Will CA Dems Vote Next Year?

In last week’s post progressive voters on strike? Santa Barbara blogger Retired UC Santa Barbara Professor of sociology and
renowned social activist, Richard Flacks looks at recent polls showing Democratic voters to be unenthusiastic about voting while Republican voters are highly motivated.  Professor Flacks writes,

These numbers tell us that the Democrats are going to lose the elections in  2010, but the underlying data are even more disturbing. They show that the heart of  Obama;s support base is not planning to vote next year.

. . . The same sort of disillusionment pervades the ranks of liberal and
progressive activists. Each week we can add new instances of
administration betrayal of our hopes. The latest include the handling
of the Honduras coup (defying near unanimity in the rest of the
hemisphere),  and the continuation of Bush policies on  the land mine
treaty. The escalation of the war dwarfs all these other failures.

This is not President Obama’s fault, necessarily,

I’ve said in this space that it’s the structure of power in America
rather than Obama’s weakness of will that accounts for the growing
feeling that the chances for progressive reform are slipping away.

Professor Flacks’ post looks at a national poll, the “base” sense of betrayal is on national issues, and President Obama is not from California, but there is no reason to believe California Democrats are any more enthused.  More likely less so.  California Democrats who do pay attention see Democrats in Sacramento caving over and over again to the demands of an extremist Republican minority, while those not paying attention see generally that nothing good is happening and government is doing very little for them.

What might come along to raise democratic enthusiasm and encourage them to vote?  Jerry Brown running for Governor?  With the statements he’s been making, don’t bet that
Democrats are going to be enthusiastic about Jerry Brown as their
standard-bearer either.

Krugman Captures California’s Difficulty Governing

In Paranoia Strikes Deep, Economist/columnist Paul Krugman explains today the difficulty California has getting budgets passed, and how this threatens the ability of the entire country to govern itself:

… the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit. … Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost
always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite. … After the Democratic sweep, however, extremists could no longer be fobbed off with promises of future glory. … Because these people aren’t interested in actually governing, they feed
the base’s frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it. So all the
old restraints are gone. … 

… And if Tea Party Republicans do win big next year, what has already
happened in California could happen at the national level. In
California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with
no interest in actually governing — but that rump remains big enough to
prevent anyone else from dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis.
If
this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the
country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an
ongoing economic disaster.

The point is that the takeover of the
Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter.
Something unprecedented is happening here — and it’s very bad for
America. [emphasis added]

This is a perfect description of what has happened in California, and could spread to the entire country.

The Town Hall Disruptions Were A Corporate Strategy

In April we posted A Warning About The Tea Parties here.  The post warned:

They are not what they claim to be.  They are not “spontaneous” or
“grassroots.”  They are another corporate-funded campaign to trick
people into supporting more cut taxes for the rich.

. . . The events have been widely promoted by corporate-funded conservative
PR professionals who specialize in “astroturf.”  This is a term for the
use of money to create an appearance of widespread “grassroots”
support.  Currently the corporate-funded conservative lobbying groups Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, are organizing the events and conservative media including talk radio and FOX News are widely promoting them.  Support appears to be coming from Koch Industries, the largest privately-owned company in the country.

Many blogs and organizations have conducted research into these “tea party” groups, and warned that this corporate-built group was put together by lobbyists, for lobbyists, to further the goals of their corporate clients.  The names of the lobbyist groups organizing these events were posted along with their own documents proving they were behind the groups. Their strategies were exposed.  The entire operation was laid out in advance.

Then we watched the operation unfold.  Over the summer summer the groups were sent to Congressional town hall meetings that discussed health care reform.  They were given specific instructions to disrupt the meetings, while presenting an appearance of being ordinary citizens who are upset and against the health care reform.  Copies of these instructions were posted on the web.  The instructions include:

– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat
early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out
and challenge the Rep’s statements early
.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

These are the actual instructions given to these groups. They were instructed to disrupt the town hall meetings, and not let others speak.  And this is what they did, across the country.  The entire time, blogs and organizations tracked this, showed how the lobbyist organizations were organizing it, showed where their online calendars were sending people to the different meetings, posted photographs of the signs they carried, that were printed by the lobbyist organizations, and showed newsletters printed by these lobbyist organizations taking credit for their work.

Now the summer is over, and we are witnessing phase two of the strategy.  The lobbyists and Republican members of Congress are going on news programs and claiming that “the public” opposes the health care reforms, because of the disruptions and occurred at town hall meetings!  This is utterly transparent to anyone who follows the news.  It was set in stone that they would say this now, even before the first town hall meetings began, because this was the strategy all along.  The script was written before the first town hall meeting:  make it look like people are upset at the health care reform, then try to kill health care reform based on these manufactured corporate astroturf performances.

Legislators: do not fall for it.

The oil and coal corporations have already started organizing these groups to show up and disrupt meetings on climate-change legislation, again creating a false appearance of public opposition to efforts to fight global warming.  Bloggers and organizations are writing about this now.

A leaked memo sent by an oil industry group reveals a plan to create
astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as “citizens” will
urge Congress to oppose climate change legislation. 

Do not be fooled when it happens again.  And if you allow this lobbyist strategy to succeed this will become “the new normal” for politics in this country.  If the corporations get away with organizing people to disrupt meetings and intimidate legislators of course they will continue to 

Republican Infrastructure

Why are Republicans so successful, even though they only have a tiny minority representation in our state government?  Read on.

An invitation was sent for the upcoming California Republican Party Convention, which will be September 25-27 at the Rennaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, outside of Palm Springs.

Nestled at the base of the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains in the exclusive community of Indian Wells, the luxurious Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa is the desert’s finest oasis. Offering unparalleled service and all the amenities of a world-class resort, Esmeralda invites you to indulge your every whim.

[. . .] Spa Esmeralda is designed to nourish your soul. Marble floors, glass corridors and the sounds of a trickling stone fountain greet you. From that moment on, a transformation begins to take place.

Gaze at the alluring desert landscape from the tranquil Spa Garden and soothe away the day’s stress under a therapeutic waterfall spa. This is Spa Esmeralda. This is Paradise.

Featuring,

  • Spa with lush garden
  • Golf Club House
  • Lounge with live entertainment
  • Room Service
  • 36-Holes of Championship Golf
  • 3 swimming pools & Pool Bar
  • Fitness Center
  • Tennis
  • Concierge
  • In-room movies
  • Complimentary in-room coffee
  • Complimentary newspaper
  • Restaurants

Nice!  Where do they park their yachts in the desert, though?

I noted on the web page, “Special Thanks to San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for their generous support of the California Republican Party and the fall convention.” Sponsorship is solicited on the following terms:

$100,000 Official Convention Title Sponsorship
For organizations seeking maximum exposure and opportunities to network with Republican candidates for Governor, Congress and State Legislature, this Title Sponsorship opportunity is ideal, providing exclusive benefits. Title sponsorship of the California Republican Party’s fall Convention is limited to one partner with a speaking opportunity during the convention and a customized sponsorship marketing plan tailored to your needs which will include … Private meeting with all top state party leaders during convention.

There are also $50,000, $25,000 and $15,000 opportunities.

I especially was interested in The Workshops At The ’09 CRP Fall Convention, which are put on by various people including:

  • David Kralik, Silicon Valley Representative for Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions 
  • David Avella, Executive Director of GOPAC
  • Philip R Hinderberger: Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel, NORCAL Mutual Insurance Company
  • Larry Greenfield, The Reagan Legacy Foundation
  • Mackenzie Eaglen, Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Heritage Foundation

Some background on some of the above:

  • If you don’t know, a Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel is a LOBBYIST.
  • The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project was formed in 1997 as a project of Americans for Tax ReformGrover Norquist’s organization.  According to SourceWatch: “Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is ostensibly a group that pushes for lower taxes. It has close ties to the Republican Party and has frequently allied itself with the tobacco industry.”
  • Heritage Foundation is the premier right-wing, anti-government “think tank” located in Washington, DC.

So this is a luxury event, sponsored by corporations, with workshops from elements of the conservative infrastructure.  These are organizations that are supposed to be non-partisan, are often funded with tax-deductible contributions, exist outside of the party structure, but in this case are closely bound with the party itself.

These third-party groups lay the groundwork for elections by bombarding the public with corporate-funded messaging that is almost always anti-government and anti-tax, advocating the corporations replace government in our national and state decisionmaking.  Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wants to make the government “small enough that it can be drowned in a bathtub” and this is why his organization has demanded that office-seekers sign a pledge to oppose taxes in all forms.  They believe in “defunding” government, so that it cannot effectively regulate corporations. 

After enough of this drumbeat of anti-government propaganda, with no response from people who believe in demcoracy and community, the public doesn’t have much choice but to believe the only voices they hear, and turn against government and the taxes that support democracy.  

This third-party infrastructure is why conservatives have been so effective at strangling government in California.  It is funded by corporations and every Republican has take “the pledge.”  The corporations pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into our elections to put just enough of them over the top to keep the state from functioning. 

What we need is a progressive infrastructure of organizations that reach the public and explain progressive policies, creating acceptance of progressive values and demand for progressive solutions that help everyone, not just a select, wealthy few.

 

Governing Or Coasting On Governing By Others

The resignation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin provides an opportunity to understand what is happening to us in California.  There are people who have so little respect for government and governing that they think Palin’s resignation is a good thing.  In California there are also people who have so little respect for government and governing that they think it is a good idea to let the state fall off of a financial cliff.

Sarah Palin is said to be resigning so she can climb the ladder of Republican politics — possibly even to run for the Republican nomination for President in 2012.  One would think that abandoning office in the middle of her term would disqualify her from having a future in seeking elected office.  But this is not the case — just the opposite.  In fact this is so much not the case that the resignation is seen as a “brilliant” strategic move to increase her chances of obtaining that Presidential nomination prize.

The lesson to take away from Palin’s resignation is that actually governing once elected to office is not the point.  Modern-day Republican Party politics is not about governing, not even a little bit. It is about being against governing.

This is how they can get away with being against government:  Good government was put in place in this country in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s (with 90% tax rates at the top, by the way) and has been taken for granted since.  The infrastructure of roads, laws, trash collection, etc. has been in place and functioning for so long that it is taken for granted.  And so it all provides a safe platform for anti-government ideologues to pretend that government is not needed.

This brings us to California.  We have a minority of elected officials who also do not care about governing.  So far they have been able to get away with it, because of the work that We, the People did for several decades to build this state and make it governable. 

California enjoyed massive government infrastructure investment from the 1930s through the 1960s.  We built the best roads, water systems, schools, courts, etc.  As a result we had the most prosperous industries, most well-educated people and best-functioning government. 

And so the anti-government tax-cutting ideologues were able to defer maintenance of that wonderful system, handing the maintenance money out as tax cuts, and no one saw the foundations of that prosperity slowly begin to erode.  They were able to complain about government and ignore governing because government was there for them and all of us anyway.

Well now we have coasted along on the infrastructure built decades ago, but it has eroded, and we are coming to the end of the time when the ideologues can enjoy the luxury of deferring maintenance.  But our Republican leadership is firmly entrenched in their anti-governing ideology.  They are willing to let the state fall off a cliff rather than actually pay to maintain the governing structure they depend on — because they believe it will just operate as it seemingly always has, for free.

But governing is about about the people of the state and their needs.  It takes skill,
wisdom, an understanding of government and governing to be an elected
leader.  Sarah Palin obviously has none of these qualities, nor does Ahnold, for
that matter. 
While our most vulnerable
people are begging for their services and programs not to be dismantled so that
they can actually have food and help in their most basic needs, our Governator
boasts about sitting in his jacuzzi smoking a stogie.
Would FDR ever suggest that? Would Dwight
Eisenhower?  
What kind of leadership,
compassion, understanding is reflected in these kind of “leaders.”  The answer is
obvious and dramatic: NONE
.

What Sen. Spector’s Party Switch Tells California Voters

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen (“Single-Bullet“) Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party this week.  Rush Limbaugh reacted to this news by welcoming Specter’s departure, and added,
“take McCain with you.”

Specter left because the extremist wing of the Republican Party — the ones who listen to and agree with Rush Limbaugh and will tolerate absolutely no compromise of any kind from the most extreme conservative positions — have taken over and are driving others out.  This rightmost element, who call themselves the only “real Republicans” have a special name for people like Arlen Specter and John McCain.  They call them “RINOs.”  RINO stands for “Republican In Name Only” and refers to Republicans who are not conservative enough to meet approval of the absolutists.  (What is conservative enough?  Half of Texas Republicans want Texas to secede from the United States.)

Arlen Specter is hardly a liberal.  He has a solidly conservative voting record, (after switching parties he voted against President Obama’s budget), but not conservative enough for the hard core purists.  John McCain won the ire of this element for not supporting torture.

The Limbaugh branch of the party have been working to drive moderate-right members like Specter and McCain out, and are increasingly successful.  Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, another target of this element, warned that,
 

“being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member
of ‘Survivor’ — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you
often get the
distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe.”

This demonstrates just how far the Republican Party has moved from its roots.  They have drifted so far away from their mission that even their last Presidential candidate is being urged to leave the party!  They have drifted so far from their mission that the “party of Lincoln” has a solid contingent supporting having their states secede from the Union!

This hard-core extremism is also being demonstrated in California, where not a single Repubilcan will vote for a budget — any budget — because their strategy for the state is to “let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point.”  The reason that crazy-sounding line has quotation marks around it is because it is a quote.  It is also the definition of extremism.  And, combined with the 2/3 rule that lets them block budgets, it is the reason California is becoming ungovernable.

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