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
Or perhaps the Democrats’ paradigmatic candidate was Texas’ great Latino hope, gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez, an oil and banking gazillionaire who dropped about $60 million of his own money into his campaign, and who also failed to craft a message of his own. Like McBride, Sanchez assailed his opponent, Republican Governor Rick Perry, for the state of the schools, and also for being beholden to the state’s imploding insurance industry. He had nothing to say, however, to the hundreds of thousands of dirt-poor Latinos, who would have gained greatly from a living-wage law that the Legislature had passed but that Perry had vetoed; the issue was not on Sanchez’s radar screen. Nor was he on Texas’; Latino turnout fell understandably short of the Democrats’ projections, and the Republicans won both the gubernatorial and senatorial contests in Texas going away.
Or maybe the paradigmatic Democratic candidate was California’s own Gray Davis, who eked out a scant five-point victory over Republican Bill Simon, a candidate of industrial-strength ineptitude. Davis took office in 1998 with a stunning 20-point victory, but he spent the first three and a half years of his term estranging the Democratic base by vetoing countless pieces of progressive legislation, and estranging almost the entire state by his relentless focus on fund-raising.
From one end of the country to the other, the Democrats had nothing to say. And the nation will suffer for their silence.
It will suffer in all the right-wing judicial appointments that will be ratified, for the Supreme Court on down, now that the Republicans control the Senate. It will suffer in the lack of scrutiny that the administration will receive now that the Democrats control no committees. Only the filibuster now stands between the nation and the unchecked rule of the most right-wing, xenophobic and belligerent administration in the nation’s history.
The first order of business for Democrats is clear: They must dump the utterly discredited masterminds of their disaster. Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, a let’s-make-a-deal businessman and fund-raiser of no discernible strategic savvy, went up against a popular president by crafting an indistinct message for undefined candidates. Labor leaders from AFL-CIO president John Sweeney on down should throw their considerable weight behind the efforts to drive these moneychangers from the party’s inner sanctum.
The second order of business is message. In a nation where economic insecurity is routine, where anxiety over jobs, retirement and health coverage is widespread, the failure of the Democrats to connect on any of these causes is astonishing. Unions can help Democrats to make those connections: Among union members, according to the AFL-CIO poll, awareness of the two parties’ differences on economic issues is such that 62 percent of white men and 65 percent of gun owners voted Democratic on Tuesday. But only 13 percent of the U.S. work force is unionized; for the rest of America, the party must look to itself to draw distinctions. It must craft plausible policies that will restore some security to the economic lives of Americans, and that cannot be done without challenging the all-wealth-to-the-wealthy economics of the administration. The party must also move to restore some security to the social lives of Americans; in particular, to defend abortion rights now that the administration may soon be able to nominate potential justices who’d create an anti-choice majority on the Supreme Court.
The Democratic Leadership Council and other center-right Democrats will argue that this election proves that Democrats dare not deviate from fiscal conservatism at home and hawkishness abroad. But the dwindling of the Democratic base argues precisely the opposite: that when Democratic candidates cease to be Democrats, Democratic voters cease to be voters. Republicans may have worked to depress Democratic turnout in this week’s election, but the real scandal is, so did the Democrats.
Occupy the Valley!
THE DWINDLING OF THE DEMOCRATIC base in Tuesday’s election had a lamentable effect on two local ballot measures. In Santa Monica, the beachfront hotels managed to defeat a living-wage ordinance that would have applied to the low-income workers of large employers in the city’s coastal zone. After waging a multimillion-dollar campaign prophesying pestilence and famine should the measure pass, the hotels prevailed by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. On Election Day, they also offered their workers $26 an hour to walk precincts against the ordinance — suggesting that if only such an election were held every day, Santa Monica’s poverty-wage hotel workers could attain a middle-class lifestyle.
In Los Angeles, Valley secession failed by just over a 2-1 margin, but narrowly carried, again by 51 percent to 49 percent, in the Valley itself. The city now faces the dilemma of how best to live with a core of defeated yet unreconciled secessionists. The only other time in U.S. history when a government confronted such a dilemma, of course, was in the years following the Civil War — and the policy the North adopted then seems the most prudent and equitable course for Los Angeles today. Accordingly, the Weekly favors a reconstruction policy of armed occupation for the Valley. Troops would enforce voting rights for illegal immigrant day laborers and gardeners, while secessionist leaders would be allowed to vote in future city elections provided they take loyalty oaths pledging never to attempt again to secede. The occupation would end when the ratio of secession stories to all other stories in the Daily News falls beneath 3-to-1.Harold Meyerson