Carl DeMaio Is a Dangerous, Mean-Spirited Liar and other Tales of Fear and Loathing in San Diego

by on May 14, 2012 · 13 comments

in Culture, Economy, Election, Labor, Popular, Under the Perfect Sun

Editor: Just to ensure that our readers and the world know where the OB Rag stands on Carl DeMaio, we’re running two posts today, one by Doug Porter, and this one by Jim Miller.

We have a conservative movement that has learned, over the decades, to mimic
many of the
characteristics of its enemies.” – Thomas Frank

As Frank Gormlie noted in an OB Rag piece last Saturday, Carl DeMaio used a pull quote from one of my OB Rag columns describing Nathan Fletcher as a “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.” More specifically, DeMaio’s mailer cites this passage:

Nathan Fletcher is not a man of great political courage. He isn’t even a particularly independent thinker. But he is politically clever, and he knows that San Diego’s Democratic base has a long history of being bamboozled by wolves in sheep’s clothing from the days of Pete Wilson to the present.

What is not at all surprising here is that DeMaio uses my piece and the OB Rag logo out of context, without permission, implying our endorsement of him. That kind of sleazy, unethical behavior is his raison d’etre. Indeed, one can rest assured that San Diego’s finest fabricator took great joy while executing the Machiavellian move of expropriating criticism from the left to use against his right-wing rival while omitting the fact that the same column refers to him as the “snarling pit bull of the right.” DeMaio’s angle? Swipe a progressive critique of one conservative candidate in order to fool Democrats and Independents into voting for the most reprehensible of the right wing candidates: himself.

Does this make DeMaio a shameless scoundrel? Yes. Should that be shocking to you? No—not if you’ve been paying attention.

Indeed in May of last year, I wrote a three part series outlining the nightmare scenario that DeMaio’s crusade to make San Diego the “Wisconsin of the West” represents. In sum, DeMaio is THE wolf in sheep’s clothing in the mayor’s race, the pure product of the right-wing think tank network. Add in some Grover Norquist zealotry, mixed with Newt Gingrich pomposity, and a dash of the Jack Abromoff scandal and you get Carl DeMaio.

DeMaio is not just a garden-variety right winger, he is one of the architects of the movement that has pushed the Republican party into becoming a crew of corporate anarchists whose goal it is to radically remake American society into a privatopia, where the public sector serves little function other than as a conduit for public tax dollars into the hands of the moneyed elite. He is San Diego’s robber barons’ best friend.

But what really makes Carl a local hybrid of Dr. Evil and the Pillsbury Dough Boy is how he has successfully painted himself as a populist reformer.

You can see it in his horrendous television commercials as he leads a pack of corpse-like white  people down the street to “take back San Diego.” Cinematically it’s like a fusion of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Night of the Living Dead. But if you can get past the awful imagery, you get to the crux of his public message: I’m not a shill for the rich and big money in San Diego, I’m a man of the people, a populist reformer bent on bringing down the powerful elite and giving the city back to “the people.”

This all sounds great until you realize that DeMaio is the elite. His policies are designed to privatize gain while keeping risk public. His enemies are not those in the Old Guard whose money has dominated city politics for ages; they are city employees—librarians, lifeguards, and sanitation workers. What DeMaio wants to do is punish the politically vulnerable while rewarding the powerful. Literally every idea Carl dreams up is designed to comfort the affluent while sticking it to the afflicted.

The truth of San Diego’s recent history is aptly described in “Paradise Plundered” where Steve Erie and company note how San Diego’s political and business elites have done a fantastic job of “using public resources to maximize private profit” with little to no oversight from our “shadow governments” and local media who they accuse of “largely representing downtown business interests.” “Paradise Plundered” singles out the arguments being made by DeMaio, the Union-Tribune, and others in the San Diego media that we have spent ourselves to ruin by illustrating that “the city’s public finances over the past four decades have been marked by fiscal austerity, not profligacy.”

So clearly, Carl DeMaio is factually challenged at every turn.

Nevertheless, by clothing his agenda in a populist costume, DeMaio draws on San Diegans’ legitimate anger and frustration with the economy and the failure of our city’s radically underfunded services to adequately serve the public and redirects it not at the economic movers and shakers or the politicians who actually made the decisions that nearly bankrupted San Diego, but at beleaguered city workers.

The reality is that DeMaio consistently distorts the truth about San Diego’s history and budget in order to demonize working people. He ignores the big givebacks that city workers have made and the fact that the city’s budget is actually inching back from the abyss. Why? The truth would get in the way of crushing unions, privatizing services, and turning San Diego’s government into nothing more than a big fat cash cow for hoteliers, developers, and other Chamber of Commerce types. It is a cowardly, mean-spirited politics, but in some circles, it has worked.

In “What’s the Matter with Kansas” and “Pity the Billionaire”, Thomas Frank has skillfully analyzed how the American right has hijacked populism by redefining the elites not as those who actually hold economic and political power, but as the liberal enemies of “market populism.” In this upside-down, doublethink world, it is never the rich or corporations or their political proxies who are to blame, but those who would limit the nearly untrammeled power of capital. As Frank notes:

“The conservative renaissance rewrites history according to the political demands of the moment, generates thick smoke screens of deliberate bewilderment, grabs for itself the nobility of the common toiler, and projects onto its rivals the arrogance of the aristocrat.”

Thus Carl DeMaio has cast himself as the populist outsider railing against the powerful when, in fact, he is the fox in the hen house. It would be amusing if it didn’t have the potential of doing so much harm to the future of San Diego. And the sad fact is that recent polling shows DeMaio still picking up a significant number of Democrats who’ve been hoodwinked into thinking that DeMaio is a “reformer” rather than the epitome of hypocrisy that he is: a dangerously corrupt fraud.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

JMW May 14, 2012 at 9:52 am

More. More. More.


mel May 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

You devote hardly any space to the number one issue in the voter’s minds,namely pension plans. Pension envy is why people will vote for Carl. People resent city employee pensions being 3 and 4 times social security pensions. And they resent the fact that for years the employees paid nothing into the plans, while the taxpayers paid everything. That’s why Prob B is so popular. As the leader of propB, Carl will benefit, even though he is a sociopath. But Republican politicians are practically all sociopaths-look at Romney for example.


Anna Daniels May 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

mel- I retired from the city. I paid into my retirement and supplemental pension throughout the 26 1/2 years I worked with the city. I was not in management; my pension is not 2 or 4 times the social security for someone with the equivalent job/eduction/years. Facts matter.


Andy Cohen May 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm

The fact is, mel, that the pension problems have for the most part been solved–save the lingering debt created by the deliberate underfunding of the pension accounts–through responsible governance and tough decisions that could only have been made through the cooperation and reasonableness of the public employee unions. The unions have given back a significant amount of benefits over the last five years.

In fact, as far as I can tell, the only major problem that lingers in San Diego’s public employee pension system is the pension debt. In studying the problem for my writings here on the Rag, every other issue raised by supporters of Prop B can be easily solved via a simple and legal vote of the City Council. And as Doug Porter mentioned in his piece today, all of the small handful of pensions that are held up as “outrageous” by the Carl DeMaio’s of the city are going to management level employees that were not even part of the unions. The city can quite easily just cap those kinds of pensions. But the truth is that there are so few of them that it won’t really make a huge difference in the city’s finances anyway.


dulce May 15, 2012 at 8:52 am

I also want to clarify that I am a current City employee. I have ALWAYS contributed to my own pension for the 26 years I have been with the City. I do not have social security benefits. My retirement will not be 3 to 4 times what someone in the private sector earns in their retirement, not even close. It is too bad that some people in politics want to spin the truth, or even flat out lie to put themselves on a soapbox, and pin people against each other by having them believe something that is not truthful. We all pay taxes, so in a way we contribute to our own retirement twice! We all contribute to the street repairs we peform, the library we staff, the 911 dispatcher calls we answer. Do we question the salary, bonus or retirement that the SDGE workers earn? Or the cable company? Cell phone, grocerys – gas!! Everyone in this life pays for everything/everyone else in some way or fashion. If you work at a fast food establishment or or a high paid attorney – everyone else pays your way – the money doesn’t fall from the sky. I hope that you will seek the truth rather than believe the propaganda that Carl puts out for the sake of his own grandstanding.


lllz May 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

Is Carl’s spouse a felon, or even a fugitive? These docs say yes.


Ernie McCray May 14, 2012 at 11:11 am

Jim, you painted this dude like a great artist lays down a subject on canvas. Everything I’ve thought about Carl you expressed brilliantly.


Arthur Salm May 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm

There are so many great lines in this piece, but this one really gets to the heart of the matter:

“DeMaio draws on San Diegans’ legitimate anger and frustration with the economy and the failure of our city’s radically underfunded services to adequately serve the public and redirects it not at the economic movers and shakers or the politicians who actually made the decisions that nearly bankrupted San Diego, but at beleaguered city workers.”

Thus it has been for way, way too long — the playing off of the middle class against the lower middle class and the poor. It used to be that people would say, “Hey, he has a pension, why don’t I?”, or “Hey, she has health care, why don’t I?” But the middle class has turned, or rather, been turned on itself; the refrain now concludes with, “Let’s take pensions/health care away from them.” DeMaio and his crooked free-market wrecking crew intend to slam into place infrastructure that ensures the funneling of all beyond-bare-subsistence public monies into the bulging coffers (I gotta look up “coffers” some day) of the rapacious despoilers of our land, our city, our society.


Goastskull May 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

“Carl DeMaio Is a Dangerous, Mean-Spirited Liar”
Maybe I’m just overly pessimistic, but doesn’t that pretty much describe anyone who chooses public office as a career choice regardless of personal political leanings? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not voting for him but just sayin.


Eva May 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

How can you, Carl, be part of something that would deny you a way of life, and literally say you don’t matter? Just for that alone I would not vote for you. You’d sell out your family if it got you into office.


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