chance.

Perhaps more challenging to understand, though, is that as Santa Barbara Democrats we ought to put some of our energies into an upgraded system of self-governance for the community of Isla Vista–a place nearby but very distant from us in so many ways. If you live in Isla Vista you will have the chance in November to vote for the formation of an official Community Services District (Measure E) and for a system of taxation to support it (Measures F).

If you don’t live in I.V., though, why should you care? Well, first of all we just have to respect and support the difficult journey that community has made over the past half-century and the recent process of local engagement that has gone into getting this concept on the ballot. Significantly, the E and F campaign is planning to register 13,000 voters in Isla Vista, most of whom change address every year. That army of voters will probably favor the IVCSD, but should also be crucial to keeping a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors as well as carrying so many other good candidates–Salud Carbajal and Monique Limón, to name just two–to victory.

It’s all connected, and there’s nothing invisible about it.

Best regards,
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

* Personal Note: I’ve recently recorded a song called “Inauguration Day” that I composed after the first Obama election. I reworked it in 2012 as “For More Years,” and now return its original title for this recording: Click Here to Listen

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from July 2016 Newsletter

An Uncomfortable Truth

If I had a dime for every column inch of newspaper, magazine, and internet commentary this year that has attempted to explain the rise of Donald Trump into serious contention for the presidency, I’d be a billionaire able to fund my own super-PAC. Truly, I’ve tried to avoid adding to that excess of verbiage, both in writing and conversation with fellow Dems, but as we get closer to the national party conventions this month, when the spigot of political clap-trap is opened widest, the temptation gets irresistible.

My first belief, though, is that talking about a mean-spirited, abrasive braggart, hawking senseless, inconsistent political vitriol is less important than figuring out why such a figure is persuasive, or at least attractive, to about forty percent, perhaps more, of our country’s voters. The oft-heard phrase “We’re better than that” is not re-assuring. Apparently we’re not.

If we were governed under a parliamentary system, it would be expected that fringe parties and loony candidates will pull in a certain fraction of the electorate. But our country has traditionally done politics with a binary access to power–two major parties pitch broad agendas and internalize their coalitions long before heading into an election. If one of those parties has gravitated toward a certifiable nut-job and found peace with demagoguery, then something very tragic is going on.

The individual spokesman for this corrosive outlook on national affairs is actually unimportant. These Trump voters have been with us all along, and if denied their first choice, would have found someone else to back this year–just not someone so perfectly attuned to their tastes. And I don’t think it’s globalization, economic distress, or even just a sullen mood and passing fit that has brings us here. To a surprising and uncomfortable extent, we are a bitter nation. It’s a character trait that begs some serious introspection, and the answers we get from out hearts and our history will be no more cheerful than they are surprising.

So much discussion this year–indeed this past fortnight!–has circled around the existence of racism in our ever more diverse society. A very touchy subject, but not inappropriate. We are, after all, a nation founded on genocide and sustained for over two centuries through slavery. Early on our forebears decided that dark skin was inferior and economic exploitation and racial conquest justified. These are not attitudes that disappear from a culture in a few decades. Is it any wonder we are just now engaged in a national discussion over whether black lives matter? At this point there seem to be both pro and con sides in that debate.

The ingrained distrust of unfamiliar cultures and religions, the high regard for winner-take-all entrepreneurship, the frontiersman’s need for simple solutions to complex problems, and, of course, our national fetish for firearms are all bedrock American traits quite evident throughout our history as a nation. It’s no surprise to see these attitudes in resurgence.

What is a bit perplexing, perhaps, is a candidate for President of the United States promising his followers that with his leadership they can “take back ” their country. If anyone has a claim to such a restoration, it would July 16 newsletter mapcertainly be our Native American population. But no, it’s the longing of the great heartland–white, aging, and without any particular job skills–who fear their long era of unmerited ascendancy drawing to a close.

Trump Nation is a troubling voting bloc for an America anxious to progress and overcome, but we should not think of it as marginal or likely to flag. Even California is not immune–1.6 million of us voted for him last month–but we are definitely a bright spot in the Union with a thriving economy and diverse, forward-thinking political leaders in both houses of the legislature and every single statewide elective office.

For various reasons I’m confident that in November the nation as a whole will take after California more than Indiana, Texas, Georgia, or Missouri. Nothing to be smug about, just electoral odds-making. The substance of national character, though, is something we still need to work on.
Best regards,
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com



from June 2016 Newsletter:

Undivided Attention

The race for the congressional seat currently held by Rep. Lois Capps has been going on for over a year, and we’ve just now reached the Primary. We’re all aware that more than one Democrat would like to succeed to that position, and that each of those candidates has dedicated supporters within our normally unified partisan community.

Considering the possibilities for hard feelings and nastiness that can spring from such divided loyalties, I’d say we all–candidates and supporters–have done an admirable job of keeping things civil and respectful.

Still, I have fielded a certain disappointment from some club members that the DSC has focused its communications and volunteer efforts solely on behalf of one candidate rather than helping Democrats in general. That charge is certainly true; we have put our energies behind a single candidate in this race, but that’s not something to be rectified. It is simply the way to keep the 24th District where it has been for the past 18 years–in the capable hands of a progressive Democrat allied with a national platform of broad-based prosperity, inclusiveness, environmental stewardship, and a thoughtful approach to world affairs.

If more than one local candidate shares those values, then we’re most lucky, certainly compared to other states and communities. But in a top-two primary system like California’s, there is no assurance that even one of those candidates will be around to run in the General. Despite a Democratic advantage in registered voters in the district (which, by the way, extends to the Monterey County line), the reality is there are about 10,000 more Republicans than Democrats likely to vote in this Primary. Yes, we know who they are, because voting records show our electoral habits. And in that case, we have to give serious attention to discerning which candidate has the breadth and depth of support to carry those values forward. There is a real risk involved in being cheerfully even-handed or devoted to parochial interests.

It would be naïve to ignore the fact the California Democratic Party gave its most active, grassroots members a chance to express a preference earlier this year, and they chose to endorse Salud Carbajal by an overwhelming majority. Supervisor Carbajal has also received the endorsements of the House minority leadership and of the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, not to mention Lois Capps herself.

And like it or not, fund-raising capacity will be key to a successful run for office. Good policy proposals and political virtues need to be broadcast widely, and the various media of communication–traditional or New-Age–cost money. The Carbajal advantage in this realm is undisputed.

Not insignificantly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made our district its number one targeted race nationally, which means the Carbajal HQ is teaming with DCCC staffers from all over the country, directing unprecedented resources here. This does not reflect special interests who have exacted questionable promises from a candidate, but rather elected Democrats who see the national stage and know what it takes to keep this seat blue.

The Democratic Service Club stayed assiduously neutral for months while candidates introduced themselves to voters. That was an important phase, but the campaign has moved on, and to remain neutral now isn’t a way to “help all Democrats”–it’s the way to help Republicans have the November ballot to themselves.

Best regards,
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com

from April 2016 Newsletter:

Electoral Alchemy 

Are you tired of watching other people vote? Or hearing about what voters in other states have done?  In presidential politics Californians are expected to be the adults at the table–to wait until the children have had their fill and then make intelligent conversation over what’s left. Fortunately, further down the menu the choices are often locally grown and more to our taste. But either way, it’s now time to choose.
Voting in this year’s election begins for us in less than a month, when Vote-By-Mail ballots go out on May 9, and things wrap up at the polls on Election Day, June 7. Whenever or wherever we mark our ballots, we are taking part in the grand enterprise of self-government. This year, however, that seems like something less than noble, even unworthy of a great world power.  It’s an effect that has many causes and has been a generation or more in the making, but the result is that a vast portion of the citizenry wishes to distance itself from politics and declines to take part in any meaningful way.
I can empathize, but honestly have a hard time agreeing with much of that sentiment. Voting–wherever in the world it’s done–involves an amazing form of alchemy: we manage to increase wisdom by multiplying ignorance. And there’s certainly no shortage of ignorance in our country this time ’round.
The point is we are all limited in our political insights and our knowledge of people and the world. But if a great many of us make the effort to participate, we arrive at a place far superior to where we’d be if we left the choices to some anointed elite, no matter how brilliant they may be. Amazingly, ignorance is rendered into wisdom–or at least something close to it.
It’s not just wishful thinking. The more of us who vote, the better our governance will be. Certainly it helps to have educated voters–something that wise voting choices can directly promote if not ensure–but at least, in the long run, we get what we deserve in the way of leaders. Naturally, we can’t let this process be bought and paid for by special interests. Money must be used sparingly if this elemental exchange is to work.
When we make phone calls, walk precincts, or register voters, when we table at public gatherings or generate mass mailings, we are taking part in this alchemy. There’s no wizardry involved, just honest conversations with our neighbors and a focused effort to keep voters on the rolls and to start newcomers on the right path.
Our steady volunteers, and even occasional ones, must have an intuitive sense of the magic they are performing, because we do it over and over. And it should be applauded. The local coordinated Democratic campaign, working to elect Salud Carbajal to Congress, Hannah-Beth Jackson to the State Senate, Monique Limón to the Assembly, and Das Williams and Joan Hartmann to our Board of Supervisors, deeply appreciates our work on the phones, on the streets, and around the headquarters on State St.
Things will get busier and more demanding as we head into May and June, but pay attention, the magic is about to begin.
Best regards,
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from March 2016 Newsletter:

Conventional Wisdom
Political conventions, such as the California Democratic Convention I attended a couple weeks ago in San Jose, could be easily mistaken for a high school pep rally–crowds of cheering partisans wearing team jerseys and booster buttons, waving placards in a noisy arena. But that misses a crucial difference: we are more than just fans in the bleachers.
Convention delegates come together at these affairs–chaotic as they may be–not just to cheer, but to pick the players we want to see on the field and to hammer out a winning strategy. Through our collective decisions, the contest is ours to win or lose.
We caucus with those of shared interests–on the Dem team that means environmental advocates, veterans, union leaders, LGBT activists and many more sub-sets of a great coalition–and press our positions into the party’s playbook. And, most crucially, in making endorsements, we are literally choosing the strongest players for each position. In California, at least, this is done by grassroots participation in regional “pre-endorsement” conferences beforehand and with final voting at the convention. It is in every sense of the word “democratic.”
Because these choices have been settled, the DSC can now swing into action on behalf of these candidates. Just a few days ago we mobilized our renowned Mailing Brigade to carry out a two-day project for Salud Carbajal’s campaign for Congress. And, as we have done in the past, we will be staffing a “welcome desk” at his Santa Barbara headquarters to provide consistent service and voter registration as needed on a day-to-day basis (see items below on both these DSC activities).
We will also be working in various ways for Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and for Monique Limón, both endorsed by the state party, in their quests for seats in the State Senate and Assembly respectively. And at the county level, we will be supporting Das Williams and Joan Hartmann as they campaign for 1st and 3rd District Supervisor seats. Hartmann’s race in the 3rd District will be one of the most contentious at any level and will require Santa Barbara Democrats to recognize their enormous stake in a race they may not actually vote in.
I’m also pleased to note that for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer is retiring from, California Democrats are backing our Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has a proven record of fighting to level the playing field for California students, families, consumers, and victims of all sorts of crimes and abuses.
Besides settling on a starting line-up, CDP delegates voted to take a position on a number of key statewide initiatives that are slated for November, including ones that support gun safety, a plastic bag ban, common-sense criminal justice reform, an extension of Prop 30’s funding for education, and a sizable cigarette tax boost.
The closest we had to a real cheerleader in San Jose was Vice President Joe Biden, who spent nearly an hour on the podium doing his best to rally our spirits for the battles ahead. I think you’d enjoy watching his speech here. It’s a little slow to start, but he knows how to work a crowd.
Of course, this convention hoopla will be repeated in late July at the national level in Philadelphia, where just becoming a delegate will be much more selective, and where, because the scope is nationwide, the results may or may not please each of you. However that goes, though, I can confidently report that California has put together a talented team with a winning strategy.
Incidentally, if I were describing the state of affairs for the opposition, I would have to abandon the sports analogy altogether. 2016 for the G.O.P. is very much what astronomers call a black hole. No winners there.

Best regards,
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from February 2016 Newsletter:

Talk vs. Action

So it’s been a good long while since I’ve had the pleasure of writing you with news and views relevant to locally active Democrats. Not that there’s been a lack of news or thoughts to share in recent months. The run-up to this particularly volatile presidential campaign has been anything but eventless or dull.

Still I think we all deserve a break now and then, and the DSC’s mission has always veered more toward practical action than heated words, which we seem awash in these days. If the issues weren’t so serious, taking a shot at scathing political commentary–especially as it pertains to the embarrassing tragi-comedy playing out for the opposition–would be irresistible. But there’s important work to prepare for and to carry out, and as the British sometimes say, “Keep your breath to cool your porridge.”

On the national scene, those of us with the time and taste for rallies, petitions and letters to Congress are constantly on call to defend Roe v. Wade, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank financial reform. Reform of any sort, it seems, is never secure without clamor. We can even sense a certain possibility of progress on gun safety, climate change, and election finances. Admittedly, optimism on those issues is not rife among fellow skeptics.

But it seems to me the main call of duty for local Democrats right now is to work on increasing voter registration–especially in the county’s 3rd District–and then turning out voters for all our endorsed candidates in June.

I call particular attention to the 3rd District supervisor’s race because that crucial swing-vote seat, held for the past two terms by Doreen Farr, is up for grabs. The county party has endorsed an impressive and experienced environmental champion in Buellton’s Joan Hartmann, but the forces behind the current North County minority are licking their chops in anticipation of an election decided in June, when the UCSB students are absorbed in the final week of their school year.

A loss in that one means a return to 3-2 BOS votes favoring more coastal development, oil production, and diminished social services. Not insignificantly, it would almost certainly mean a successful redistricting proposal to shift Isla Vista/UCSB from the 3rd to 2nd District. Registering and mobilizing those voters is the only way to maintain the wise, measured county policies we’ve come to count on.

Our efforts will also be required to keep the 1st District in the family and the state Assembly and Senate seats as well. We’ve worked for Das Williams, Monique Limón and Hannah-Beth Jackson before, but in this year’s contests, only Sen. Jackson has an incumbent’s advantage in those particular races.

And, of course, it will require a major effort to keep our 24th congressional seat blue. We owe that much to Rep. Lois Capps for her service over the past two decades. It’s no time to let her down now.

There will be plenty of opportunity to talk politics this year, but it’s also time for action.

Best regards,
Charles Clouse
President, Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from October 2015 Newsletter:

Our Role in the Political Universe

As committed and hardworking as our club is reputed to be, and as politically aware as most of our members certainly are, I don’t think we have any delusions of grandeur about our influence on the national political scene. We do our part. We provide support–in a wide variety of forms–to candidates and causes that depend on volunteer energy.

But it may come as new information to many readers that we are structurally connected to the larger political arena–first through our seat on the county’s Democratic Central Committee and in turn as we operate in concert with the California Democratic Party. Statewide we are definitely in the proverbial “loop.”

Our influence may not be the stuff of headlines, but along with other clubs, such as Democratic Women, UCSB’s Campus Democrats, and other clubs in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Ynez, we have direct input on the issues both local and national that our members care about. For instance, we’ve worked recently–alas without success–to ban fracking in Santa Barbara County, to offer options beyond unbearable pain for Californians suffering from terminal illnesses (the legislation awaits the governor’s signature), and we have just embarked on a commitment to raise the minimum wage for workers in the City of Santa Barbara to a level in line with the most progressive cities across the country.

When it comes to individual candidates, the DSC does not tackle the complicated process of making election endorsements. We are, however, able to rely on the Central Committee’s assiduous endorsement process. In this way we carefully consider and palpably support candidates for all levels of government–from school boards, water districts, and city councils up through our Board of Supervisors, the California Assembly and Senate, and every two years, the U.S. Congress.

Like the rest of the nation our eye is already on 2016. The club is currently engaged in selecting delegates from among its “members in good standing” for the state party’s January 2016 Pre-endorsement Conference in our region, wherein South Coast Democrats will make their preferences known for Assembly, Senate and Congressional races. This process is considered “pre-” in the sense that the party’s actual endorsements will be awarded at the statewide convention in San Jose next February.

But a candidate who can win the support of 70% or more of these delegates is a near shoo-in for the state party’s endorsement. That threshold is usually a given for a Democratic incumbent, but this time the 24th Congressional District is being contested by three Democrats. If it were clear that one of those Democrats would surely be elected next November–in the way gerrymandered districts all over the country provide such certainty to one party or the other–our role in the process would be much less perilous.

In this district, though, despite raw registration data, there are about ten thousand more Republicans than Democrats considered “likely to vote” in a primary. And the bloc of voters who “decline to state” a party preference is itself the size of a healthy political party. Though this seat has been in Democratic hands for almost two decades, it is by no means assured for 2016.

Our quiet little district on the left coast will be a major target for both parties. Keeping it blue will not earn us much notice elsewhere in the country, but I assure you letting it go red will be a national story. To a great extent that important outcome is in our own hands. That’s no delusion.

Best regards,
Charles Clouse
Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from July 2015 Newsletter:

Open Seats, Open Minds

When local Democrats gather socially–as we will for the DSC’s Fourth of July BBQ or as we did at the EDC’s recent Green & Blue fundraiser–or when we lock arms in protest–as we have of late over the oily desecration of our coastline–we take pride and comfort in counting how many of the elected officials attending are of our tribe.

Indeed this is affirmation that what we stand for has the backing of a decided majority in this community. But we’re at a point right now where retirements, term limits, and major changes in the City Charter will soon present us with several elective races without an incumbent on the ballot and yet a choice of Democrats in contention. This is essentially true also of the next election of a U.S. Senator from California and, of course, the presidency. It is no time to be smug and assume that our values inevitably triumph on Election Day.

We need to pay attention, listen to candidates, and decide where our best interests lie. If there is only one clear choice, we should be ready to go to work when the time comes. But if we first need to choose between two credible candidates, we need to avoid the temptation to write it all off as noise and bickering.

A well-funded campaign is important, and we should be willing to give what we can to the candidates we are most impressed with. But we needn’t be impressed simply by money. Right now campaigns are engaged in what’s called the “invisible primary” or “credibility primary”–the stage where fund-raising is the only measure of strength. That’s reality, but I’d hate to live solely in the Republic of Citizens United.

Ironically, one stumbling block can be the large similarities in positions that intra-party rivals promote. We all value the environment, reproductive choice, a vital middle class supported through organized labor, and other such Democratic touchstones. Differentiating must register more than image and personal magnetism. Pertinent experience, track records, and personal endorsements have to weigh heavily when everyone is saying something similar.

Familiar incumbents on the ballot are a welcomed convenience for voters, but open seats are a great opportunity to learn more about our candidates and consider more precisely the issues we expect them to deal with. It’s our duty to think deeper and ask better questions. It’s their job to distinguish themselves persuasively from their rivals.

But remember, these candidates and their partisan supporters are still our friends and allies. Win or lose, we still toast them at our wine & cheese orgies and will be holding up placards together down the road.

Best regards,
Charles Clouse
Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from May 24, 2015 Newsletter:


Spring Break Is Over

There’s really no such thing as “the slow season” for political activity or for candidates seeking office–especially here in Santa Barbara, where city elections in odd-numbered years slot in between the state and national campaigns of even years.

It’s a serious flaw in our national character that so many of us see no point in voting except for president every four years, but I can fully relate to the desire for a respite from electoral battles and their inherent need to strategize. Even objective news coverage of campaign gamesmanship can become a deterrent to civic involvement.

I admit I’ve been enjoying a little break from it all here while behind-the-scenes legal processes transform the way city politics will be conducted in the future, and while local political figures scramble to design their personal aspirations for public service. All that furious insider activity seemed to create something of a vacation for us who support and assist. I spent some of mine near the Adriatic in the south of Italy. How about you?

But last weekend brought the State Democratic Convention to Anaheim, and I could see the issues I care about are calling for attention and passionate effort. The keynote address by Sen. Elizabeth Warren was packed with her trademark litany of ways the American “story” we used to believe in–the one about opportunity, hard work, steady advancement, a thriving middle class, and shared national prosperity–had soured, over the past 35 years, into a game that’s “rigged” against everyone who isn’t already rich.

But her message and its tone were not simply about a paradise lost, but rather expressed fierce determination to fight back with every ounce of strength she has and from every angle she can devise. And, of course, she wants her listeners to fight alongside her. I strongly recommend watching this video clip of the speech:



The convention also provided a chance for the two worthy Democrats running for the now open seat in the 24th congressional district to meet activists whose support or endorsements will be crucial in the 2016 campaign. The Democratic Service Club will, of course, want to do everything we can to keep a Democrat in that seat.

The problem right now, though, is the campaign is still taking shape, and loyal Democrats are probably still forming their opinions. We are watching and listening, but may not yet be ready to jump in decidedly on one side or the other. As president of this club, I’d like to respect each member’s path to choice as well as both candidates’ expectation of organizational support from a Democratic group such as ours that doesn’t conduct its own endorsement process.

“Good luck doing both!” you might be saying. After thorough discussion, we’ve decided that it would be appropriate to publicize events and offer opportunities to get involved, but not promote, organize or recruit for specific work until the state party has endorsed early next year.

We encourage your engagement, but won’t at this point presume to narrow your choices. That comes later.


Best regards,
Charles Clouse
Democratic Service Club


If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please
contact me at democraticserviceclub@gmail.com

from April 25, 2015 Newsletter:

The Debt We Owe Lois Capps

Lois Capps’s tenure in Congress began in 1998 with an incredible sense of bravery and endurance. Overcoming grief at the loss of her husband, Rep. Walter Capps, who had served in office just nine months, she won a special election in March and then faced a general election before the end of that year.Capps, dsc

Until that time this congressional seat on the South Coast had been securely in Republican hands for fifty years. Lois Capps has held that seat ever since–despite more grief three years later over the death of her eldest daughter, and despite the challenges of a legislative system that has become impossibly polarized and essentially paralyzed. The temptation to seek a quieter life must have been enormous.

But Representative Capps has not simply held the seat; she has served her constituents in a way that makes us proud to live in her district and leaves us deeply in her debt. She has fought for improved health care and a system for providing it to more Americans than ever. Her efforts for the rights of women and the welfare of children have been the bedrock of her service, but then so has her devotion to improving the economy, adding jobs, aiding veterans, protecting the environment, developing clean energy, and untangling immigration policies.

Of course, many of us are particularly proud that in 2002 she had the courage to vote against giving President Bush approval for a war in Iraq.

The volunteers of the Democratic Service Club have worked happily for Lois’s campaigns since our inception as a local club, and I can attest that it is never difficult to round-up our mailing brigade, phone callers, or neighborhood walkers when they are needed. As we work on her behalf, the congresswoman never fails to join in or at least express sincere gratitude. That mutual admiration is ever a trait of our connection with her.

This past week, Lois Capps announced that she will not run for re-election in 2016. Considering she started in this career at an age many of us see as a time to slow down if not slack off, no one can question her retirement is well-earned. But keep in mind she will be our member of Congress until January 2017. The quieter life is still a ways off, and even then I’m certain the DSC will be seeing Lois working for us–and I hope with us–promoting our shared values.

If you haven’t seen it, you might want to watch this video of Lois making her recent announcement:


Best regards,
Charles Clouse
Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or comments about Club activities, please contact me at cjclouse@cox.net


from February 22, 2015 Newsletter:

The Politics of Stupid

 We’re all fairly engaged about national affairs around here, aren’t we? Ready, willing and able to participate in self-government. So what are the major issues requiring our attention these days–the ones occupying the thoughts of our elected officials?

As far as I can tell the big ones are these:

* Can we believe what scientists tell us about evolution, climate change or just about anything?

* Are women to be trusted with their own bodies?

* Should we treat immigrants with long histories and family ties in this country as human beings, or just round-up all 11 million and deport them as quickly as possible?

* Is universal, affordable health care a desirable goal or is it ferocious government overreach?

* Do love and marriage really go together?

* And, of course, is it a good idea to vaccinate our children against serious, childhood diseases that have been out-of-sight for decades?

Really, how did we get so stupid? Americans seem to have just about reached consensus on gravity and the beauty of rainbows, but otherwise we expend much of our political energy fighting battles that most other developed nations have long since moved beyond. What’s going on here? Is there something in the water?

Other than the rare display of bipartisanship by the anti-vaccination crowd, it’s easy to see these issues breaking down along a predictable longitude of right and left politics. Even Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana had to warn his own party about not becoming “the party of stupid.”

Yet both parties like to identify themselves with rationality, experience, and political acuity. How do these “smart” traits lead to such dumb debates?

At the risk of oversimplification, I’d say that a key difference is the fundamental value that our right wing embraces perhaps too desperately–conservatism. What was thought in the past must be honored eternally, and as things were done in the past, so should they be done today. Science is subservient to faith; certainly nothing as fundamental as climate would change without God’s approval. People should live out the circumstances of their birth with dignity, accepting suffering or frustration as part of a grand plan. And above all, never challenge the words of patriarchs and ancient polemicists.

Lefties, on the other hand, savor their role as iconoclasts and feel invigorated rather than threatened by progress. Disruption and dislocation are inevitable to us. The scientific method is itself an article of faith.

In view of such basic contrasts stupid arguments are not all that surprising. They are, at least, thoroughly American.


Best regards,

Charles Clouse


Democratic Service Club


If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from January 11, 2015 Newsletter:

Welcome to the New Age 

I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones

Enough to make my systems blow

Welcome to the new age, to the new age…

Radioactive, song by Imagine Dragons


At this time of year it’s hard for us Democrats to know whether to look back or forward. Are there still valuable lessons to be mined from last fall’s election results? Or are we better off to suck it up and move resolutely ahead, making the best we can of this new age as the minority party?

For Californians it’s not so tricky. We live in a state that not only moves incessantly forward, but also shows the rest of the country what the road looks like and what the benefits of getting there can be. For instance, while Congress looks for ways to block any effort to integrate undocumented immigrants into the nation they live in, California sees the obvious benefits of promoting highway safety and financial responsibility among all motorists regardless of immigration status.

But for the nation as a whole, I’m afraid, we are in for a long, grim slog of disunity and acrimony. Until this ugly rightward lurch we’ve been experiencing is stopped and the worst elements of the opposing party are again marginalized rather than pandered to, we can expect the rest of the Obama administration to look much the same as it has these past six years.

Locally, we can be proud of the officials we’ve elected at all levels of government, from school boards to Congress. Many were incumbents with admirable records of accomplishments and our expectations for their continued efforts remain high. And even the pitched battle between big oil and environmentalists–nothing new around here, but newly invigorated by Measure P–left us disappointed, but cognizant that the public urge to protect our county’s air, water, and general livability is very much alive.

Overall, though, the message for political activists and volunteers is that if there is to be a new age–and there always is, just wait!–it is ours to shape. We don’t win all the battles, but we can show up prepared for the debates and speak up for a more just and equitable society.

Defining those concepts is what partisan politics is about, and we should all take our turn at the microphone.

Happy New Year, and Happy New Age!

Best regards,

Charles Clouse


Democratic Service Club

If you have questions or comments about Club activities, please contact me at cjclouse@cox.net


Democratic Service Club


If you have questions or comments about Club activities, please contact me at cjclouse@cox.net

from November 17, 2013 Newsletter:

Counting Votes Before They’re Cast

I had four yard signs in my front yard from well before Labor Day until the final results of the city council election were totaled. Like most Democrats, I was pleased with the results, yet somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t have my way in all four races. I went to two election night parties downtown and then home to bed.

Still, I am anticipating an ongoing era of good governance in Santa Barbara, and planning on supporting the Mayor and the Democratic majority’s work in all the ways the DSC can. What I am not doing, however, is second guessing how easy it would have been to achieve a 5 – 2 majority if only our party were more cohesive–or at least had better math skills.

Votes are given to candidates as expressions of confidence, not owed to them, and certainly not predictably divvied up among political cousins when a candidate opts out of a race. The two candidates who finished just outside the top three–both Democrats–each earned about 5,500 votes. The third place finisher, a conservative Republican, earned just over 6,500 votes.

Does that mean one of those Democrats could have walked away with 11,000 votes and a seat on the council if only the other had not had the audacity to seek public office? Dream on!

Some of those votes were cast simply on the basis of name recognition. Some were cast by people who would not otherwise have voted for three candidates–or for any candidate at all–if their favorite had not been in the race. Some were meant as personal tribute or silent protest about some narrow issue that cuts across party lines.

Certainly, some people are willing to take the advice of strangers who call them on the phone late in October, grateful that it’s not another building contractor or worthy cause asking for employment or a donation, but generally, I’d say, Santa Barbarans like to read up, listen to candidates, and decide for themselves how to apportion votes in a local election.

That is, if they’re interested in voting at all. Statistics from the recent election show a very steep decline in voting from folks aged 56 and older (44.8%) down to those 18-30 years old (7.4%). Overall, only 38.3% of Santa Barbara’s registered voters took the trouble to vote. Notably, though, ours was the highest turnout in the state among cities and counties holding elections that day.

So could one of our near misses been a winner, if only…? That, of course, begs the question: Which one? The DSC doesn’t endorse; we work. But we also expect careful consideraton from our fellow Democrats who make endorsements. That’s where consensus and communication begins and harmony springs.

Best regards,

Charles Clouse


Democratic Service Club


If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com

from October 13, 2013 Newsletter:

It’s More Than Postage

It may seem a little too pat, but while stuffing envelopes for the current city council campaign I had my latest flash of insight into what’s behind the remarkable polarization in American politics. It’s right there on the postage stamps. They say it all.

Ironically, we are a nation divided by our devotion to four noble values: Freedom, Liberty, Justice, and Equality. It says so on each block of four stamps depicting the same flag.

Those are not always compatible, complementary pillars of a united populace. Republicans seem to favor Liberty and Freedom no matter what the cost to Justice and Equality. Democrats, on the other hand, have a gut-level dedication to fostering Justice and Equality for all, even if it means sacrificing a smidgen of personal Liberty.

As fundamental to liberty as it may seem to own a gun, many of us would sacrifice the pleasures of ripping off thirty rounds in a couple seconds for the intrusion of background checks. And we’d gladly embrace limits on campaign donations even if writing checks is equated with free speech.

The Republican soul these days, however, appears to be driven by perceptions of personal liberty and a certain blindness to how that may impinge on someone else’s expectations of fairness and equal treatment. We Democrats would fight to protect our freedom and even that of other nations, but we are just as vigilant about the existence of injustice and inequality in our society as a whole. We see the connection. Not everyone does.

Can these values be as easily reconciled as the U.S. Postal Service leads us to believe? Perhaps, but I can assure you at least there are always more envelopes to stuff, seal, and stamp–something the Democratic Service Club is highly skilled at.

Best regards,

Charles Clouse


Democratic Service Club


If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com

from September 19, 2013 Newsletter:

Boots on the Ground

Lots of talk these days about “boots on the ground.” Any phrase like that, used to the point of cliché, starts to grate. And that tends to blunt what needs to be sharp, incisive public debate. Currently, “boots on the ground” describes a military commitment that almost no one wants to make in a messy foreign war.

But for the DSC “boots on the ground” is our proud specialty. Our foot soldiers regularly go into the field to register new voters. We provide candidates with brigades of willing volunteers to fold, stuff, seal and stamp their campaign mailings. And those who can, willingly march into neighborhoods to talk to–pacify if necessary–fellow Democrats.

We’d give out medals if we could, but all we can do is sincerely thank those of you who have volunteered to join the fray. Those who have recently taken on precinct walks for the Central Committee’s endorsed candidates–setting out each Saturday on some very warm mornings and afternoons–thank you! By the way, walkers now meet at the Party’s new headquarters at 114 E. Haley, Suite K.

Thank you also to our mailing crew who spent over two full days just after Labor Day getting out mass mailings for both Rep. Lois Capps and Council candidate Gregg Hart. The honor roll consists of Sondra Aggeler, Vicki Allen, Els Andersen, Jodi Byron-Cooper, E.J. Borah, Tracy Bray, Jan Clouse, Peter and Paulina Conn, Barbie Deutsch, Chris Dille, Deborah Dodge, Mickey Flacks, Gail Gillies, Sally Hearon, Bev Herbert, Jane Herner, Rocky Jacobson, Greg Jacobson, Dylan Jacobson, Tanner Jacobson, Stephanie Johnstone, Max Keller, Ken Korten, Nancy Miller, Charlotte Nelson, Jamie Rosenthal, Gail Teton-Landis, and Barbara Wagner.


Many of those same members named above also took tours of duty at the Pro-Choice Coalition’s Great American Write-In and at the Democratic Party’s Labor Day picnic. (More coverage of both events below.)

All wars are messy, but at least ours aren’t foreign. Semper Fi.


Best regards,

Charles Clouse


Democratic Service Club


If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com

from August 25, 2013:


The kick-offs are complete, the endorsements mostly gathered, stump speeches honed, forums scheduled, and lawn signs available. It’s officially campaign season for the City of Santa Barbara’s mayor and council races. And as is often the case, Democrats have an array of very strong candidates to vote for.

Three of the six city council seats plus the job of mayor–all non-partisan offices–will be filled in an entirely mail-in ballot election, concluding Nov. 5. City issues and sensible solutions, though, are not always non-partisan, and the Democratic Service Club would like to help elect our incumbent mayor and achieve a five-vote majority of Democrats willing and able to tackle the challenges of making life better for all of Santa Barbara’s diverse citizenry.

Of course, not all of us live in the City, but the issues and decisions there fit into the direction our County heads in, and that in turn is part of what we expect from State and Federal office holders. Fortunately, our current representatives at all levels are already preparing for crucial races next year.

And like “the Dude,” the DSC abides, ready to do our part. There’s much to do and to know about–keep reading.

Best regards, Charles Clouse

President, Democratic Service Club


If you have questions or concerns about Club activities, please contact me at  democraticserviceclub@gmail.com


from August 10, 2013 Newsletter:

Congressional Malpractice

Congress has gone home for the summer, and I’m tempted to consider that a blessing. Like physicians, legislators should be required to take an oath to first and foremost do no harm. But so far this year, it’s been hard to find any healing going on, and malignant intent is everywhere evident. Last summer, just before the annual recess (does that term suggest elementary school to anyone besides me?) Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein riffed on “14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever.” He was, of course, referring to the 112th—a relatively benign group compared to the 113th, which has surprised all of us— from cynical lefties to the House Speaker—with its unsurpassed venality and self-debasement.

Among other flaws, Klein cited how “They’re not passing laws” (#1), “They’ve set back the recovery,” (#4), and “They’ve lost our credit rating” (#5). The last Congress’s penchant for repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010 is legendary, but easily surpassed by the current lot.

If it were just a matter of not getting much done, it could be the subject for rational analysis such as it received recently from Bloomberg.com with their piece titled “Congress Is on Pace to Do Less Than Record-Breaking Low.” But Republicans in Washington are indeed doing harm. Think of it: the time-release malaise of the Sequester, missing the boat on gun regulation, food stamps in peril, students crushed by free-market interest rates, playing whack-a-mole with Obamacare, and leaving all major appropriations bills for the last week of the fiscal year.

In any other profession this would be labeled malpractice. But these guys have no interest in governing. For them it’s about sabotage, and the opportunity to do their worst is waiting just beyond Labor Day.

The New York Times summarized where things stand at the moment—which is at the precipice of complete government meltdown when Congress is unable to pass major appropriations bills by October 1 and refuses to raise the debt ceiling in November. Right now House Republicans can’t seem to agree among themselves on how best to play the role of saboteur, but I’m sure something will come to them while nurtured in the bosom of their home districts during August.

It’s a matter of itching for a government shutdown but lacking the nerve to commit to the specific spending cuts they would have to stand by. Outrageous cuts to transportation, energy, the environment, health and education became something that divided the Republican caucus between those who foment for smaller budgets when nothing specific is on the chopping block and the true believers who will cut government spending without regard to who’s harmed or what’s broken.

A recent Paul Krugman column in the New York Times makes clear the depressing collision of politics and economics in this situation. “The sad truth,” as Krugman puts it, “is that the modern G.O.P. is lost in fantasy, unable to participate in actual governing.”

Even sadder is that for the time being—and no one knows how long—we are essentially without a federal government. And in a couple months, that could be more literal than metaphorical.