Something in the News-Press to be Thankful for. We here at Heeyah spend a lot of time critiquing the News-Press, especially the editorial page. But over the past week, they've run been running Melinda Burns' moving and comprehensive "Mixtecs & Maize," a seven part series covering the conditions in the home villages in Mexico of many of the Oaxacan immigrants that have settled in Santa Maria. That link should work for nonsubscribers as well as subscribers so be sure to check it out.
Also, make sure to check out today's retrospective of Hannah-Beth Jackson's run in the Assembly by Nora Wallace. Incoming Assemblymember Pedro Nava has big shoes to fill but he's up to the task.
Whites speak first policy at the County Supes? Last night, the County Board of Supervisors punted yet again on the changes to the inclusionary housing ordinance. There may be a decision as early as today, let's hope so. The meeting was mind-bendingly long (it started at 5 and finally wrapped up a little before 10) and was for the most part quite orderly and businesslike.
Except for one thing: it seems that the members of the local social justice organization PUEBLO were systematically and quite deliberately forced by Chair Joe Centeno to speak near to last in the program. Apparently he'd asked the leaders of PUEBLO to pick one spokesperson to speak, which is a fine enough request, but only if it applies to ALL the groups, not just some of them. Or one of the groups, as it was in this case.
I'm still a little stunned that this happened. I got my speakers slip in late so I went after the PUEBLO speakers; I discarded most of my testimony (probably for the best as it was getting late anyway) and stated my dissatisfaction with the process. If anyone needs more evidence of the structural racism at work in this county, there it is on a silver platter.
Furthermore, it seemed clear from the closing comments of the board that some of the members still, even after all that testimony, didn't understand the problem or the necessity of a solution. 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray said at one point "well, this just seems like a South County problem" that her community is full only of "sparkling goodness" (actual quote!) and "I'm a follower on this." Was she even in the room for the four and a half hours of preceding testimony? That is one out of touch representative.
Mr. Centeno couldn't get over the workforce, South County, 5-person or more family upper limit of $139,000. Again: he's out of touch with the dimensions of the problem here. He came up with an example of a family that buys into an equity limited home and then gets a huge enough raise that would allow them to afford to buy into the market. This is why fixed equity is the right solution: there's still a huge economic incentive to getting into a home that's appreciating at market rate. Any family that could do so presumably would, and in any case the opposite scenario is just as likely, if not more so: in this economy, incomes are just as likely to go down sharply as they are to go up. The odds of keeping two people employed in this economy at that level are just about nil.
The thing Mr. Centeno needs to realize is that the county staff didn't just pick that $139,000 number out of the air. They picked it because if you have 3 kids and live on the South Coast, even if you make $139 Gs you are still not out of the woods. This is evidence of the true dimensions of the problem.
It's that bad, it really is. We'll see what they come back with today.
Housing, the environment, structural racism and social justice. Today's News-Press editorial page tried to blast Supervisors Rose, Marshall and Schwartz as being anti-environment because of their openness to at least considering the changes to the county's inclusionary housing ordinance that are going to be decided upon this Monday. The News-Press, yet again, is a badly lagging indicator of where the public is really at on this issue.
There's something of a sea change happening among the various enviornmental groups here in town: they've realized that a unilateral "no growth" position is not sustainable and will not create the kind of community we want. It's blindingly obvious that no growth policies will, over time, turn this place into a rich, white monoculture, with long lines of traffic extending on every highway in every direction and a cloud of brown smog hanging over the beaches. This change in course reflects what's happening in the greater enviornmental movement in California and the rest of the country, such as the Sierra Club's anti-sprawl intiative.
The HANA/CSP folks have made it clear that they don't care about the monoculture part in particular. Earlier this week, the News-Press published a long, rambling diatribe from HANA/CSP's leader, Gary Earle, on the number of nonwhite friends he has had in his life. This is a textbook example of conflating individual racism with structural racism and it's a little revolting to see the News-Press swallowing it hook, line and sinker. Memo to Mr. Earle and News-Press Editors: Yes, it's possible to participate in racist and classist systems without being personally racist or classist.
The inclusionary ordinance changes are a long way from being everything we need to stop sprawl, reduce traffic and promote a diverse community. But they're a start. You can sign SBCAN's housing petition here...
A friend who has lived in California all his life recently remarked that he's never seen the state so angry. But the alignment of social justice and environmental groups that's happening over this issue here locally is very exciting. Finally, these various threads of the left are talking to each other and realizing just how powerful their combined impact and vision can be. Whether the forces working to protect nature and create a more just community prevail or not on Monday, if what's happening here on the South Coast is happening statewide, we'll be starting to head in the right direction.
p.s. Over the past couple of days, in editorials and today in yet another letter from Gary Earle, they've descibed the MTD's plans to build housing at a site in Noleta as some kind of "secret plan." This is ridiculous. I'm hardly a bigshot county government insider, and I have emails with references to it from November of 2002! (The lesson is obvious: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Put another way: be nice, be respectful. HANA/CSP has been all heat and no light. God only knows what they'll try if they don't get their way on Monday, but look for it be ugly ugly ugly.)
Check out this Gadflyer blog post from Tom Schaller. It incorporates many of the tactics that will be effective in reclaiming respect for Democrats in the "moral values" debate. Some of the key strategies demonstrated in this post include:
- Focus on religious leaders, not religious people. Much of the liberal anti-religion talk I've seen recently falsely lumps the opinions of "James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed" with all religious Americans. We're not battling religious Americans; we're battling the corrupt religious leaders who poison their minds with perversions of their faith. Americans love to take down those at the top, no matter where the top is.
- Pit Republican constituencies against each other. Hmm, money to prevent abortions is also "wasteful government spending!" Let the anti-government and the anti-abortion Republicans duke it out over this one, then step gingerly over them on your way to the polls in November 2006.
- Remind fundamentalists of Republican moral failings. Yes, Bush used code words in the debates to hint at overturning Roe v. Wade. Egg fundamentalists on by reminding them that he hasn't done it yet, and that abortions have acutally increased on his watch. Then point out that he's cutting abstinence training funds.
Don't let good ridicule like this stay within the liberal-only blogosphere. If you want to sow confusion in the Republican ranks, you've got to get there early and often.
Some sad news. The movement recently lost one of it's finer warriors. Jeff Arthur, a top staffer with the Natural Resources Committee of the State Assembly, died suddenly on Friday the 14th. The Sacramento Bee has a touching obituary with the details.
As chair of the Natural Resources committee, Assemblymember Jackson and Jeff worked very closely. Through this connection lots of folks locally got to know him since he came down from Sacramento quite often, including recently to help out with Pedro's campaign (he's on the left, standing, in this picture from a few days before the election). This was the entire text of an email that he wrote towards the beginning of the campaign season:
Subject: It's good to be alive in 2004
BELIEVEHe was hopeful, quirky, funny and great to work and campaign with and will be hugely missed.
Part of his legacy came to fruition this morning, with the start of new regional train service between LA, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Assemblymember Jackson and her crew had the opportunity to ride from Oxnard into town this morning and I took a few pictures, although I was on car shuttle duty and didn't get to ride in the cool dome car. It was a nice set of events and the perfect reminder of the kind of effect that one person can have.
Countdown to publication. I'm enclosing below a letter I've sent to the News-Press editorial pages. I normally wouldn't do this, but I've chosen to print it here for two reasons:
- The News-Press almost never prints letters that criticize its editorial decisions, other than arguments about which comics to include or exclude from the funny pages. In the likely event that Travis Armstrong sends this to the circular file, I wanted to make sure that the sentiments received some public distribution.
- The subject of the letter deals with the abuse of media powers to intimidate public decisionmakers. This is precisely the type of abuse that venues such as this blog were intended to expose.
So, without further ado, my letter:
News-Press readers have great reason to be concerned about a recent trend in the practices of its editorial pages. In the past two months, the News-Press has twice used its editorial page to publish private correspondence with the apparent intent of embarrassing or intimidating public officials. The News-Press also publicized a long-running private dispute involving a California State Assembly candidate, also with the apparent intent to embarrass the candidate, just days before the general election.
The publication of private correspondence is especially troubling, given the unequal power the News-Press has compared to the authors it exposes. The most recent example, in your November 12 editorial, included the claim that you “hesitated” to publish the private message. That protest seemed half-hearted, appearing just before the author’s message, printed in its entirety and in bold typeface. Was the News-Press aware that, between this incident and its prior release of private correspondence, a New York Times reader was overwhelmed with harassing calls and letters when his angry private letter to a reporter was similarly exposed in their editorial pages? Did this incident give you any greater pause before publishing private matters in your pages?
The news sections of your paper feature first-rate reporting and thoughtful, judicious editing. If these private matters were newsworthy, certainly your reporters and editors would have approached them with the highest journalistic standards. Your readers deserve the same judgment on the editorial pages. I urge the News-Press to review its editorial page standards and to publicly report its findings.
Latest Dance Craze: The "Values" Backspin. Pundits on the left and right are working overtime to downplay the significance of the "moral values" voters in November 2004. The appearance of right-wing debunkers, those of the neocon and economic conservative stripes, may stem from fear of the new self-entitlement shown by Christian fundamentalists James Dobson and Bob Jones III. The objections fall largely along two themes: (1) a 22% of "moral values" voters isn't that big, and (2) exit poll numbers don't show Bush increasing his margins among the kinds of people most likely to be homophobes (that's a common trick; assume that "moral values" means homophobia). I'll hammer on this one last time before delving into how we turn this into winning strategy. Remember what the Democratic playbook was between 2000 and 2004. We won an election, but the refs blew the final call. Next time, we'll increase our turnout so it's not even close. We'll increase Democratic registration among our base, step up our GOTV efforts, and "Anybody but Bush" will win in a landslide. All of those things were put into action, and they netted Kerry a stunning 4 million more votes than Al Gore received in 2000. Bush lost jobs for the first time since the Great Depression, went into the election with a DOA 49% approval rating and a dead heat electorally, and failed to defend his record during the campaign other than cliches about "steady leadership" and "resolve." For this, he gained 9 million votes compared to his 2000 totals. (The naysayers always focus on the percentages, and never talk about the dramatic increase in Republican turnout that neutralized a historic Democratic effort.) He also saw gay marriage bans pass in 11 states, and wacko Senate hopefuls from South Carolina, Kentucky, and Oklahoma pull rabbits out of their, um, hoods, despite polling behind, or even with, their Democratic opponents going into the election. Bush and his surrogates didn't need a host of 527s and $25 million from George Soros to get this done. All he needed was a GOTV strategy coordinated through conservative churches, with a simple message (paraphrased here): "Democrats/liberals/elites will ban your Bibles, and they'll also require wardrobe malfunctions in every Super Bowl halftime show." Now, one sneak peek at how we turn this all around in our favor. Charles Krauthammer's column tries to explain away the 22% "moral values" exit poll number by nitpicking the choices offered to voters. He does the service of reporting all the options, and their percentages, before launching into some red herring argument:
- Education, 4 percent.
- Taxes, 5 percent.
- Health Care, 8 percent.
- Iraq, 15 percent.
- Terrorism, 19 percent.
- Economy and Jobs, 20 percent.
- Moral Values, 22 percent.
Winning on Values. Much has been made of late about exit polling showing that 22% of voters cited "moral values" as their primary criterion for the Presidential election, and that 79% of them voted for Bush. The blogosphere is abuzz with musings on what this means and how it should fit into the Democratic Party's retooling for 2006 and 2008. Some musings have been constructive, and some have been dangerous. The dangerous category is well represented by this post by John Nichols from the Nation, who argues that delivering a message geared towards "moral values" voters "will require adjusting Democratic positions to be more in tune with those of the old Confederacy." That conclusion follows from two faulty observations: (1) that the universe of moral values begins and ends with hateful social control issues like restricting abortion and gay marriage, and (2) that our existing message cannot resonate better with moral values voters by framing our positions with their language. I've returned from a long posting hiatus to start a series of tutorials on improving the effectiveness of the Democratic message to religious and moral voters. This is necessary for two reasons:
- We've always thought that we could win elections on turnout, and maybe we did win this one on turnout (we'll await the results of election fraud investigations in OH, FL, NH, and NV). But we can't ignore that the Bush-Cheney campaign and its surrogates mounted a spectacular GOTV operation, predominantly through evangelical Protestant churches, that turned out 9 million more new Bush voters in 2004 than in 2000.
- We're ceding far too much ground to the Republican party when we stand for accusations that Democrats are not the party of God-fearing people. How many people realize that 80% of Gore's support in 2000 came from religious voters? Any chance that some of them were Democrats?
The most active religious group in politics right now is the network of Christian fundamentalist organizations that alternately lay claim to the labels "religious right" and "evangelicals." That latter label is a partial misnomer; many of the voters drunk on the kool-aid of the religious right are evangelicals, but the message they're listening to, and the people crafting the message, are unrepentant (pun intended) fundamentalists. I should know. I am an evangelical Protestant. Evangelicals are friends of mine. And, believe me, these people are no evangelicals.
We have three distinct strategies at our disposal to improve our standing with moral values voters. In subsequent posts, I'll start to flesh these out in detail. But for now, I'll simply list them:
- Frame Democratic principles in the language of Christian values. Trust me; it's easy. No, don't trust me, I'll tell you about them in future posts. Just don't let anyone tell you that policies of environmental, social, and economic justice framed in Christian language mean that the Democratic party is selling out.
- Develop secular "code words" to describe our constituencies and policies most feared by conservatives. Republicans use this strategy all the time to mobilize their conservative base without alienating the Republican moderates and independents with their radical proposals. Republicans got much better at this after the collapse of the Christian Coalition; their most obvious recent example was Bush's citing of the Dred Scott case in the second Presidential debate.
- Develop wedge issues that split religious and secular Republican factions. The gay marriage amendment ban, and the 11 state initiatives to ban gay marriage, were a perfect example of this on the Republican side. These issues greatly mobilized Christian fundamentalist voters while splitting the Democratic constituencies of gay rights activists and African American churchgoers, the latter of whom are often socially conservative. The good news is that we have a host of options for pushing policies that will split Christian fundamentalists from their small-government, anti-tax conservative counterparts. More to follow later.
The good news about all of this is that you have the power. Most of this work on the right isn't done explicitly by the Republican Party (okay, except for their recent mailer in West Virginia claiming that Democrats would ban the Bible); it's done by the network of conservative book clubs, media outlets, and foundations that carry their water. We now have comparable organizations in the form of liberal weblogs, talk radio, and 527 groups, and all of those organizations depend on you for content and momentum. As I provide examples of these strategies, I encourage you to test them out elsewhere in the liberal universe. As these messages and strategies get honed, successful Democratic candidates will use them effectively to gain seats in 2006 and a White House in 2008.
Oh, and a note on the use of the word "Christian" above. We are a nation of religious pluralism, and I know that our party is home to religious Jews, Muslims, and members of various eastern religions. I'm going to focus my posts on Christian language and strategies for three reasons: (1) it's what I know best, (2) Christians are the most vocal "moral values" voters on the other side, and (3) it's the word that vocal secular Democrats are in most need of getting comfortable with.
So we've had a mixed bag of results. Kerry's loss was a gigantic disappointment, but it seems like most everyone I know took yesterday off to mourn and is back at work today. I certainly hoped putting Senator Kerry in the White House would be the first step in taking back our country, but I think everyone realized that either way that would only be the first step. So there's a lot to do.
One of the people who would like to be at work but isn't is Bob Pohl, who claims it isn't "too wild-eyed" to say that uncounted absentee ballots are going to magically start breaking three to one for him and put him over the top. But Pedro really is at work; he's up in Sacramento already in the orientation session for new Assemblymembers. Imagine if Mr. Pohl was up there, working with the Republicans on their agenda of shoveling piles of money to insurance companies and other big campaign contributors, school privitization scams, drilling for oil in our forests and doing nothing on healthcare.
Lots of forces came together to try to gang tackle Pedro: the Governor's event here on Monday, the News-Press endorsing Mr. Pohl not just once, but three times, Mr. Pohl's campaign's slime spewing, hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegally coordinated "JOBS"PAC negative TV ads, push polls, and so on. But Pedro and the army of Democratic volunteers here prevailed through it all. This is a significant victory, and one that everyone who participated in the campaign and the GOTV operation should be proud of.
smoke 'em if ya got 'emIn about a minute and thirty seconds, the polls are going to close here in California. Seems like we've had a good run. The party is at El Paseo, I imagine it's already started. There's a small group of us left here at Pedro's after bringing back the last of the GOTV data, but we're headed over in a bit. I did manage to score an internet connection so if that still works I'll be able to post live from there, too. For results, click on www.sb-democracy.com a lot. I probably won't have the very most up-to-date results here.
Go vote! Go vote! Go vote!Don't just vote, though...help get it out, too. The campaigns today have a nearly infinite demand for help. Most of the action is being coordinated out of Pedro's HQ here at 3208 State Street, but 1341 State Street has work going out too. Give us a call at 563-4500 or just come on by!
We're watching the TV news coverage of today's protest against the Governor and...look, I'm sorry, but students and people trying to get healthcare are NOT "special interests." Teachers are not a special interest. If a Republican comes across this weblog, I know I have bigger things (like GOTV) to think about but I'm genuinely curious about this: do the Republicans just not understand the difference between special and public interests, or is at another deliberate effort to destroy language? What's up with this?
In six hours, dawn patrol starts: tomorrow morning, 25,000 doorhangers will go out between 5 and 10 am. Go Democratic Service Club...Victory is at hand! GOTV GOTV GOTV!
SB City Council member Helene Schneider, letting absentees know they can still turn in their ballots tomorrow at any polling place.
If you haven't seen it yet, check out Eminimem's new video. Woah!
So it turns out that the Governator's coattails haven't turned out to be as long as the Republicans initially thought they might be. The LA Times has the story, but it's no suprise. People like Arnold personally enough to vote for him, but he's just plain out of step with the values of this state, especially on education and healthcare.