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                                       politics + culture

Monday, October 10, 2005

CA Special Election: Update

This Monday's news is simply not good for those of us battling Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's stealthy set of ballot initiatives here in the Golden State.

Mike Finnegan in the LA Times reports that labor leaders are very worried about the prospects for Proposition 75:

"We're not winning on this thing, and we've got to step it up," Steven Neal, a Los Angeles County Federation of Labor official, told scores of union leaders at a campaign breakfast last week in downtown Los Angeles. He likened the battle against Proposition 75 to a "sinking ship" in need of rescue.

On Proposition 73, Parental Notification, Bill Ainsworth of the San Diego Tribune does a great job covering the origins of the proposition (financial backers of 73 include Tom Monaghan of Domino's and San Diego Reader publisher James Holman who has given $800,000 of the $1.2 million raised so far). Ainsworth also notes:

"Abortion rights generally have strong support among California voters, according to the latest Field Poll. But the nonpartisan poll early last month showed voters are split 45 percent-45 percent on Proposition 73."

And Dan Walters must-read opinion piece in today's Sacramento Bee sings the praises of Arnold's Proposition 77, but with this interesting take on 77's likely outcome (it will make CA politics more "decisively moderate"...not more "competitive"):

"Insiders who support the status quo will say it's unlikely that a large number of districts will become competitive because of the state's increasingly red-vs.-blue nature - and that's true. But it also begs the question, because if only a handful of districts moved into the uncertain category - say a half-dozen of the 80 Assembly districts - the entire atmosphere of the Capitol could be changed by creating a decisive bloc of moderates more interested in policy than posturing."

All these stories, on top of last week's opinion polls (thanks to CA Observer), add up to a dismal picture. There's so much to take on here. Brian at Calitics highlights the critical divide in California: Arnold is politically weak, but his agenda is winning. The state of the November propositions is exhibit A for this effect. Arnold, whose poll numbers remain in the toilet, has found more than one Achilles heel of California Democrats and is chomping away at all our our weak points like a dog on a bone.

Or, we should say, Arnold's corporate backers are chomping away at these weakenesses. Somehow, this critical piece of the puzzle, that these initiatives were set up by big business, has been neglected. Monied interests are pushing these initiatives, just like they did the candidacy of Arnold himself, to divide CA democrats right down the middle. Whether it's dividing our labor coalition from the rank and file, our pro-choice coalition from the "moderates" who've always said they support parental notification, or our reformers from our incumbants, let's face it, we've been split by big money. And when we're divided we lose; and that, more than anything, explains the fact that Arnold is weak while his agenda isn't.

Listening to KGO 810 AM last night it became clear to me that this piecemeal response is killing us. If we split all these Arnold propositions up and debate them out of context as if they're just these "sincere attempts" to make California better, we get bogged down...and imo, we will lose. People just don't see the corporate money flowing behind these initiatives; everyday Californians are seeing these propositions as being about "reform." Further, when our hard-core activists blast back on any individual proposition that is near and dear to their hearts, including Alliance for a Better CA's talking about how 74 is "unfair", we sound like "special interests" looking out for our own. The big companies and fat cats love this.

The way to oppose these propositions is the "one-two punch." We need to oppose the guy who pitched this expensive, unnecessary and trojan horse special election in the first place, and to create doubt about who's really behind them. Simply put, we've got to make Nov. 8th about Arnold and money. But that's just one part of our one-two punch, we also need common sense language on each of these propostions that makes our case to everyday Californians in straightforward and consistent terms. We need to create reasonable doubts in voters minds about the motivations and outcomes of these ballot iniatives.

As we get closer to election day, this whole thing becomes about GOTV. If we haven't created legitimate doubts about these propositions by that point, I predict we're in for a "smiling Arnold" on November 8th....and talk about his renewed chances for 2006.



  • The split between Arnold's unpopularity and the numbers on some of the propositions is really depressing.

    By Blogger awol, at 12:07 PM  

  • I really hate this time of year. Only folks that can afford a good poll are internal polls for the campaigns. They don't share.

    Most news (objective) news agencies just don't have the money for a comprehensive work up. Some partisian news groups will play up other fudged polls selling their sides story, or because it makes snappy headlines. I just don't believe any of it right now other than internal campaign polling I may see. PPIC does a good job, but its been a month, and about 30m in tv ads since they polled.

    By Blogger willp, at 2:31 PM  

  • interesting ko. your points about framing this race are backed up by this AP piece on McCains visit.

    "The governor must "frame the issue as a referendum on whether Sacramento is working," Pitney said. "If the opposition frames it as referendum on Schwarzenegger ... the initiatives are in trouble.""

    These are Arnold's initiatives and his agenda. We are doing our best to tie him to it. Luckily here on the 'net we can employ a variety of messages to figure out what resonates and what doesn't. Thus you see us attacking it as a millionaires' proposition as well as it being unfair to the rank and file. However, I believe we at the BetterCA have focused mostly on making it a national issue and tying it to Arnold and his rich right wing backers.

    By Anonymous juls, at 4:05 PM  

  • re: awol, willp, and juls...

    What I hear is people saying that they want to give the propositions a fair shake. And that's tough. Think of it this way, these are the opposition's strengths:

    73 = Talking to Teenagers
    74 = Reforming Schools
    75 = Letting People choose what to do with their money
    76 = Controlling Spending
    77 = Reforming legislative districts

    Sounds good, huhn? It's all "nice" stuff just like Arnold promised when he ran for governor. What have we got for all those promises. The Governor's office is in bed with big $$$, and nothing much is getting done.

    We know that they are counting on Prop 73 to turn out their base. They are counting on 90% support form Republicans and dividing Democrats. They want to win this on suppressed turnout.

    We need to:

    a) generate turnout by connecting with voters
    b) us Arnold to create doubts about the "whole package" 73-78
    c) give people a reason to vote..."stop arnold" is one...but issues closer to home are better.
    d) make it clear that Arnold is trying to do to California what Karl Rove did to the U.S.....run stealth programs that sound good but are "trojan horses" for getting big business and religious people in control of politics

    Imo we have to fight in a way that people feel plays fair. ie. with these propositions, we've got to get the "Pete Wilsons" (Bay Area commentator) on board. The folks who pride themselves on giving things a fair shake.

    "Unfair" doesn't cut it.

    It's got to be straight up critiques as well.

    73- doesn't make all of our teens safer, especially those in broken homes. We can't make our constitution enforce communication, this proposition would change our constitution. Do we want a single California teen going out of state, or to Tijuana, for an abortion because she has problems communicating with her parents?

    74- doesn't help us make schools better, and it drives good candidates away from teaching when we need teachers most. Tenure and a fair review keeps good teachers at their jobs, it's common sense.

    75- will the fat cats who sponsered this bill have to ask their stockholders for permission to donate too? We know that will never happen, especially not with Arnold. Union Members already can withold their dues, they just have to choose to. Arnold's life sure would be easier without unions...and that's what he's doing here.

    76- we elected our legislature to make budets, we shouldn't be spending money on special elections to do their job.

    77- will it make CA more competitive? or more Republican? If Arnold wants to make CA competitive then he should make it non-partisan instead of putting the parties in control of the judges. Do you trust the GOP and their funders to redistrict California? Shouldn't they have to earn a redistricting the old fashioned way, by getting the voters to vote for them?

    Finally, we should ask Arnold....where did all this money for these propositions come from? Why has he been running around all over the country?

    If we can make a link to out of state $$$...we can get some traction, I think.

    I'm going to do another post on this one soon. But this is a sketch of my thinking.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 4:36 PM  

  • I hope everyone reading this who lives in California actually get out from behind their desk and knocks on some doors or makes some phone calls. We need everyone to pitch in or we may lose this election.

    By Blogger Matt, at 4:38 PM  

  • If Democrats can't protect teachers and labor unions in California, where can they protect these key members of the Democratic coalition? This is why I don't see much hope for the Democratic Party in 2006 and beyond. We can't convince the voters in a Dark Blue state to vote against corporate special interests, how will we succeed in less favorable circumstances?

    The huge disparity between the dislike of Arnold and the support of his propositions says that Democrats have no viable message for the voters of California.

    See my post http://whpsocal.blogspot.com/2005/10/democrats-cant-protect-their-own.html

    By Blogger RJB, at 7:53 PM  

  • the best strategy IMO is just to attack the whole damn election as unnecessary, right-wing, and ahnold's baby. no on everything, ya basta! one of the reasons i wasn't happy to see the two prescription drug props, actually, was the potential to muddy the election and suck people into thinking about everry prop.on their own demerits. a straight-ticket, partisan "no to ahnold, no to the right, no on everything" campaign would be easy to advertise, and easy to explain without getting caught up in the millions of little doublespeak slogans and minutiae.

    i'm also worried that the dems and the left aren't worried enough about the consequences of doing nothing.

    By Anonymous wu ming, at 8:44 PM  

  • I agree with wu ming -- I think we need to be atacking the election itself. Tricky, because we also have to get people to vote in it. But people are pretty clear that their taxes are being wasted in this thing. It therefore fits with their instincts to go for an across the board NO.

    Drug props will get lost, but that is happening anyway. Big pharma has successfully muddied the waters.

    So let's work to kill them all -- no nuance.

    By Blogger janinsanfran, at 11:07 PM  

  • Wu and Jan,

    I think you both are missing something pretty basic. Namely, the problem we're facing is not getting Democrats or others on the Left to vote our way, it's getting them to vote, period. There is very little enthusiasm for this special election. This same lack of enthusiasm has taken its toll on the volunteer base that normally would be working to turn out the vote.

    In Berkeley, where everything by all rights ought to be moving along, we can't even find volunteers for each of the 40 targeted precincts. Right now, there are something like 25 precincts covered, and that's after I recruited two of my normally non-active friends to cover one each and I agreed to cover my entire precinct. So that means that my efforts have covered approximately 1/8 the targetted precincts. This is nuts. We need to turn out the vote in Berkeley. It's ground zero for the GOTV campaign for blue California. We need more than one or two people per precinct, but for the most part we're not getting it. True, there are some people who are covering their own, non-targeted precincts. Further, there are people who are doing phone banking.
    But still, I'm not sure where the hell people are.

    Part of the problem is that the California Democratic Party allowed the Alliance to be thought of as THE go-to organizaiton to oppose Arnold, even though ABC didn't take a position on 73. This has balkinized the base of the Democratic Party, with many activists who might otherwise canvass instead getting involved in the No on 73 phone-banks and house parties.

    But I think the deeper issue is that the whole anti-Arnold campaign suffers from a displacement of responisbility. There ought to be a party apparatus to drive the campaign, but there is none. THe CA Dem Party was largely defunded by McCain-Feingold, and whatever money the CDP has is being hoarded for 2006. In addition, most of the campaign and messaging power of the party exists only in the private fiefdoms of the elected officials, who have been helpful if not on top of things.

    Today I protested Arnold and John McCain in Oakland. Where the hell is our John McCain equivolent? Where are party superstars during this campaign? Hell, where are our senators? Too many politicos are opperating as if this is politics as usual. I can't for the life of me figure it out.

    I give ABC a lot of credit for what they're doing. But realistically the unions themselves cannot defeat the entire California Republican Party, especially when they're calling in ringers (not to mention money) from out of state.

    I'm really scared about this election. Looking at Berkeley and Oakland makes me dread the outcome. That's why I wrote that we each need to get out and do something to defeat Arnold's props in this election. If we don't, we could have hell to pay for our apathy.

    By Blogger Matt, at 12:30 AM  

  • Hey Matt, in response to your call for Dem party illuminaries. I have heard word that Kerry will be coming to California to help us out.

    Thank you for your hard work in the field. You are right, there is a lot of apathy out there and it is extremely hard to motivate people. Many of them are not paying attention to what is going on.

    As to an attack on the whole election, as per jan's thinking. We fear that that will, as she mentioned, lead to not showing up and thats what they are counting on. Go see Assemblyman Chuck Devore's blog post. He is practically drooling over the proposition of us doing exactly that.

    Now k/o as to your points on message. Take a look at our ads, anything that we put up on the airwaves goes up on our television page. Now those ads have been focused group to death, they would not run them unless the crafted message was not playing well for voters. They are always looking for feedback and the communications staff routinely reads the website. So if you have specific comments about the ads please come over to BetterCA and post, they will read them.

    We will be updating the Millionaires for Prop. 75 page later today, so check back.

    By Anonymous juls, at 2:51 PM  

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