By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
|Photo by Debra DiPaolo|
It’s one thing to refuse to fight dirty, and it’s another to just stand there and let a bully beat you up. This is a difference that Antonio Villaraigosa, unfortunately, never figured out in the last days of his losing campaign. With his unrelenting TV hit ads, some of them perfectly fair and many of them not, winner Jim Hahn turned his haplessly passive opponent into a punching bag. The outgoing city attorney hit him with the Vignali crack-pipe ad and with a shot at a tiny handful of his legislative votes — out of the former Assembly speaker’s many hundreds of good ones. It is tiresome to enumerate how many different ways the former front-runner could have defended himself without, as he was inclined to put it, fighting dirty, taking the low road. For instance, he could have dismissed the lies for what they were — lies. He could have pointed out that he asked for review of the crooked Vignali’s case, not clemency — a misstep shared with the reputable Cardinal Roger Mahony.
But if you do nothing but take it on the chin, if you insist that the act of defending yourself is wrong, you’re wounding yourself: Either you are passively agreeing with these attacks, conceding that you really are a bum, or you are telling the world that even you know that, whatever the truth of the attacks, you simply aren’t worth defending.
And you’re thereby declaring that, with so pathological a level of self-esteem, you lack what it takes to hold high office. Because officeholders are there to defend — it’s a major part of their job. They have to defend their policies, their supporters, their constituencies. If you don’t even care about Number One, how can we voters expect you to care about us? As the sage Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, then who is?”
This is a very basic social-survival thing that probably only goes back a million years or so. Voters want leaders with alpha genes, not wimp traits. In Villaraigosa’s case, thus went the majority of voters. I’m afraid that, in his quieter way, Mike Feuer — far and away the better of the two city-attorney candidates — also forgot that a campaign is really a fight, not a beauty contest. And accordingly, he neglected, in the final weeks, to keep his dukes up. Now that I think of it, over 25 years of covering political campaigns, I’ve noted a few candidates who thought they could ignore whatever their opponents were saying about them, all in the name of niceness. These candidates also all assumed that the voters would be polite enough to do the same. What else they all had in common was that they all lost.
Feuer also stumbled when he took for granted that most of the Los Angeles electorate knew his excellent City Council career from all those shots on the evening TV. We are, however, talking about a city in which probably half the voters can’t tell the difference between City Hall and the county Hall of Administration. It also often seemed that Feuer, because of his broad background in liberal legislation, assumed he’d get a lot of non-Anglo votes that were not his to take for granted. Couldn’t he, like winner Rocky Delgadillo, have done a little ethnic outreach himself, and recruited, say, Shaq O’Neal and Los Tigres del Norte for his campaign? Could he have learned to dance the cumbia? Without such breadth, Mike couldn’t help look a bit, well, aloof, like a member of the royalty of accomplishment compared to our urban realities. Which may be the way to win an election in Atherton — but not in L.A.
Finally, you had that awful — and retroactively symbolic — locale of Feuer’s election-night party. I think it perfectly symbolized the attitude that helped lose the election.
It is customary to have such affairs at public places, usually hotels and restaurants, and this for good reason. Well-wishers can come and go at will and create that form of camaraderie that elates victory and eases defeat. So Feuer, instead of doing the sensible thing and renting part of the Sportsmen’s Lodge or even the Mid-Wilshire El Pollo Loco, had his own event at someone’s stately private home in Hancock Park. Okay: There was probably not enough room there for a decent cross section of the number of campaign volunteers usually typical of a citywide election. But then, it was also not just anyone’s private home — but that of the politically prominent Democrat Jane Usher.
Yes, that’s right, folks. The House of Usher. How bizarrely inauspicious. I guess Castle Frankenstein was already booked for June 5.
I know someone in Studio City with a spacious spare garage apartment. He says that he’ll be happy to rent it to apparent 5th District council-race loser Tom Hayden if Hayden wants to run for the seat soon to be vacated by Joel Wachs. The former state senator would do well to think twice, though. Hayden was a terrible fit for the 5th, an extremely middle-class, middle-of-the-road district of whose very boundaries he seemed a little unsure when he interviewed for this paper’s endorsement. He’d be an even worse fit for the Valley-centered 2nd District with its urban-rustic Tujunga hinterland.