Today's question: Look toward November. What local and state ballot initiatives should we expect to see? How should L.A. voters go in the general election? How do you expect the vote will actually go? Click here to read previous installments from this week's Dust-Up.
Prepare for the big blue wavePoint: Eric C. Bauman
Mike, if you look out over the coming weeks and months, there is a huge dust storm brewing. Actually, it's not really a dust storm -- it's a big blue wave about to hit our state and our nation, from sea to shining sea.
One would need to ignore reality and suspend disbelief to imagine that the American public believes the Republican Party stands for fiscal responsibility, has genuine moral authority to preach about right and wrong or is the party of national security.
Americans have watched as President Bush, John McCain and others have led us into a recession, plundered the national treasury and created the largest national debt in world history. Rather than shrinking the size of government, there are now more people on the federal payroll than ever. Mike, there is not enough room here to detail the many acts that have undermined your party's claim to moral righteousness and superiority.
And then there's the Iraq war.
More than five years, untold billions of dollars, 4,000-plus American lives lost and thousands more with long-term injuries (to say nothing of Iraqis killed), the war keeps rolling on. And McCain fully embraces it, having said that U.S. forces could have a presence in Iraq for another 100 years!
When Democrats won the Illinois seat held by former Republican House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, you had to sit up and take notice. When we snatched a decades-long GOP House seat in Louisiana, one had to wonder what was going on. But when Democrats picked up a seat in the heart of red Mississippi -- even after Dick Cheney and McCain campaigned there -- you know this is not just a coincidence. The American people are rejecting the GOP brand and no longer believe its bromides and fairy tales.
The architects of the GOP revolution in the 1990s told us to give them control of Congress and they would reform it and make it work; they would cut waste, fraud and abuse and shrink government. They said for us to give them the White House and they would end international interventionism and lead a small, fiscally and socially conservative government that would transform our nation and create a permanent GOP majority. Now, after years of GOP control of the White House and Congress, the only things growing red in Washington are the government's account balances and the hemorrhaging of former Republican voters.
In California, the evidence of the big blue wave grows with every report of voter registration. Since the first of the year, Ventura, Stanislaus and Alpine counties have swung from red to blue. The spread between Democrats and Republicans in Fresno County is below 3%; in San Diego County it's less than 2%; and in San Bernardino County it's below 1%. Here in Los Angeles, there are now more than 2 million registered Democrats, a number that exceeds 50% of all voters in the county for the first time in many years.
With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unable to find the billions in waste he claimed he would save, his unwillingness to cut up the state's credit cards, and last week's San Francisco Chronicle report that state government has grown exponentially under him, the voters are not happy.
Voters have tired of the lecturing, pontificating, holier-than-thou, me-first, save-yourself conservative nostrums of recent years. They are rejecting the politics of division and subtraction and responding to the Democratic message of progress and inclusion, built on a positive belief in hope, opportunity and possibility. It is the Democratic Party's approach of addition and multiplication that will replace the divide-and-conquer mentality of Karl Rove we had come to know.
Mike, the big blue wave is so strong that the L.A. County Democratic Party is running a full-bore, fully-funded "red zone" program to try to turn L.A.'s Republican areas blue. We are working with our colleagues in the Inland Empire, the Central Valley and the rural north to build for the future and transform these areas from red to purple and eventually to blue. We Democrats learned an important lesson from former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich: We must invest time and resources in every part of our state if we are to achieve a long-lasting blue majority. We're not there yet, but make no mistake, that dust cloud you see hanging around November is really a big blue wave of change.
Eric C. Bauman is the chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reclaiming the Republican brandCounterpoint: Mike Spence
Wow! Eric, what a closer of an opinion piece -- a little off topic, but it does warrant a response.
Perhaps no other Republican is more critical of GOP leaders than I am. Washington Republicans squandered an opportunity to make our majority permanent. The GOP leadership abandoned core beliefs about big government, protecting our borders and corruption. Conservative voters punished Republicans because of these failures.
Eric, you may remember the online video of a rat scurrying around a Taco Bell restaurant in New York. After the video was circulated, sales at the chain plummeted; my wife refused to go to our local store. Republican leaders in Washington who abandoned the party's core beliefs are like those Taco Bell rats -- they are hurting our brand and damaging our sales.
I do hate to break the news, Eric, but the brand will recover as we throw the rats out. In fact, the brand is so successful, the Democratic Party has been forced to copy it. In two of the House elections you cited, the Democrats who won were pro-life and pro-gun -- the kind of people Barack Obama recently called "bitter." The reason that the Democratic-controlled Congress had been incapable of passing meaningful legislation is that many Democrats elected to Congress in 2006 don't sign on to the party's holier-than-thou elitist attitude that seeks control of every facet of our lives, businesses and families.
The bad news for the Democratic Party is that Obama is the most left-wing presidential nominee since George McGovern in 1972. Obama isn't pro-life or pro-gun; he doesn't even wear American flag lapel pins. The Democrats who have won the White House in the last have 50 years have portrayed themselves as more conservative and mainstream than the left of their party. If Obama has to keep explaining his association with America-hating spiritual advisors and crooked Chicago financiers, he will lose. Americans don't hope for that kind of country.
As conditions in Iraq improve, Democrats will find it difficult to exploit the war for political gain. No American thinks that the war has been run without error; I'm not sure if there has ever been an error-free war. But I do believe that Americans know deep down that an immediate abandonment of Iraq would not be all rainbows and puppy dogs. In the end, the American people won't choose a radical left-wing politician who was a little-known state legislator just four years ago.
Eric, before we sign off, I must discuss one initiative that will probably make California's November ballot: the proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. At the time the marriage amendment was being circulated for signatures, it wasn't known that the state Supreme Court would overturn the will of the people and strike down Proposition 22. Similar proposals will be on the Arizona and Florida ballots.
Los Angeles County will be an important battleground. Some polls shows that compared to non-Hispanic whites, Latinos and other minority groups tend to support protection of the long-standing definition of marriage. This is a great outreach opportunity for Republicans to acquaint voters with a party that is more representative of their values.
So Eric, Instead of a blue tidal wave, I see choppy waters for both of us -- until Republicans get our brand back. When that happens, I promise to throw you a life preserver.