Dinosaurs vs. Zillionaires: Four Depressing Candidates Win in California
Big state, weak candidates.
In California's primary races for the state's two top positions -- governor and senator -- four cringe-worthy candidates won the party nominations.
On the Democratic side, Barbara "How-Dare-You-Call-Me-Ma'am" Boxer easily maintained her steely grip on the senatorial seat, while 17-time former governor Jerry Brown reappeared like an acid flashback from a bygone era to audition again for his old gig.
Meanwhile, over in the Republican camp, two insanely rich corporate CEOs essentially bought the nominations.
What did we Californians do to deserve this? In a state with 37 million people, these are the best four we've got?
Is This a Monster Movie or a Political Campaign?
Both Boxer and Brown are veritable dinosaurs, clambering out of the Political Tar Pits to lord over the landscape for another eon or two. Boxer has been in politics for 38 years, and has been a member of Congress for 28 years. In all that time her political positions have not evolved one bit. She is still running on the Vietnam-war era anti-military far-left populism which has fueled her career from the start. I can easily imagine her becoming the Helen Thomas of politicians, refusing to retire or go away well into her 90s as she dodders up and down the hallways of power spouting off mean-spirited tirades.
And as for Jerry Brown, I'm awestruck by his audacity. Like, dude, you've already been governor. Twice. And your freakin' father was governor before that. Also twice. Between 1959 and 1983, there was only a brief interlude when somebody not named Brown was governor.
I think we need to stage an intervention. Jerry Brown is obviously addicted to politics. He's been at it so long (41 years) he makes Boxer look like a madamoiselle, not a ma'am. Not only was he governor twice starting 35 years ago, but he's also been California Secretary of State, Chairman of the California Democratic Party, Attorney General of California, candidate for Senate, three-time candidate for President of the United States, and when he ran out of high-profile offices to run for, he scraped the residue out of the bottom of his political bong and ran for Mayor of Oakland. I mean, nobody wants to be Mayor of Oakland. It's what you settle for when you have the DTs and can't get anything decent, like drinking cough syrup.
It's time for some tough love with Jerry. Stop enabling him. He needs a trip to the Betty Ford Clinic, not the Governor's mansion.
With these two embarrassments on the Democratic side, you'd think the Republicans would have a golden opportunity. But no. Instead, we get two clichés straight out of Central Casting, two nearly interchangeable zillionaires who decided it would be amusing to spend some pocket change -- $70 million, $80 million, I lost track already -- to dabble in politics and buy the governorship and a seat in the senate.
This was supposed to be the year of the grassroots candidate, the little guy, someone whose popularity is based on political ideals -- not the financial might to buy 100% of available television airtime for political attack ads which broadcast night and day for months on end.
Jerry's opponent for governor, Meg Whitman is, literally, a billionaire, but unfortunately when she gives a speech she sounds like one of those insincere financial advisors on a late-night PBS infomercial: Manage Your Wealth with Meg! All politicians use teleprompters or notes these days, but Meg is one of the few who foolishly imagines she can pretend she isn't, her eyes desperately darting to the side between sentences, looking for her next cue while acknowledging the perfunctory applause. A populist she is not.
Carly Fiorina is facing off against Boxer for Senator, and she's one of the few people who can make Boxer seem almost human. Fiorina has that icy stare of the kind of boss that makes hapless underlings yelp "Everybody look busy!" when she strides into the office. Her penchant for producing brutal below-the-belt attack ads only fuels the impression that she is not someone you want to meet in a dark alley.
But What About Ideology?
So far, I've only touched on the public's shallow impression of these candidates; I haven't really talked about what they stand for, or what their political positions are. In truth, voters generally base their opinions on candidates' personas, not their ideologies. People such as Reagan and Obama won because each put forth an uplifting persona; their political agendas were less important to those naive swing voters, who usually pull the lever based on a candidate's likeability factor.
Having said all this: Who will I vote for?
Between Whitman and Brown, I'd have to choose Whitman. Although I am somewhat repulsed by the notion of a billionaire like Whitman spending her way to victory, it's patently obvious Jerry Brown has no plan whatsoever to save California from bankruptcy. He's just running for office because he has no other job skills and doesn't know what else to do with his life. He's not a bad person, but he's still locked into an antiquated old-school tax-and-spend mode and is a slave to partisan politics. And when he gave his acceptance speech last night, standing next to him was Gray Davis, the previous Democratic governor who got us into this financial mess in the first place, and who was so unpopular he was actually recalled from office. If you're so out of touch that you'd put Gray Davis next to you on stage to endorse your run for governor, then it's time to retire. Seriously. Whitman on the other hand has spelled out fiscally responsible measures to potentially get the state back on its feet. Like or her not personally, I cannot deny that she'd probably be better for the state as a whole.
The Boxer-Fiorina race is an easier choice. Barbara Boxer no longer feels like a Senator, she feels like a bone stuck in our collective throat. She's obstructionist, underhanded, nasty and (needless to say) an unrelenting bulldog for each and every far-left political fantasy. I briefly thought she was hip, but that was decades ago when I was young and very foolish. Now she just seems like a member of the Politburo. While I don't agree with everything Fiorina says, she did take time out to defend Israel in last night's acceptance speech, which was as surprising as it was welcomed. She generally opposes most of the liberal boondoggles Boxer supports, which is good enough for me. But most of all I want to ensure that Obama doesn't get another rubber-stamp Senate to ram through his agenda for the next two years, so for that reason alone I'd vote for practically anybody who wasn't Boxer.
Yet I worry that none of these issues will matter to the general electorate, who will instead vote based on uninformed surface impressions of the candidates. And since all four of the nominees are vaguely nauseating, the race in November will come down to which candidates one dislikes the least. Who do you want representing you: power-hungry dinosaurs or out-of-touch zillionaires? A depressing prospect indeed.