There’s something that has been rumbling around my gut about this election for some time and I’ve finally put my finger on it. No, I haven’t eaten any leafy greens, to my knowledge, that have been contaminated.
It came to me yesterday when Phil Angelides was in Oakland, emphatically repeating a line I have heard before–on Labor Day and at other venues: “There are a lot of people depending on us.” After that line, he talks about the working poor and the middle class who are struggling to make ends meet in this state, and starts to hammer home his campaign themes. These vary from stump speech to speech, as he delivers a heartfelt oration without notes. Many times, at this point he will talk about increased fees that have been added for college tuition at state universities. Or he might start in on tax breaks for the large campaign contributing corporations in this state while most of us struggle to make ends meet.
Angelides is trying his best to convey the importance of this election for Californians. He can add in all sorts of statistics and policy wonk stuff. But he is speaking as a populist–and presents his vision which contrasts with that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Today’s LA Times has an article by Robert Salladay “Angelides, Schwarzenegger Driven by Contrasting Views of American Dream: Schwarzenegger touts hard work as a key to success, while Angelides says the government also has a part to play” that has its finger pretty close to the pulse on this one.
If you follow just about everything that Arnold and the Republican Party have done since the primary election–from a purposefully dull formatted and timed Saturday night debate, to the silly question Arnold asked of Angelides in the one opportunity he had to ask a question in the debate, to the repeated message that Arnold’s innumerable spokespersons have woven into just about every remark in the press commenting on Angelides–that he is “desperate” in saying whatever it is that he said–the pattern emerges: They want YOU to be discouraged and to not vote. They want the election declared over. If you don’t believe me, consider the LA Times Editorial today “They Debate, We Nap: You didn’t miss much by not tuning into Saturday night’s gubernatorial debate. And that’s by design.” [Emphasis added]
Every time from now til Election Day that you hear the word “desperate” from the Republican flaks, I’d like you to think of the phrase “don’t vote.”
Couple this with the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger, while he said right after the primary that he might endorse a Democrat, hasn’t done so in one instance. (If he has, that is one of the best kept secrets of the campaign.) He hasn’t even endorsed Dianne Feinstein, a shoo in for re-election to the US Senate for goodness sakes.
While he won’t appear with the likes of Tom McClintock and the other extremely conservative candidates nominated by the Republicans in this state, he is busy behind the scenes helping the down ticket Republicans on the ballot. Behind closed doors, he is helping them to raise money. He wants these extremely conservative men, and the right-of-center positions he has taken on ballot propositions, to prevail.
The only way this can happen is if Democrats and even moderate to liberal independents stay at home and don’t bother to vote at all. They call this “voter suppression” in the game of politics. It’s as effective as faulty voting machinery, and can swing other races easily.
The Special Election last year was no mistake. It was by a pernicious design. Sure, it was overplayed and Arnold and company got their clock cleaned by the voters. But what Arnold and his Republican cohorts wanted to do was to get their way on a number of ballot measures. the same ones that the Governor in his recent remark in that dull debate let slip that he still supports. They calculated that the easiest way to accomplish this was in the perfect forum for an exceedingly low turnout–a special election–and one with no live candidates on the ballot. Only ballot propositions.
Well, what they ended up getting was one of the highest turnouts for a special election. The voters got riled up and handed him his hat. And thank God. One of the measures that was narrowly defeated was the parental notification measure on abortion–which is back on November’s ballot–and which Arnold has endorsed again just like he did in the Special Election.
Turnout is critical in the “down ticket” races. In a normal election year, the likes of these rightward Republicans would not stand much of a chance with many voters showing up. But if the turnout is low and skewed to the right, we can end up with just about anything. And that includes a lot of scary folks elected to these other statewide offices that don’t have much visibility but affect our daily lives–and even to the passage of Proposition 90–which will mess this state up for years far worse than Proposition 13 ever did.
Voting started yesterday. But it continues for 4 weeks. They’re hoping you won’t show up. It is up to “us” to get the vote out–and that means hitting the phones, going to campaign headquarters to see who hasn’t voted early and getting them to vote, and talking to our neighbors and explaining what is on the ballot. There are signs that much of that same coalition that defeated Arnold in the Special Election are now angry with Arnold’s comment that there was merit in the special election–and they are doing something about it. We have four weeks to get real live voters to the polls–and even to register new ones.
Rather than the election being already over with the voting by absentee ballot having started, we have an opportunity to identify get those who haven’t voted and to get them to the polls. The PPIC study–California’s Exclusive Electorate–makes clear what the outcome can be if we do our job and change the likely voter.
Even all of this may not help Phil Angelides get elected as Governor. But stranger things happened with Truman in 1948 just about this time. One thing is for sure, if everyone is lulled into thinking this entire election is preordained–it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it won’t be one that you will be happy with next year at the gubernatorial level–and below.
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