Told Ya I Told Ya So

The fallout from Jerry Sanders’ gay marriage flip flop keeps falling as Jerry’s falling out with conservative Republicans intensifies. Check out the U-T Article on East County Republican politicians taking Sanders to task. East County — a seat of conservative reactionism? Who’d have thunk it…..

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Told Ya So

I was on KPBS’s These Days yesterday morn (good to see Tom Fudge back in the saddle). Topic: the political storm following Jerry Sanders flip flop on gay marriage. My basic take: the most principled stance Sanders has taken while in office and the most politically damaging, at least when it comes to next June’s primary race.

At one point a caller disagreed that gay marriage would be a significant issue next year: pension funds, water and the brass tacks of day to day government would be the main focus. Then caller Andrea from Sorrento Valley took me to task for doing more to whip up GLTG issues as a wedge issue than either party has. If it weren’t for we pundits, in other words, making hay out of chaff, gay marriage would be a non-issue.

I had to respectfully disagree with both callers. Twere that it were that voters always put real issues ahead of emotional and irrational ones. If that was the case Karl Rove would have been out of work years ago.

I pointed out that, for better or ill (more “ill”) Sander’s decision had made national headlines when little else he has done has: we were just discussing what was – not necessarily what should be. I further pointed out that, if you don’t think the GOP and conservative Republicans consider this a significant issue—wedge or otherwise—you’re just not paying attention.

After the show I get into my car, turn on the radio and channel surf on the ride home. When I drive I’m constantly fiddling between NPR and AM squawk, from Rush on KOGO 600 on the conservative left of the San Diego dial to Air America KLSD 1360, for however long that lasts, on the progressive right of the dial. I like to get an idea what the blowhards of the radio blogosphere are pontificating about on both sides of the aisle. That and I can’t stand to listen to any of them for more than a few minutes at a stretch.

So, anyway, I’m driving and listening and the very first thing I here is conservative Dennis Praeger on ultra-conservative KCBQ 1170. The topic de jur: Jerry Sanders, his abysmal flip flop on gay marriage and how important an issue it is to conservatives. Praeger said he thought gay marriage was THE issue of our times, far more important than things like for instance, gun control.

(Which made me wonder just what Praeger, a commentator whose whole schtick is about how his views are based on unshakeable moral principles as opposed to mere politics, bases his claim to the moral high ground on? I mean, just how many people have been killed in unlicensed gay marriage ceremonies? As opposed to the 35,000 or so Americans killed by firearms each year in America? That’s right, Dennis, your principles ARE more important than 35,000 lives. Like I said, I can only listen to any of these buffoons for so long…)

Then, last night I’m picking up my daughter from a friend’s house around 10 p.m. (a gang of them were watching the season premiere of House) and I hear on KCBQ’s “Edge of America” (hosted by one Rick Amato, an empty talking head so ill informed that he thought Bonnie Dumanis was the City District Attorney and didn’t know she was gay—this guy makes Rick Roberts look like a sensitive intellectual). Amato’s guest was none other than local reformed-gay turned-homophobic gay-basher James Hartline.

Topic du nuit? You guessed it. Jerry “Gay-lover” Sanders. Hartline, in a Falwellesque rant, blamed all the corruption in San Diego on the corrupt morality of our politicians and accused Sanders and Dumanis of being part of the gay conspiracy to take the gay issue off the table so they can distract as with issues like running the city, meanwhile pushing through their hidden gay agenda to take over society. Hartline went on to point out that Sanders gave money to groups that put on gay camps to brainwash children into becoming gay. At which point I turned to music.

(Note to the KCBQ program director: Dude, how do you stomach putting this drivel on the air?)

There you go. Told ya so. Look, I know Hartline is a nut job, Dimato is a troglodyte and Praeger is a moral fraud. But people listen to them. Little old ladies alone in their house late at night yearning for a human voice, angry white guys looking for someone to blame–conservative Republicans, for the most part, many of whom will base their vote on ephemeral, visceral issues like gay marriage.

And it is going to hurt Sanders in next year. Not because I want it to be so. Not because I say it will be so. But because that’s the way the political process has been going (or, perhaps better said, corroding) for the last generation.

Which is actually good news for San Diego Democrats whose chances of winning the mayor’s office (if they can only find a candidate…) will be much higher should Republican votes throw more support behind truer social conservative Steve Francis rather than Gentleman Jerry in the June primary. Facing a candidate from the conservative right, San Diego Democrats should be able to rally moderates and progressives to victory. Indeed, my bet is Democrats not only keep their 5:3 advantage on the council, but come out of the November election with a Democrat in the mayor’s office and a 6:3 majority on the council.

But more on that later.

Good For the Gander

The California GOP’s plot to redistribute California’s crucial 55 electoral votes by congressional district as opposed to the current, winner take all method, is attracting increasing attention from sea to shining sea.

I blogged on the subject last month. My fellow CityBeat contributor D.A. Kolodenko wrote on the topic in last week’s edition. and yesterday morning the New York Times published an op ed entitled “G.O.P.’s Dirty Tricks Begin. ” Even Steven Colbert got into the act Tuesday night, turning the Republican electoral coup into one of his “The Word” segments. All told, there are hundreds of articles on the topic and the blogosphere is ablaze with the righteously indignant of both parties flaming each other.

Democratic hand wringing over the possible loss of so much of the Golden States electoral gold focus on just how incredibly audacious, power grabbing and diabolical (read: so brilliantly Rovian ) the Republican ballot initiative slight of hand. It positively takes the breath away from Machiavellianly challenged California Democrats. The California GOP may not be able to win elected office at the polls but there’s still apparently some fight left in that beaten old dog.

OK California and National Dems. Enough with “oh, oh, the mean boy stole my lollipop.” Get over it. Do you really want to win the Presidency or not? (And that answer better be yes, if for no other minor reasons than the current Republican President has produced the worse foreign policy fiasco since Vietnam and has set up a potential economic slide to rival that of the stagflation-filled 1970s.) Time to get off your moralistic high horses and fight fire with fire.

I strongly recommend California Democrats immediately start digging into deep pockets to fund the signature collection campaign to qualify at least one (if not two) rival poison pill initiatives to counter the GOP plan. Something in the order of $3 million to $4 million should do, with another five million or so for the June campaign. And before you whine about the money, you need to remind yourself, for what does it gain a party save ten million dollars in California only to spend a half billion dollars and lose the Presidency?

The first proposition I propose would be called the “California Fair Play” electoral reform initiative. It should be written to basically say that any changes to California law regarding the awarding of California’s presidential electors made before or after the passage of this initiative would only go into effect contingent on the passage of similar electoral reform in states whose total electoral vote count equals a minimum of 270 electoral votes – half, in other words. Or if you want to keep it simpler, simply say until half of the other states pass similar reform. The argument in favor of this initiative would be a pitch to preserve the power of the nation’s largest state in helping pick the president. Dividing the state’s electoral vote amounts to reducing the nation’s most populous state to a couple of Ohio’s and a Mississippi, for cryin’ out loud. Why should California willingly diminish its own power to pick a President if no other state is willing to do so?

The second initiative would award California’s electoral vote to whichever national candidate wins the majority of the popular vote and would take be written so as to legally take precedence over any reform measure to divide California’s electoral vote . Call it the “The Majority Rules Initiative “or some such. State legislators were talking about trying to form a compact with other states to do just that in the wake of the 2000 electoral fiasco.

If the first initiative passes then the Republican initiative, even if it passes, is voided (as would be the second initative if it, too, were to pass) and the current status quo is maintained. State Republicans have already submitted their ballot language to the Secretary of State and would not be able to withdraw and rewrite their initiative to avoid this poison pill .

If just the second proposition wins the GOP scheme to divide the California electoral vote would fail though Democrats would run the risk that, in a close ’08 vote (except, of course, it ain’t gonna be close…) Democrats wouldn’t be able to do a reverse Florida (winning the electoral vote with California while narrowly losing the popular vote.

Then again, avoiding another Florida is in all of our long term political and constitutional interests. Which is what makes the GOP proposal in California so insidious. The real strategic hope of the authors of this initiative (and possibly the only hope for the GOP to keep the White House) is precisely to throw enough California electors their way so that their candidate can win without having to go through the quaint democratic motions of actually getting a majority of the vote. Thus their claims to be pushing a democratic reform is a smokescreen for what truly is yet another GOP attempt at an electoral coup. And this is the party of Lincoln.

Even if the two proposed initiatives fail, their presence on the ballot would create enough voter choice (and confusion) to likely divide the vote so that none of the three initiatives pass. California Democrats have to get over their queasiness at playing down and dirty politics. Putting rival propositions on the ballot simply to kill another one is not cynical politics at its worse. Okay, maybe it is. But sometimes the ends DO justify the means,.

Big business didn’t hesitate to do so to kill Big Green,back in 1990. Industry, mining and farming groups fearful of the hit to profits they would take to comply with the ambitious initiative to promote environmental sustainability qualified two rival ballots deliberately created to confuse and divide voters. And it worked.

Democrats doing the same to kill the oh-so innocently entitled “Presidential Electors Initiative” would be more than justified to use the same tactic. If it’s any consolation to them, either of the two initiatives I’ve proposed here would make better law than the Republican plan.

Come on Democrats. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance, desperate times and all that. It’s time to pony up and play electoral hard ball.

The Return of Gentleman Jerry

I’ve had my disagreements with and disappointments in Mayor Jerry Sanders. But yesterday’s self-reversal on the issue of gay marriage was his finest hour and one of the most open and honest pronouncements by any San Diego politician that I can remember. Only a complete misanthrope (ah, that would be you, Rick Roberts – and shame on you KFMB for keeping that travesty of talk on the air) could not appreciate the depth of emotion and moral reflection that drove the Mayor to this decision. One may have legitimate disagreement on the policy the Mayor has endorsed but the Mayor must still be given his due for doing what he truly felt to be the right thing, political calculations be damned.

Of course, giving the misanthropic nature of many local erstwhile Republicans (all those little Rickys out there) this decision may well cost Sanders his reelection. Republicans are already talking about running a truer-red hearted candidate like Steve Francis. This time around, Francis might edge Sanders in the primary, coming in second to whomever the Democrats put forth. Such is the cost of principle in today’s politics.

But, Jerry Sanders, today you are that increasingly rare commodity. Today you are a leader.

Wilsonian

What is it with San Diego politicians who build their early civic careers based on outreach and understanding to the regions large Hispanic community, including those who are, shall we say, legal-status challenged but then, when the bug of national attention bites them, become rabidly anti-illegal?

Why do they, at least if they are of the Republican persuasion, tend to get the Wilson flu?

That would be the Pete Wilson flu (scientific name: Influenza I-Love-Hispanics-Unless-There-Are-More-Votes-To-Be-Gained-From-White Xenophobes Wilsonious variant 1996). Back in the day, Wilson was “Mister community outreach personalized,” “Mister Mayor of America’s Finest Ethnically Diverse City” and later US Senator from California who received large backing from the state’s Hispanic community.” But then he got the Presidential flu bug and suffered delusions that immigrant bashing was his surest route to the 1996 GOP nomination.

OK, illegal immigrant bashing. But I’d bet my last dollar that the large majority of those who are the most fired up over “illegal immigration”—the kind who like to sit in lawn chairs tailgating by the border they watch with army surplus binoculars—would, if given a helpful dose of truth serum, admit they’d be really happy if all those foreigners from points south were shown the national emergency exit. Yes, Rick Roberts—and most of your listeners—I mean you.

Boy, that worked out well.

And then there’s Brian Bilbray, erstwhile congressman from the 50th Congressional, a district he’s spent less actual time living in than D.C. Back in the day, when he was a South Bay poll representing the most ethnically diverse area of greater San Diego as a member of the city council and later mayor of Imperial Beach and then on the County Board of Supervisors, Bilbray was a moderate bordering on progressive on most issues,, including illegal immigration. Same when he ran and won his race to represent the 49th Congressional. Then he got voted out of Congress largely over his Clinton impeachment vote. One successful carpetbagging run to succeed Randy “the Dukester” in the more conservative (and far whiter) 50th Congressional District and, viola, Mister Moderate is now one of the harshest anti-illegal immigrant voices to be heard.

Last April Bilbray co-sponsored former California Attorney General cum Congressman Dan “The Man Who Was So Inept He Lost to Gray Davis” Lungren’s bill to essentially strip 14th Amendment protections – including the birthright of citizenship—from the children of illegal immigrants born in the US. Lungren said he thought this legislative attempt to circumvent the constitution would pass constitutional muster because there are already exemptions to the 14th Amendment in regards to the children of foreign diplomats born on American shores. Except that exemption is there under standards of international law affection diplomacy and national sovereignty, not immigration status. Congress can’t trump the constitution without an amendment.

And this guy was the top law enforcer in California?

Today Bilbray cosponsored legislation to punish cities that adopt “sanctuary” status for illegal immigrants and, more importantly, elevates the violation of legal immigration to a felony offense. Nice one. If the proposed legislation has any meaning, I look forward to Congressman Bilbray next sponsoring legislation to appropriate monies to increase the size of out Border Patrol, INS and Federal Prisons by the 500% to 1000% that would be necessary to enforce such a law. Maybe we can start building big, concentrated holding facilities for these new felons out in the desert somewhere? How delightfully police state-ish!

But, of course, Bilbray is not serious with this bill, which has about as much change of moving through Congress as a resolution to put George W. Bush’s face on Mount Rushmore. And that’s not just because Democrats would block it. Conservative (read John Birch vintage) Republicans running in ultra-conservative Congressional Districts (in California, pretty much any district east of I-5…) don’t want to see any meaningful resolution of the immigration issue, either. It is such a red-meat, code-word issue to motivate white conservatives to the polls that no thinking GOP-right stalwart would want to take it off the table.

Bilbray’s proposed bill is elections are a’comin’ demagoguery, pure and simple. Like the flag protections amendment (to wit, amend the Constitution that protects free speech to prohibit the burning of a symbol of American values like free speech as an expression of said free speech), the Congressional term limits amendment and, probably, the “hey, ain’t mothers swell!” amendment that will be offered up in Congress between now and November, 2008.

Gee, I wonder if Brian ever hangs out in his old hood, anymore? If he does, I’m sure the folks around the South Bay can barely recognize him.

Lone Star

If you want to have fun listening to the President’s inevitable next pep talk on Iraq (or has it been officially renamed Iwreck yet?) you should try doing what I did listening to last night’s speech. You’ll be sure to have a blast (from the past).

Every time the President says “terrorists”, “radicals”, “extremists” or “Al Qaeda”, substitute “communist”; every time he says “Iran” substitute “China” or “Soviet Union” (fielder’s choice); and every time he says “Iraq” substitute “Vietnam”. Then slip into a tie die tee-shirt, fire up a lava lamp, put some Stones on the CD (or dig out some real vinyl if you have any lying around) and next thing you’ll know you’ll have the full sensation of having been time-traveled back to 1966. You’ll practically feel Elvis rocking and LBJ rolling (over the American people, that is) as Vietnam rages.

At least, that’s how I felt watching the President last night. Just about every platitude he trotted out to justify a continuation of a policy just about everyone but he admits to be a failure (which I’m sure, by this point, even includes Dick Cheney—only Cheney just doesn’t give a damn) harked back to similar phrases and arguments used by LBJ and other war supporters (like Dick Cheney, Donny Rumsfeld and a younger but no less unwise George W) to justify sticking with the morass of South East Asia.

What a blast from the past.

And what’s with Presidents from Texas anyway? The Lone Star State has had two chances (not counting Bush I who was and is about as Texan as a Maine lobster) to prove the mettle of its favorite presidential sons. Both dragged the nation through divisive, costly and, ultimately, futile wars , wrecking the economy in the process. Can we all agree to swear off Texans for a while-say, four hundred years–America? Virginia has a good track record in providing chief executives – Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc.—why not give them another try? Or a Minnesotan or Oregonian – haven’t given them a shot yet.

But please, not another Texan. Unless we want to time warp back to the 1960s again….

Land of Opportunity

Which would be–if a Pew Research poll and piece working it’s way around the internet by a former Reagan Treasury official—not these United States. At least anymore.

The Pew Research poll, published this morning, concludes that “far more Americans now see their country as sharply divided along economic lines.” According to the poll results, in 1988 only 26% of Americans thought the country is divided between haves and have nots; today the country is evenly split 48%/48% on the issue. The number of Americans who see themselves as falling in the have-not category has also grown significantly, doubling from 17% to 34%.

Meanwhile, in a scathing analysis by Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration and a former assistant editor of the Editorial page of that bastion of Capitalism, The Wall Street Journal, the hollowing out of the American economy by over twenty years of Reaganomics and neo-liberal trade policies is blisteringly laid out.

Craig opens the piece, entitled “American Economy –R.I.P.” with the statement that “The US economy continues its slow death before our eyes, but economists, policymakers, and most of the public are blind to the tottering fabled land of opportunity.” He concludes “Hubris prevents realization that Americans are losing their economic future along with their civil liberties and are on the verge of enserfment.” What flows between is a detailed analysis of the real numbers in US trade and productivity that point toward a continued downward spiral for US middle and upper middle class households.

Click the links above for the documents in their entirety—they are a worthwhile read. They also underscore what is likely to prove to be the final nail in the Bush/GOP political coffin (as if Iraq wasn’t enough) –- the failure of the Republican supply-side agenda to provide true prosperity to the vast majority of the American public. In 1992 Bush the elder went down to defeat because, as Bill Clinton, they forgot “It’s the Economy Stupid. It looks like Bush II didn’t learn from Poppy’s mistake.