Mailbag: Readers digest the election before Thanksgiving dinner
Grateful for political outcomes in Costa Mesa
This year, as is the case every even-numbered year, Thanksgiving Day follows an election earlier in November. Depending on the results, you either celebrate with gusto, or begrudgingly gnaw on a turkey leg and grumble about what might have been. Despite the controversy in the national election results, this year I join many other Costa Mesans smiling as we salivate over that dinner to come.
This election season was full of surprises, none more dramatic than Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. Locally, though, we’ve had results that were similarly surprising. For example, as I type this a week before the holiday, and not all of the Orange County votes counted, it looks very much like Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger will not be returned to the City Council by the electorate. At this point, incumbent Sandra Genis and lawyer John Stephens, who teamed with former councilman Jay Humphrey as a slate, are neck-and-neck with a large lead over returning former mayor, Allan Mansoor, who, in turn, holds a lead over Mensinger for the third seat available this cycle.
Humphrey trails Mensinger by a small margin. This was a surprising result, so it seems appropriate to look for a reason. We don’t have to look very far. In addition to the 17 statewide issues, there were eight local measures on the ballot facing Costa Mesa voters, two of which were citizen-generated initiatives addressing Growth and Fairview Park. Measure Y, the so-called Smart Growth Initiative, and Measure AA, designed to protect Fairview Park from development, were placed on the ballot after more than 7,000 signatures of registered Costa Mesa voters were obtained for each and qualified for the ballot.
However, Mensinger’s City Council majority decided they couldn’t trust the electorate, so they cobbled together two separate competing measures. The voters saw through that and both Measure Y and Measure AA are passing by astounding margins, at least 2-1.
These measures, and the campaigns of Genis, Stephens and Humphrey, were largely the result of grassroots efforts by hundreds of residents who pounded the pavement for months, knocking on doors, spreading about truth of issues and candidates, one voter at a time. At the same time, Mensinger and his campaign machine, which apparently was funded in great part by out-of-town developer money, flooded our mailboxes with a torrent of negative fliers denigrating the candidates and initiatives.
The final straw for many voters may have been when they attacked members of the Costa Mesa public safety organizations, many of whom supported the Genis/Stephens/Humphrey ticket. We don’t know who chose that path, but it certainly was ill-advised and it backfired, because angry voters turned out in droves and made a statement at the polls; they’ve had enough.
If the trends hold, we can anticipate a new, more conciliatory atmosphere once the new council is seated. We can expect the return of study sessions, where pithy issues are fleshed out in public. The wisdom of all council members will be considered, and decisions made by the council will place the best interests of all Costa Mesans ahead of out-of-town developers. It will be fun to watch.
Misogny in the White House is a step backward
I am horrified at the post-election words of Donald Trump, and the news of some of his anticipated appointments, especially that of chief strategist Stephen Bannon, a self-avowed member of the alt-right, not to mention a known misogynist and alleged wife abuser [Spousal abuse charges against Bannon were dropped in 1996, when his now-ex wife did not appear in court].
What has happened to Trump’s conciliatory victory speech promises about being a president for all Americans and binding the wounds of division in this country? And how can he think that simply looking at the camera and saying “stop it” on “60 Minutes” to some of his alt-right followers who have participated in so many acts of hate in recent days can stop the violence and fear that his campaign has inspired? He needs to take responsibility right away for what he has wrought in this country or there will be dire consequences even he couldn’t have imagined.
I look around my Newport Beach neighborhood and see that many voted for this man, though they did not put signs in their yards. Some of these people are friends of mine, and I challenge them to explain why they think that such a deplorable man and his entourage of hate-mongers can bring positive change to this country. I do not intend to withdraw my friendship, but rather will try to reach out and understand these people, and see if there is some way we can work together for a better America. We all owe it to each other to try and come together.
As a progressive Democrat, I too feel the country needs change, but the brand that Trump is signaling in the last week is destined to create irreversible destruction on every level in this country and throughout the world, to the environment, racial relations, women’s rights, education, freedom of the press, and on and on.
I went to sleep on election night a proud American and woke up to an America I don’t recognize and cannot defend. It is up to all of us who believe in the principles that this country was founded upon to raise our voices against this dark and terrifying administration. Not since Richard Nixon has our work been so clear, but in a post-911 world, the stakes are even greater now.
An outsider should lead the DNC
My dad, who was a delegate to the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Democratic National Conventions, used to tell me, “If you can sell hamburgers, you can sell politicians.”
I’m not sure what the recipe is for picking a new chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), but I will say this: Selecting a sitting member of Congress, like Keith Ellison, or picking a former leader, like Howard Dean, both of whom are fine gentlemen, won’t turn around the Democrats’ fortunes. No, my party needs to pick an outsider with insider instincts.
Having first worked on Capitol Hill in 1972, and then as a DNC finance officer in 1974, I know how Washington works. Reps. Don Edwards and Bob Strauss were my political mentors back then. When you couple my time in D.C. with the hundreds of articles I have penned from California about both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, I am particularly well suited to become the next chair of the DNC.
Perhaps more importantly, I have real world experiences bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to fight for a common cause (i.e., against offshore drilling), plus a track record of major fund raising accomplishments (like helping to raise more than $1.2 million for then-Sen. Barack Obama in conservative Orange County).
In short, I am prepared to bring Hispanic, African American and Middle East activists with me to Washington. They would start working my first day on the job. These talented men and women will be people who know how to market the Democratic Party to the millions of voters who stayed home on Election Day. If that wasn’t enough, I will set lofty fund raising goals that will more than pay for the DNC’s outreach efforts.
A month before Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007, I wrote the following in the San Francisco Business Times:
“As a lifelong Democrat, I couldn’t be happier with (a) the outcome of the midterm elections or (b) what appears to be a shift in thinking on the part of congressional leaders. As far as I am concerned, it’s not what the Democrats say, but where they say it.”
Now shoot ahead to 2015. Here was my plea to the DNC: “Given the Republican tidal wave two months ago, I hope Hillary Clinton, my party’s presumptive presidential candidate in 2016, takes my marketing comments to heart. This goes for the leadership of my party as well. The DNC is in the process of conducting an audit of what happened last November at the polls. The assumption is the party will be able to fix its problems two years from now.”
In an effort to do just that, I urged Democratic public relations gurus to pitch more stories to local business publications than to the Wall Street Journal and to spend more time with business writers than with political writers. Here’s why:
Whether they live in red states or blue, more than 75 million Americans own or work for small companies with 100 employees or fewer. These are decent, hardworking people who are the cornerstones of their communities. One of the chief reasons they, as a group, gave for not voting Democratic in the 2014 midterms was this: Despite the overall economic recovery (monthly job growth, a drop in the deficit and a soaring stock market, for example), people simply did not feel the recovery had reached their kitchen table. Talk about a classic marketing/communication problem.
My dad knew that politics is part art and part science. Often it is more about perception than reality. Clearly, the Republicans are experts in crafting messages that confuse (at best) or scare (at worst) the electorate into voting against their better judgment. That old line about the Democrats wanting to increase corporate red tape, increase personal income taxes and generally make everyone’s life harder has been told so many times, I almost began believing it myself.
If the DNC is looking for a chair who understands how to market hamburgers and politicians, then I’m your guy. If not, then I’ll happily step out of the kitchen and wait to see what kind of recipe the new leader of my party cooks up.