Political Fix (19 February, 2015)

A New World

There has been a paradigm shift in the traditional way political campaigns play out in California. It used to be Republican against Democrat. But now, with the top-two primary election, and the fact that Republicans are no longer viable in statewide elections, it’s liberal against more liberal. And in the case of Barbara Boxer’s senate seat, it has become Black versus Hispanic.

Even though California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is half Black and half Indian, is the only one to officially declare her candidacy for the 2016 senatorial race, Hispanics are already crying foul.  Her announcement four weeks ago has strategically been accompanied with no campaigning. Obviously her declaration was hardly an attempt to connect with the voters, but more of a warning shot across the bows of her rivals–mainly Hispanics–to get out of her way. As a result, the Hispanic caucus is feeling pushed aside.

Does the average voter know Ms. Harris is running for senate? No. Does every possible political rival? Yes. Mission accomplished.

Jeb Bush seems to be employing the same tactic. At a recent New York fundraiser, Mr. Bush sent a warning shot over his 2016 Republican presidential rivals that he has the fundraising market cornered, at least on the East Coast. A private equity mogul recently hosted a Park Avenue soiree for Mr. Bush at $100,000 a person, a shocking amount even for Wall Street. That’s one small step for Chris Christie’s securing a Vice Presidential place on the ticket, and one giant step for Mr. Bush’s securing his party’s Presidential nomination.

As for the California senate race, the three next top contenders are former LA mayor, Antonio Villariagosa, and two US representatives, Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra. Of the three, Mr. Villariagosa has the least to lose and the most to gain. He has the least to lose because he won’t lose a congressional seat like his other two rivals might. He has the best chances because he has statewide name recognition being a former mayor of the largest city in California.

Not all that notoriety is positive. In a poll taken in the first week of February, Ms. Harris leads Mr. Villaraigosa by 45% to 23%. Even more interesting though is each candidate’s likability. According to a Public Policy poll, Ms. Harris has a 45% favorability rating with 30% viewing her unfavorably, while Mr. Villaraigosa’s favorability rating is at 26%, with 44% viewing him unfavorably.

The last time a senate seat was open in California was in 1993–and it was a different world. Teenagers did not have cell phones, and there was no on-line shopping, social media or Google. In 1993, when people registered to vote they were a Democrat or a Republican–or they did not get to vote in the primary. Now, nearly 25% of registered voters are “other” or “decline to state” and everyone can participate in the primary. Most significantly, Barbara Boxer ran a hard race against a Republican, a highly unlikely scenario to play out for Ms. Harris in 2016 California.

I Have All the Answers

My daughter and I took a four-hour Greyhound bus trip from hell a few months ago. Though we were one of the last to board, the front row seats were empty. I thought: What luck! I thought wrong. Being so close to the driver got me four hours of fascinating Greyhound history and Tea Party politics with a twist. He kept saying “I have all the answers, but they are not calling me.” I couldn’t imagine why.

Now I have a deeper understanding of this man’s almost Tourette’s syndrome-like repetition of, “I have all the answers.” I get it. Concerning the vast number of Republican presidential candidates and what to do with them–I have all the answers, but they are not calling me.

Right now the Republicans are facing a deep field of possible presidential candidates, most with adequate name recognition to make a go of it. After taking note of all the politicians who paraded around the Iowa Freedom Summit and all those who whored themselves out to the Koch brothers in Palm Springs, I counted a field of 16 serious contenders. That number of candidates will result in two things. First, an internecine bloodbath and, worse, several eight-hour televised debates.

The Republican Party has an easy out. There is a simple and efficient way to narrow the field right now and save everyone a lot of time and money.

The first step is easy. Legislators do not win presidential races, managers do. Eminent scholar, Texas Governor Rick Perry, made a jab at eminent wing nut Texas Senator Ted Cruz by saying, “I think that they (the American people) are going to make a rather radical shift away from a young untested United States Senator whose policies have really failed.” Mr. Perry has a point that Senators struggle in the oval office. Besides, the Republicans cannot be on record as continually criticizing Obama as a crappy manager because he only has experience being a Senator, and then turn around and nominate one themselves.

So, if you eliminate the Senators, and fringe candidates who have never held elected office, (Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carli Fiorina) that leaves 10 governors. Out of those, Mitt Romney just took himself out of the race in an announcement at the end of January. Sarah Palin took herself out of the race by giving an incoherent speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit that left many of her Republican detractors saying , “told you so.”  We can eliminate Chris Christie because, as I mentioned in last issue’s Political Fix, I think he is running for Vice President, and he digs himself an ever deeper political hole every week. We can then eliminate the religious fanatics, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, because gay marriage is a reality, and the Earth is more than 6000 years old–and we need our leader to live in the now.

That leaves Gov. Perry, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and the Koch Brothers’ sweetheart, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. But no one knows who the heck Mike Pence is, so let’s just eliminate him too. The most serious contender right now is Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker. As he dangerously ascends the polls, presidential candidates have sent their proxies out to the news talk shows to make sure everyone knows that Mr. Walker did not graduate college. It’s not just that Rhodes Scholars and master degrees are now the norm for a US President, it’s that we can’t have candidates “punt” serious political questions such as whether or not they believe in evolution. Finally, Gov. “Oops” Rick Perry is just too goofy and will not survive 20 minutes on the same debate stage with Mr. Bush.

They should go with him right now. The Republicans can spare themselves a nasty sand box brawl and save a lot of money that could instead go to defeating Hillary. Problem solved.

On the Subject of Republican Conventions

It’s a slow news cycle so I want to go down memory lane–well, my grandmother, Florence Doe’s memory lane. What reminds me of my grandmother is not just the talk of the Republican convention but the resurrection of former Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. She would always say that 1964 was the last true convention where no one knew who was going to win the nomination until the actual event. Sen. Goldwater did win on the first ballot in 1964, but it was a hard-fought battle that was not certain until the delegates’ votes were counted.

When I was in college, my grandmother lamented the fact that nowadays (early 1980s) everyone showed up for the parties and that the convention was now just one big coronation.

As Vice Chairman of the Republican State Central Committee, my grandmother attended the 1948, 1952, and 1956 Republican conventions as a delegate or an alternate. It was the 1952 convention and election that were really a personal highlight in her political career. Democrats had dominated the presidency since 1933, then dealt a crushing blow to the Republicans when Thomas Dewey lost in a stunner in 1948. But Republicans were excited in 1952, knowing that victory was so close they could taste it.

In 1952, no less than seven viable candidates showed up to fight for the nomination, six of them with committed delegates. The California delegation was committed to casting its votes for Governor Earl Warren, which it did on the first ballot. When Gov. Warren did not garner enough delegates to win the nomination, the California delegation was instructed, via telegraph, to switch their votes to Dwight Eisenhower. The excitement not only culminated when Mr. Eisenhower won the nomination, but when grandma’s friend, Senator Richard Nixon, was nominated as Vice President. The story goes that she held off reporters while Sen. Nixon sat with the California delegation and hurriedly wrote his acceptance speech.

In the 1980s, as her eyesight failed, we took long rides out to the ranch and I read her the newspaper every day during my summers between college. Not many people were talking about Sen. Goldwater by then, but my grandmother still was. He was known as Mr. Conservative–and he was her kind of conservative. Conservative in those days meant spending significantly less money than you had and keeping your nose out of other people’s lives. Talk of religion was absolutely out-of-bounds to the point where if a candidate had even mentioned Jesus he would have been branded as crazy.

Sen. Goldwater had taken a leave of absence from the American memory but not for her. As he grew older, he articulated where he stood on many issues of the day, showing what a real conservative was made of. “A lot of so-called conservatives today don’t know what the word means,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 1994 interview. “They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the Pope or some do-gooders or the religious right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”

According to the Washington Post, “During the 1990s, Sen. Goldwater spoke out in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military, and he worked in Phoenix to end job discrimination against gays. ‘The big thing is to make this country, along with every other country in the world with a few exceptions, quit discriminating against people just because they’re gay,’ he said. ‘You don’t have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay. And that’s what brings me into it.’”

Mr. Goldwater was her type of conservative. I wish they would both come back.

How Do I Say Goodbye?

This is the last column that I will be writing in my family home. I’m having a hard time saying goodbye, so I’ll just write a few of my favorite memories:

Listening to Teddy sing show tunes in her bedroom. Decorating the house for all the holidays, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course the grand daddy of them all, Christmas. Seeing Chuck’s sweaty corpse draped over the TV room couch after working all day in the orange grove in 100-plus degree heat. Watching Panther being born in the bottom drawer of Teddy’s dresser.  Watching Manny instantly know how to ride a dirt bike after my husband, having tried to show him how it’s done, lost control and plowed right into the lemon grove.  Summertime dinners out on the brick. Easter egg hunts. Movie night. When the kids took a mattress and sledded down the stairs. When Manny, Mercedes and I went “ghost hunting” and Manny, the older brother, ran back to the safety of the car. When Mercedes and I went for a walk, at night, in the fog, then couldn’t find the house; we did find a dog’s corpse, though. Joseph and I, the kids and their friends playing marathon rounds of charades into the summer nights. Never knowing who was going to be asleep on our couch when I got up in the morning. Listening to the boys play video games for hours as I wrote in my room. Listening to Manny play guitar and record his symphonies on his computer. Baking Alex’s 11th birthday cake and realizing that I had accidently cooked and frosted brownies and no one noticed. Watching Alex hog tie an already decorated and lighted Christmas tree to a door so it wouldn’t fall over because the trunk split. Canning thousands of jars of Elberta peach jam to sell at local crafts fairs.

I loved wrapping presents at midnight in my bedroom while all the kids slept. I loved listening to their squeals Christmas morning as they opened their stockings.  I loved the thousands of hours I spent writing in my bedroom with the view of the foothills–first, all of the family genealogies that took me 10 years to complete, and now the Valley Voice.

The landlords, close relatives, had their reasons to make us leave our home, head-scratching though they were: It’s best for the kids; because supposedly Joseph and I were getting divorced; because “Catherine’s problem is that she is just too spoiled.”

I gaze out the window at my car with 245,000 miles on it–a car that I share with three other people–as I sit on our rollout craigslist couch with a cracked tooth in the back of my mouth and wonder how much more spoiled I am going to get. Because I don’t think I can survive any more spoiling.

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