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Election Recap—History Repeats Itself

CAPITOL OFFENSES Brendan Huffman Historians lead difficult lives. Few of them eke out a decent living, and politicians never listen to them. Regardless, it’s fun for political observers like me to see history repeat itself every election cycle. For instance, how long will it be before multi-millionaires learn that California voters prefer experience over uninvolved but loaded people who suddenly realize that the state has problems that can only be solved by them? Somewhere, there is a private island in the tropics where former candidates like Al Checchi, Michael Huffington and Bill Simon are preparing to initiate Meg Whitman into their fraternity. While they often seem out of touch and insincere, affluent candidates probably do themselves in the most by bombarding us with advertising that is typically negative and simplistic. In the last week of the campaign, I found myself watching far less TV than usual mostly because the endless stream of attack ads ruined the TV viewing experience. Unless Meg Whitman continues another few weeks of media buys, I look forward to returning to regular programming! What else can we learn? How about that San Francisco liberals should not expect to enjoy too many years of success as House Speakers before the rest of the nation grows weary—and the GOP has an easy target in portraying them as out of touch left-wingers. Nevada’s runner up U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle reminds us that voters expect contenders to answer to the media, no matter how unfair they can be, up until the polls close. In Angle’s case, she stopped talking to non-FOX affiliated reporters a week before the election and ended up losing her lead over incumbent Harry Reid. In the White House, presidential aides need to learn how to better connect with the middle class and not allow the president to fall into a common perception among independent voters who are increasingly finding him to be elitist. Seeing Bill Clinton back on the campaign trail rallying voters seemed to remind us what an energetic president should sound like—and be doing more frequently than just the last month before Election Day. It appears that some presidential aides learned a lesson from 1982 when President Reagan, facing significant losses in the mid-term elections salvaged some races in California with the victories of George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson over popular Democrats. Lessons can also be learned in many of the ballot initiatives California voters just considered, most of them losing. Smart move The smartest move among initiative backers occurred last summer when state legislators voted to remove an $11 billion water bond from the Nov. 2 ballot. Despite updates to the state water project being sorely needed, internal polling indicated that voters were not prepared to approve more debt upon our state. So, what went wrong with the Prop. 19 marijuana legalization measure? First, proponents did not unite their base before embarking on their effort and some sloppy initiative language opened the door for legalization opponents to poke enough holes and make voters uncomfortable enough to reject it. In contrast, Prop. 20 backers, who were attempting to add Congressional boundaries to those to be drawn by the new Prop. 11 citizens panel, picked an ideal time to bring this before voters. First, Prop. 20 served as a form of protest against the congressional status quo, and Congressional Democrats were distracted by the urgency of protecting incumbents across the nation. And Congressional Democrats’ attempt to use Prop. 27 as a decoy may have backfired on them and reminded voters to go back to Prop. 20 and read it more carefully. In an election year of such discontent, status quo politics is a tough sell. Lawmaker penalties Prop. 25 supporters were smart to focus on penalizing state lawmakers when the budget is overdue instead of explaining that it would reduce the vote threshold to enact state spending plans from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority. And Prop. 26 makes the passage of Prop. 25 an easier pill to swallow as lawmakers will no longer to be able to enact fees without a two-thirds vote as they do with taxes. Finally, the proponents of Prop. 23 may not be green in their politics, but they sure seemed green in their effort to suspend California’s greenhouse gas emission laws. Their advisors should have showed them polling conducted since 1969 that Californians don’t trust oil companies to rewrite their environmental laws. More recent polling showed that AB 32 enjoyed strong support from voters, even a slim majority of Republicans. If there is anything one can take away from the 2010 general election is that there are always enough suckers to believe their own rhetoric and pay campaign consultants oodles of money to repeat history – year after year. Brendan Huffman is the owner of Huffman Public Affairs and the co-host of “Off The Presses” Internet radio program that streams live on LATalkRadio.com every Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.

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