“Whereas the San Fernando Valley Republican Club supports the conservative principles of limited government, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, free enterprise, strong national defense and individual freedom … therefore, be it resolved, that the San Fernando Valley Republican Club will neither endorse nor support either Cong. Sherman or Cong. Berman in the 2012 Congressional contest in the 30th Congressional District in the San Fernando Valley.”
Frankly, I was astonished by this email blast from a group I know well, having been invited to speak to its members on local political issues many times over the years.
But boycott the election for Congress? Has it come to that? Are we so alienated from our politicians and political processes that “none of the above” seems like a reasonable option?
“The San Fernando Valley Republican Club commends both Cong. Berman and Cong. Sherman on their strong support for Israel, but the SFVRC will take no position in the congressional race,” said Gary Aminoff, the group's president, in the email. “It would not be possible for Republicans who believe in conservative principles to be able to support either candidate in good conscience.”
I feel his pain. I'm fed up with having to choose between the lesser of two evils in election after election and then finding out that even when the lesser evil overcomes the big money and wins with the support of grassroots people, they quickly become indistinguishable from the greater of the two evils.
That happens because the system itself brings the men and women we elect to their knees in subservience, no matter what values they brought into the halls of power, no matter what promises they made to voters.
It's the system. Money, power, influence and access rule the day. That's why there is gridlock in Washington and stalemate in Sacramento, why we are going around in political circles instead of forward as a nation.
But refusing to participate is not act of civil disobedience. It is an abdication of responsibility to work for the betterment of our society and its people, the crushing of hope for all of us.
In the case of Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman — two long-time Democratic members of Congress engaged in one of the costliest partisan campaigns in history — it probably doesn't matter which one wins because their voting records are so similar.
The American Conservative Union gives Sherman a lifetime rating of 4.65 out of 100, Berman a 5.0 — reflecting how similar their voting records are. The slight difference explains perhaps why Berman is expected to pick up endorsements in the days ahead from some prominent Republicans who will say they have successfully worked in a bipartisan manner with him.
The contest itself is the fallout from redistricting that left both candidates living in the same electoral district, and from new open primary rules that have left voters in a number of state and congressional districts choosing in November between candidates of the same party, rather than Democratic versus Republican candidates.
The hope was that candidates with more centrist views would stand a chance in primary elections even in lopsidedly partisan districts because of the potential for cross-over voting, rather than straight party-line voting.
There were some signs in the June primary that, over time, that might happen, but for now, voters still face a lot of “lesser-of-two-evils elections” or outcomes that are virtually certain because of one-party dominance of a district.
As the billion-dollar presidential campaigns shift into high gear with the party conventions coming, the gulf between left and right is surely going to widen at a time when we need to be coming together to find better ways to get through the fundamental economic restructuring that is occurring on a global scale — and to find real solutions to the vast array problems we face.
At a time when we need to put aside partisanship and ideology, our political leaders are going in the opposite direction, cheered on by the loudest voices in the electorate and fortunes in special-interest money.
It's hard to see what, short of a calamity that hurts almost everyone or a mass awakening from the electorate's long, deep sleep, would change the dynamic.
RON KAYE can be reached at email@example.com. Share your thoughts and stories with him.