Through it all, we’ve examined the ongoing spectacles of local politics. Here’s Ron Curran writing in 1984 on a legendary City Council scoundrel: "Art Snyder is the Stanley Kowalski of the City Council. In a sphere increasingly populated by Gucci-smooth, mediagenic political ballerinas, Snyder is the classic street fighter . . ."
At times, we’ve been frankly prescriptive. In our "Remaking L.A." issue, Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin submitted "50 Modest Proposals for Remaking L.A.," among which were:
• Stop construction of Metro Rail and devote the funds to light rail and improvements to the bus service [which, if implemented in 1989, would have made billions of dollars available to upgrade the part of our transit system that people actually use].
• Municipalize ownership of the Dodgers [who, alas, were not only not municipalized, but Murdoch-ized].
III. Endorsements R Us
Since our founding, the Weekly has been the only citywide paper that Angelenos could count upon to provide endorsements in federal, state and local races. (The Timestends not to endorse in party primaries and many district races, and in a pinch has been known to support Pete Wilson for governor.) A look back at past Weeklyendorsements dispels the belief clung to in some circles that the Weekly has drifted rightward across the decades. In fact, there have been far more third-party endorsements in the ’90s than in the ’80s. What holds constant across the years is the paper’s sense that merely endorsing many of the Democrats it has felt compelled to support is not enough. (1984: "Elect Mondale in November. Protest in December." 1992: "We plan to be a thorn in President Bill Clinton’s side over the next four years. That’s why we’re endorsing him.")
Some endorsements actually display the cold fury we’ve felt at the necessity of supporting some particularly egregious candidate. Here’s a passage from our 1994 endorsement of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who in her first term in the Senate had gone back on her commitment to support universal health coverage and otherwise covered herself in obloquy:
And yet, and yet . . . Feinstein is merely a profile in cowardice. Michael Huffington is the reductio ad absurdum of the debasement of American democracy . . . Feinstein isn’t really running against a candidate, finally, at least not as the term is commonly understood. She’s running against a bank account and an ad agency, behind which, somewhere in the distance, lurks a rather lost soul who clings to those conservative homilies he can commit to memory as he is swept along by the ambitions of his wife.
And here’s an appreciation of our current mayor, from our 1997 endorsement of his challenger, Tom Hayden:
While President Clinton and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke out against 187, Riordan, who presides over the city where 187 stands to have the most disruptive impact, said not a syllable against it . . . In a sense, his deficiencies as a democratic leader match L.A.’s deficiencies as a democratic culture. Only a city in which participatory politics has virtually vanished could have Riordan as its mayor.
But it’s Pete Wilson who wins the Erich von Stroheim award as the Man We’ve Loved To Hate. Here’s the opening of our 1994 gubernatorial endorsement of Kathleen Brown, in which we speculated that the Nixonian genius for wedge issues had been inherited by the incumbent governor, who was then steering Proposition 187 to enactment: "Did Richard Nixon’s soul, if we may speak in oxymorons, enter Pete Wilson’s body when the governor eulogized the former president at his memorial service last spring?"
Still, a look back at past endorsements also points up how L.A. has changed for the better. In 1992, we wrote the following endorsement of a commendable candidate in a hopeless state Senate race: "Democrat Rachel Dewey, a physicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is an articulate feminist social democrat running against GOP veteran Newton Russell in Glendale and Pasadena. God bless her."
By 1996, however, the once solidly Republican Glendale-Burbank-Pasadena triangle had been so transformed by new immigrants, newly mobilized by the political programs of the new-model labor movement, that the Democrats captured that district and the two Assembly districts within it. What was God’s work a mere four years earlier had been transformed into a temporal insurgency (but not a temporary one — the Democrats held those seats in this month’s election).
And how, you may wonder, does the Weeklyarrive at its endorsement decisions? We don’t interview candidates in every race we endorse in, but we do when it’s necessary. I figure that during the ’90s, we’ve interviewed roughly 250 candidates — and there have been moments when the deliberative mien of our editorial board, stretched thin in the best of times, has come close to snapping altogether. There was the candidate who told us the political figure she most admired was former California Secretary of State March Fong Eu — or, as she called her, "March Foo Young." There was the candidate who’d been charged some years before with firing a gun into an apartment where he believed his then-wife was holed up with another man. He reassured us, however, that "the bitch wasn’t even there." Manning the frontiers of democracy so you can cast an informed ballot, the Weekly marches on!