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
Neither of the candidate’s top advisers, however, demonstrate any qualms about the sour tone of the election. South told the San Jose Mercury News that negative ads are a “public service,” that campaigns “are about contrasts and comparisons. I don’t think a campaign ever starts to jell until people have in their minds certain contrasts and comparisons. That’s when people make decisions.”
South’s apologia was echoed in the same report by Angelides’ hired gun, Mulholland. “It’s good to have back-and-forths,” he said when asked about the negative ads. “Providing contrasts is very important to voters.” That is, of course, provided there are any Democratic voters left who care enough to participate by next week.
While the two Democrats are busy sucker-punching each other, the man one of them will face in November — Arnold Schwarzenegger — is staging a steady political comeback. Distancing himself from Bush and much of the national Republican Party, he’s cut deals with the Democratic Legislature to support the upcoming public-works bonds initiative. Undercutting Angelides’ argument for higher taxes to fund education, the governor made another deal with the teachers union and has pledged almost $5 billion in windfall revenues toward public schools. Now he’s talking about imposing a raise in the minimum wage before Democratic lawmakers can get around to passing their own similar bill.
All this leaves some ground-level Democrats feeling rather bewildered, wondering just what their party’s greater strategy might be.
One way to measure the distance between the official Democratic Party and its campaigns on the one hand, and actual Democrats on the other, is to spend a few moments on that corner of St. Andrews Street and 36th Place, the site of the Baptist church where Westly spoke so convincingly ?last week.
“Everything down here is up for grabs,” said veteran African-American pol and former L.A. Councilman Robert Farrell as we leaned on the church railing and waited for Westly to arrive. “Ain’t no difference,” he said of the two campaigns. “Either Democrat’s gonna work for these folks,” Farrell, who declared no preference, said with a purposeful lament. Either one’s okay, because both campaigns are equally disconnected from the community, he implied. Black voters are unlikely to pay much attention to the pumped-up differences between the two, focusing instead — in the fall — on defeating Schwarzenegger.
“Angelides has lined up the party apparatus, but the apparatus doesn’t exist at the intersection of 36th and St. Andrews,” Farrell said. “That Angelides’ numbers have not risen in spite of all the money and energy invested ought to give some pause. It tells me about a Democratic Party drifting away from its base. It might still represent the people who have the interests of the grass roots at heart but are not really, or no longer, the grass roots.”
South-Central congresswoman Maxine Waters has endorsed Angelides, and while her clout should not be underestimated, Farrell said, neither should the power of Westly’s money. “Steve Westly has a real shot at this community. He’s going to spend his money on phone banks, direct mail, slate mailers. So will Maxine. But because the Democratic Party no longer has any real infrastructure in these neighborhoods, everyone and everything is available for purchase.
“You know, it isn’t true what the Republicans say, that they have made real inroads and outreach into this community,” Farrell continued. “But one day, look out. Some smart Republican candidate is going to come through here saying the right things and scoop all of this up. People are going to look around and wonder what ever happened to the Democrats.”