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Lessons in Viability from the California Democratic Convention

This is how you go around the state Democratic Convention if you are a viable candidate: briskly, stopping only long enough to shake hands, and surrounded by bright young things who carry your placards and chant your name as though you are their personal Jesus.

And here is how you go around if you are the very nonviable Mickey Kaus: more or less alone, in no hurry because you haven't been invited to speak anywhere, perhaps locked in an earnest-looking conversation with one person who is probably not a voting CDP delegate.

Kaus is on the ballot against Sen. Barbara Boxer, and hopes to use his

campaign to challenge party orthodoxy on unions and immigration. He

asked to speak at the convention, but was brushed aside. Politics, in this setting, is not about ideas. It's about relationships, and Kaus didn't have any that would be useful. Boxer was endorsed by acclamation, and without objection.

The big battles of the weekend were organizational. Would Janice Hahn muster enough hometown support to fend off a Gavin Newsom endorsement? Would Dave Jones clear the 60% threshold against Hector De La Torre? (Yes and yes, as it turns out.) You could search in vain for an ideological distinction in either race.

Hahn's argument -- expressed in the ubiquitous "Jerry & Janice" logos -- was that as a woman, she would make a more balanced ticket alongside Jerry Brown. "You use whatever you can come up with," one Hahn supporter said. That Brown has not endorsed in the lieutenant governor's race, and had no idea beforehand that Hahn would be doing this, did not seem to matter. With points for chutzpah, Hahn took 43% of the vote, to Newsom's 52%. Since nobody got 60% the outcome was no endorsement, which Hahn called a win.


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