Katz was elected, but otherwise, the hotels’ major accomplishment was to annihilate their own credibility. “They might as well have burned that cash,” SMART activist Madeline Janis-Aparicio said. “At least it would have given off some light and heat.”
But the coalition’s effort may, in effect, have done just that. Despite Katz’s election to the seat of retiring, pro-labor Councilman Paul Rosenstein, the council retains a progressive majority. Janis-Aparicio says that now is the time to get the original hotel living-wage ordinance passed.
“The defeat of Prop. KK is an overwhelming mandate to move ahead,” she said. “We now know the community is behind us.” Others suggest that the community backing may even help the union finally to attain its long-term goal of organizing the beach hotels. But despite its loss, the hotel coalition hasn’t given up. It’s still trying to play “gotcha” with the City Council — by supporting a measure to term-limit members.
The Worst Man
I still recall a 1960s account of a news conference hosted by a newly emergent young consumer activist named Ralph Nader. The solitary crusader was making a name for himself by bashing a hapless General Motors product known as the Corvair. Which probably was, as Nader put it, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” at least at any speed greater than you could legally drive through a school zone.
America was finally emerging from the ’50s era of consensual corporatism, and Nader pioneered this emergence. But even then, he raised some doubt about his own credibility. At that press conference, Nader, having claimed that the Corvair was the unsafest car in America, was asked what the second-most-unsafe car was. That he did not know undermined his argument. How can there be a first-place anything if there’s no second or third place? The news account left the impression that within Nader’s worthy, crusading demeanor, there was a touch of the crap artist, the self-promoter. And so it has always seemed to me.
Fast-forward to last week: Nader is on television, visibly ecstatic that his nearly 3 million votes may have edged the presidency to the Republican Party. This is indeed a powerful, if not necessarily worthy, thing to have done. Nader, of course, also takes credit for creating an environment for the new dawn of a third party, somewhere in the course of four years of Republican right-wing depredations.
But by now, Nader’s para-Stalinoid rhetoric against the corporate state and the two parties he claims equally represent that state sounds as stale as any Gore- or Bush-ism. And like his ideas, Nader is now showing his age, which is greater than either major-party candidate’s.
You couldn’t help wonder, though, whether somewhere deep in that crap-artist demeanor, there might still remain a touch of the old crusader. After this election, though, the question remains: Crusader for what?