Democracy belabored

SN&R’s new state-politics columnist longs for odd-numbered years

Greg Lucas’ state-politics column Capitol Lowdown will appear every-other week in SN&R. He also blogs at

Labor Day is the start of that centuries-old fall classic: the general election. Or at least it used to be, anyway, back in the bucolic age when baseball was born and school didn’t start until the crops were harvested. But even the most benumbed rock head recognizes this is no longer the case. Arguably, Barry Obama has been running for re-election since he was first elected president on November 4, 2008. And Mitt “Less Than Perfect Fit” Romney has been alternately lurching and flailing upon the presidential stage seemingly as long as the more than 1,300 years between when Moroni was alive and when he appeared, as an angel, to Joseph Smith in 1823.

Closer to home, those foolish enough to covet one of the 120 seats in Sacramento’s White Sepulcher, otherwise known as the Capitol, have been preening and pimping themselves for far longer than three days. Similarly, the stuff-their-pockets hustlers and smug, reinvent-California-in-mine-own-image do-gooders behind the 11 propositions on November’s ballot began making their mischief many months past.

Labor Day is no longer the campaign starting line; it’s the start of the last lap. Savor these first few halcyon days, because during the subsequent 59, the yammering and huckstering will only grow more cloying and imbecilic.

Mercifully, California is not a battleground state. Absent some cataclysm, we’re going with who we brought to the dance four years ago. The no-doubt-grateful prez is aware of that, and so is not inflicting on California a barrage of his TV exhortations to go “Forward”—tacitly suggesting the Mitt-meister and his youthful ward Paul Ryan hunger to hurl us backward.

And since Mitt knows the day he wins California will be right about the time “skank” and “Paris Hilton” are no longer synonyms, he isn’t wasting his Brobdingnagian war chest trying to convince Californians he’s just a regular beer-and-barbecue guy.

Only his hubris allows him to believe there’s enough money on the planet to accomplish that feat.

Nonetheless, Californians will still be carpet-bombed—if they haven’t already—with vapid, buzzword-laden solicitations for cash to bankroll Barry and Mitt’s self-hawking in other states, where the outcome in November is in dispute. Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio, for example.

Should this dearth of electronic political advertising by the presidential wannabes in the Golden State cause any measure of sorrow, buck up! The promoters and opponents of those 11 propositions are eager to fill the vacuum.

Part of that eagerness is fueled by campaign consultants, who rake off a snappy 10 percent when they place advertising on a TV station. That business model might explain the saturation buys during the two weeks before the first Tuesday in November—despite the fact that most Californians regularly vote by mail, and well in advance of Election Day.

Instead of the president and his GOP contender, Californians will hear about the hideous inequities contained in Proposition 32, which makes it harder for unions, corporations and other political players to siphon money from paychecks to write contributions to causes and candidates. Opponents, chiefly labor unions, are already in for $7.6 million, according to contribution reports filed with the state as of June 30.

Also expect plenty of 30-second salvoes from Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, which want to jack up taxes, allegedly to help schools. Gov. Edmund G. “Calvus” Brown has $5 million on hand and is hurriedly Hoovering up more. His will likely be a futile effort to convince Californians they should send the already profligate and rapacious state even more money to squander.

Molly Munger is already in for $18 million on her tax measure, Proposition 38, so don’t expect silence from her in the weeks ahead.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. Albeit less than 10 weeks, it will be filled with struggle and suffering. So let us go forward together and wage war—with all our might—against the rank hypocrisy and tawdry half-truths that will be inflicted upon us in the weeks ahead. Until, on November 7, we may begin to bask in the broad, sunlit uplands of odd-numbered years.