The embarrassment and dilemma of San Diego Democrats on the subject of the mayor’s race.

by on June 23, 2011 · 1 comment

in Election, San Diego

Editor: As San Diego’s mayoral race “heats up”, we’re starting to see ruminations on the left and right about why Democrats support Republicans (like DA Bonnie Dumanis) and about the historic dilemma of San Diego Democrats.  Here are acouple of contributions from our friends at Two Cathedrals.

The Democrats’ Dilemma

By Jared Quient / Two Cathedrals / June 22, 2011

San Diego is a center-left city. Yet for the past 20-plus years, we’ve consistently elected right-of-center mayors. It begs the question: Why?

Perhaps one reason is that we Democrats have yet to put up a moderate and electable name on the ballot in a race against an unabashed conservative alternative in that time.

Let’s jump to the 2012 race that is quickly taking shape. Carl DeMaio is solidifying his anti-government, anti-labor,tea party base on the right, which appears to be about 20% of the electorate.

For the remainder of this article, please go here.

The Democrats’ Embarrassment

by Lucas O’Connor / Two Cathedrals / June 23, 2011

Several political reporters wondered yesterday on Twitter, why would Kevin Faulconer’s office release and push a poll showing Donna Frye polling stronger than other Democratic candidates? Why is Faulconer’s communications director suddenly pushing Donna Frye as the potential front-runner if she were to get in? Since Faulconer has endorsed Bonnie Dumanis, it presumably isn’t out of some desire for Donna Frye to actually be mayor.

Instead, it reinforces the notion of DeMaio as a boogeyman for all right-minded people relative to the more moderate Republicans. Then it helps reinforce rumblings that neither presumed Democratic contender is sufficiently viable. In other words, it implicitly does the dirty work on behalf of Dumanis and nervous Dems that cut bait a year out and jump to a Republican are most likely to end up supporting Dumanis.

It’s a smart play, because Democrats in San Diego are chronically scared of their own shadows, and need only the slightest provocation to run for the nearest “moderate Republican” compromise safety hatch. It’s one thing when it’s the 2008 mayoral race, when Democrats failed to produce a remotely viable candidate and were left endorsing the lesser evil of the Republican options. But in spite of how strong she’d be, it’s another to pine for Donna Frye when San Diego Democrats are looking at two of the most qualified, repeatedly successful Democratic politicians in the city’s history.

As San Diego Politico flagged yesterday, a number of San Diego’s most prominent Democrats have lined up for the fundraiser launch of Republican Bonnie Dumanis’ campaign. So with arguably the two most accomplished, battle-tested, established, and funded Democratic candidates for mayor in San Diego’s history, why the uncertainty among Democrats?

If center-left Democrats (whatever that means) prefer to vote for a Republican whose full political value set is presumably much different instead of a Democrat slightly do their left, something significant is going on. There are three essential possibilities, and none of them are particularly inspiring.

  • They simply don’t think a Democrat can win. This is the most overtly sad possibility. Despite being among the leading forces in the San Diego Democratic Party, they have surveyed the scene and don’t see a candidate they think can win. Doesn’t matter that this is potentially the strongest field ever by résumé. If there isn’t a candidate in the field that reflects their values, it’s because of their fundamental failure to build the infrastructure and support network to train and foster such a candidate. Heck, even the Democratic Party defends itself by saying Democrats are inherently unmotivated to vote without taking responsibility for why. So they’re choosing a Republican because they feel their leadership failed to find an acceptable Democrat.
  • Bonnie Dumanis is the closest option to extend the Sanders years. The Sanders years have failed to address the budget crisis, failed to “solve” pensions, failed to come up with a model to connect philanthropists with communities, removed layers of accountability from municipal services, and directly instigated the statewide death of redevelopment corporations in the hopes of building a Chargers stadium. The only people with an interest in perpetuating this are those who benefit from the legacy power structure at City Hall — insiders with personal relationships downtown. So supporting a moderate Republican is a pay-to-play access move, ensuring that City Hall stays open to a few, select Democrats willing to promote Republican policy. It’s a nonpartisan problem, but a systemic one.
  • They prefer her vision for the city. Presumably, Democrats have a shared outlook on issues that make them Democrats. But many of those issues aren’t relevant to running the city. Maybe it’s a woman’s right to choose. Protecting Social Security. Reforming immigration policy. But those issues reflect (hopefully) a deeper perspective on how governing ought to be approached: A goal of providing the most good to the most people — a government that empowers whenever possible instead of trying to drown itself in a bathtub. If that baseline ethos is shared, then the goal ought to be working with Democrats on moderation and trusting their fundamental approach, because it’s that shared fundamental approach that led you both to the same party.

Probably it’s some combination of all three. But for a near-center Democrat, it should be natural to look for a Democrat who reaches towards the center, not a Republican who reaches towards the center.

I was recently asked why Donna Frye polls so well. I said what’s obviously true — she’s the only Democrat in 20 years to find any success as a mayoral candidate, so of course she’ll poll well. She’s consistently delivered in the face of the institutional downtown power structure and well earned the populist credibility that the public gives her.

But there’s a tougher second part of the answer: Donna Frye, like Francine Busby, found relatively disproportionate success as a Democratic candidate because of circumstance. Both were positioned to benefit politically from scandals so dramatic that some Democrat — any Democrat — was required to be taken seriously. Much can be said for the objective merits of both (there’s a long list in both cases), but to break out from the almost pathological self-loathing of San Diego Democrats, they needed scandals too egregious to allow Dems to waffle.

Until San Diego Democrats are willing to take the plunge and consistently support Democrats in tough elections without being forced by circumstance, San Diego will never discuss government from a Democratic perspective. We will continue to argue over how little we can survive on instead of how much we can accomplish. It will never matter how many Democrats turn up to vote , because no Democrat will ever have a reason to actually stand up for Democratic values. The general population will never hear a smart, comprehensive Democratic perspective on how the city could be run, and whether Carl DeMaio institutes a no-tax, no-service agenda quickly or Bonnie Dumanis does it slowly will be an academic footnote at best.

And the larger question will remain: Why didn’t Democrats bother to even try being Democrats?


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

mr.rick June 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm

San Diego is a center left city? Why do all (or most) of those elected in this town(yea, it’s still a town) keep electing GOP people? Maybe OB is slightly center left, but I wouldn,t vouch for the rest of this burg. If past is prologue we’re gonna have more of the same as far as the eye can see. Consistantly, Dago is one of the three reliable republican counties in the state. Orange and San Mateo counties being the others. Maybe the Rag readers are somewhat left, but these few months I’ve been back in the mix,makes me wonder about that,too.


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