Still Searching for Fletcher’s “Move to the Middle”

by on May 15, 2012 · 11 comments

in Economy, Election, Labor, Politics, San Diego

San Diego Mayoral candidate says his defection from the Republican Party means he’s changed, but there’s no real evidence to demonstrate he has.

I received an email from the Nathan Fletcher for Mayor Campaign last week.  It’s the usual stuff:  “This week Nathan Fletcher was attacked from the far-right for working with Democrats, and from the far-left for working with Republicans.  The truth is they’re both right.  Nathan will work with anyone to solve problems,” the message says.

“Nathan Fletcher was attacked from the far-right for working with Democrats.”  Okay, that’s true.  Fletcher’s defection from the Republican Party so rankled Politburo feathers that he immediately became a pariah; a veritable “he-who-shall-not-be-named” in Republican circles.  Not surprising.  Republicans are a pretty petty bunch.  Anyone who doesn’t vote in lock-step along the Party line gets shunned for not adhering to a strict ideology.  You’re not a “team player,” they’ll tell you.

The Republicans don’t like him because he actually wants to do his job and talk to the other side.  No great surprise there.  Words like “compromise” and “cooperation” are antithetical to everything the modern Republican Party stands for.  They are all about absolutism.  Our way or the highway, take it or leave it.  If the Democrats said that “water is wet,” just to be contrarian and to avoid ever admitting that Democrats are right about something, they’d insist that no, in fact water is not wet, and that their colleagues across the aisle are merely putting on political theatrics to try to gain the upper hand.

They would then proceed to round up every last right-wing blogger, columnist, and talking head within a 1,000 mile radius and embark on a prolonged media campaign, demonizing the Democrats for having the mendacity to accuse poor, innocent water of being wet, never once bothering to describe their impression of what happens when an object comes into contact with water.  But rest assured, they’ll tell you, it doesn’t get wet.

Mr. Fletcher himself has described situations in the State Assembly where there was wide agreement with Democrats on bills but his caucus was determined to vote ‘no’ anyway simply because they didn’t want to “give Democrats a win.”  But then when the highly partisan UT San Diego editorial board asked him if he actually had the audacity to say that “Republicans share the reasons the state is so screwed up when in fact Republicans are very much junior partners in Sacramento,” he backed off, seemingly agreeing with the premise of the question that the Democrats are the sole responsible party for the gridlock in Sacramento.

There’s one problem with that:  In the California State Legislature, it takes a 2/3 majority vote to pass any meaningful legislation.  It’s like in the United States Senate, where minority rules.  Democrats hold just barely enough of a majority to meet that threshold in the Assembly, but fall one vote short in the State Senate, meaning that Republicans can and do kill any legislation that would, oh, say, raise revenues merely by refusing to compromise and casting a party line vote.

Here’s what he told the editorial board (emphasis added):

In my time up there (in Sacramento), there have been times I’ve agreed with my party and there have been times I’ve disagreed with my party, and those have been well documented.  Your paper has covered them extensively.  The disagreements have come in multiple forms.  I’ve disagreed with my party on things like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and I disagreed with them when a group of them wanted to raise taxes.  I don’t think that’s right.  And I think there’s this long running frustration and it’s been a series of things that strike me as disingenuous in partisan politics today.  You know the tax deal we did where I was told by multiple people ‘hey, it’s the right thing to do, but we can’t let the other side get a win and look good.’

We had a big debate on Monday in Sacramento…so last year when redevelopment was being ended, Republicans stood up and said ‘we’re not gonna end it because it’s local governments’ money and they have it and should keep it,’ and I actually agreed with that.  Well, then we fight for 5 or 6 months and we get an agreement to allow some of the affordable housing money to go to the cities, and those same people came in and said ‘we’re going to be opposed to this because the money should go to education’ and I said ‘that’s the polar opposite to what we just said.’  They go ‘yeah yeah, but it’s 2/3 vote so let’s just hold it up so we can embarrass them.’

Doesn’t sound to me like much of the problem is coming from the Democratic side.

Fletcher also says that he’s “attacked from the far-left for working with Republicans.”  Now on this one I call bullshit.  Democrats don’t care if you negotiate with Republicans.  Democrats themselves are constantly trying to negotiate in good faith with Republicans.  Democrats practically have to beg Republicans to just come and have a reasonable conversation.

It never happens.  Not these days, anyway.

Democrats don’t criticize him for “working with Republicans.”  They criticize him because he is a Republican.  Just two weeks before his “switch,” he went before the San Diego GOP to beg for their endorsement, telling them what a great and loyal Republican he’s always been.

So let’s look at his “moderate” positions:  In 2007, Fletcher signed the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge.  He now says that he wouldn’t sign it today, yet he still refuses to consider any tax increases for any reason, despite the desperate fiscal crisis the State of California is in and despite the City of San Diego’s need for revenues just to restore basic city services.  It’s an all cuts budget or bust.  He opposed Jerry Sanders’ Prop D half cent sales tax increase, and in fact says he’s opposed to any tax increases (except, of course, for the tax gift to the hoteliers for the Convention Center expansion).  “Nathan Fletcher has never voted for a tax increase,” he boasts in a “fact sheet” to set the record straight on a deal he made with Governor Jerry Brown.

Because of it, and because of the 2/3 majority required to pass any budget bill, California may be stuck once again with an all-cuts budget to close the most recent $16 billion shortfall, all because people like Nathan Fletcher won’t ever vote for a single dime of tax increases on those among us who’ve made out like bandits during this recession.

Nathan Fletcher says he’s pro-choice.  He’s always been for a woman’s right to choose saying “women have a constitutionally protected right to make personal decisions regarding their health including whether or not to have an abortion.”  He also says that he’s got a good working relationship with Planned Parenthood.  Except that Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California gave him a 0% grade on abortion issues, listing him as anti-choice.

He was once against gay marriage, now he says he supports it.  Alright, I’ll give him a pass on this one, given how even Barack Obama has ‘evolved’ on the matter recently (although most who have followed this president over the last four years on this issue firmly believe that he held his current position all along, but for political reasons couldn’t say so).  Still, one has to wonder if Fletcher’s acceptance of gay marriage was borne out of political expedience—much like what most of us suspect about his “defection” from the Republican Party—or out of a genuine change of heart.

And on the pension issues, Fletcher still insists on supporting a “reform” plan aimed at punishing public workers rather than dealing with the issue itself.  The workers didn’t create the pension morass.  Public officials did, and yet Fletcher still wants to punish the workers for the misdeeds of City Councils of old, and even though he acknowledges that the egregious examples of abuse come from the management side and not the labor side.

No, Nathan Fletcher, Democrats aren’t mad at you for negotiating with Republicans.  You are a Republican, even if no longer in name.  You only claim to be an independent, but have shown no true signs of actual separation in ideology from the Republican Party.  You may have moderated on gay rights, but the rest, not so much.

Democrats haven’t been, by and large, ideologically driven.  Of course there’s a significant amount of ideology involved in Democratic politicians’ policy positions, but we still want them to be reasonable.  We still want them to be able to negotiate in good faith for a good, fair deal.

It’s Republicans that have disowned Nathan Fletcher for wanting to work with Democrats.  Democrats aren’t bothered in the least by his willingness to work for the common good.  What we’re bothered by is the fact that he claims to be an independent, yet by his own admission he hasn’t changed a single policy position.  And he still adheres to the Grover Norquist pledge to never, ever even consider an increase on taxes on anybody in order to pay for public services like, oh, say, education.

Fletcher’s defection has started a trend, with a group of businessmen and women who, inspired by Fletcher, formed a coalition—a movement of their own, if you will—called Movement to the Middle.  But the truth is that we’ve seen no real movement to the middle.  We’ve heard a lot of talk about it, but we’ve seen no real action from Mr. Fletcher or anyone else, particularly on economic issues.  And until we see real evidence of that, it’ll be hard to consider Nathan Fletcher anything more than a Flim Flam man.


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

judi Curry May 15, 2012 at 9:35 am

Thanks for the “what was” and the “what is now” reporting Andy. What you have written is succinct and to the point. No questions anymore about his stance on these issues. You deserve plaudits for your continued political reporting.


Tim CLmt May 15, 2012 at 9:50 am

Opion piece OK. Reporting not hardly when your blatantly biases . “Democrats aren’t bothered in the least by his willingness to work for the common good. What we’re bothered by is………. Maybe is should just be call the OBama Rag. Nothing new but left wing ranting and raving which has gotten ous now where .


doug porter May 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

You’d think with a masthead–that’s the thingie at the top of the page– that said “Freaks, uppity women and politicos” and a logo that includes a peace symbol, that people would get it that we have an actual “position” on things. It’s how we roll and we make no bones about it. Never have, never will.
But nooo… instead we get people coming on to comment who think that it’s written in the Constitution that we’re supposed to be unbiased. At least we’re honest about where we’re coming from.


chris May 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

With such a negative scathing tone toward Republicans it sounds to me like Andy isn’t open to talking or considering their opinions (which do vary). This sounds a bit like what he is accusing Republicans of as he paints them with his broad brush.

— …a Republican with a mind to consider other viewpoints.

p.s. It’s easy to find political corruption on both sides of the aisle. Generally you will find it wherever you look for it.


Andy Cohen May 15, 2012 at 10:30 am

Got anything other than deep cuts and other austerity measures? Anything other than “cut taxes?” Anything other than “no abortion, ever, under any circumstances?” Anything other than “let’s kill government and privatize everything?”

If so, I’ll listen.


chris May 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I believe absolute power corrupts absolutely. This applies to corporate CEO’s and wall street moguls who exploit their power to further grow their wealth regardless of consequences. The draw to make money often drowns out the ethics of how that affects people at a personal level. Likewise in government there is rampant waste and corruption as the numerous arms of government spend as much money as possible to justify their existence and need for more funding… Not to mention those in government that use their influence to further their personal interests and “investments”.

I don’t mind paying taxes so long as they are used with efficiency and accountability – which brings up the conundrum: “Who will watch the watchmen?”


Andy Cohen May 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm

That’s what we have elections for, to hold our public officials accountable. It’s our fault if we elect the wrong ones.

Look at it this way: What’s your opinion on absolute opposition under any and all circumstances? ‘Cause that’s what we’ve got right now. I agree with your basic premise, but the other side has to at least be willing to deal in good faith, and the Republicans absolutely are not. Nathan Fletcher said so himself. So what then? What’s your solution then?

The only other reasonable option is absolute power for the Dems, who tend to be far less ideologically homogenous and who are more likely to put together at least fairly reasonable legislation. Is it the ideal solution? No, of course not. But under the current circumstances I don’t see any other options.

What this state really needs is to get rid of that 2/3 majority crap and the whole legislation via ballot initiative thing. It’s killing this state. But that’s for another post.


Ernie McCray May 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

So, Andy, when do you start writing for the New York Times, after all these months of primo reporting? Great job!


Seth May 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Fletcher is an interesting case. He strikes me as having as much personal integrity as he lacks in political integrity. But I don’t see how anyone can buy his moderate shift. It was pure opportunism based on not being able to get his party’s backing. He might not agree down the line with the GOP, but his personal politics seem to be rather conservative. Hard to sign that Grover Norquist pledge and then claim to be center-right.


dave rice May 15, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I haven’t made it through the whole article or comments yet, but just have to interject that if I were in any legislative body my first action would be to introduce a “water is wet” resolution just to see if I could generate any partisan bickering. Then I’d anoint myself the “Man Who Found Common Ground” upon its passage, or resign and embark on a speaking tour bitching about comedic nature of partisanship if it failed.

Maybe the Wet Water Resolution could be Scott Peters’ first foray into national bipartisanship if he wins out…I for one would love to see it.


RB May 16, 2012 at 10:08 am

I can not accept your ‘water is wet resolution’ until you define water. Does water include all isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen or only the liberally acceptable non radioactive isotopes of H1 and O16? I will never accept discrimination against heavy water, D2O. Judging water by its wetness leads to discrimination against heavier isotopes and their different surface tensions, coefficient of friction, and fluid flows.


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