“We have a conservative movement that has learned, over the decades, to mimic many of the characteristics of its enemies.” ~ Thomas Frank
During the run-up to the June primary Carl DeMaio used a quote from one of my OB Rag columns in a mailer attacking Nathan Fletcher that implied the Rag’s support for his candidacy. My response was a column, “Carl DeMaio is a Dangerous, Mean-Spirited Liar and Other Tales of Fear and Loathing in San Diego” where I observed:
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” . . . 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.
Now, just a week away from the November election, Carl is doing it again, this time running an ad featuring a woman saying “I am a teacher and a union member” supporting Carl DeMaio. She is joined by a rainbow coalition of other folks who comprise the base of the Democratic party–Latinos, African Americans, young people—the very folks whose interests will most definitely not be served by a DeMaio administration. But who cares that all the local teachers’ organizations and every major civil rights and progressive community activist group in San Diego has endorsed Filner?
Just lie, Carl hopes, and the rubes will buy it.
He is counting on the fact that there are enough Democrats (the folks who polls show are voting for Obama over Romney in San Diego by a significant margin, for instance) uninformed enough to fall for DeMaio’s Cuddly Carl knock off of Romney’s Moderate Mitt routine. Right now, the race is a dead heat. Tied. If undecided Democrats get a clue and figure out that DeMaio is Romney/Ryan squared, Filner wins. If they don’t, hapless Obama Democrats will end up electing the most radically right wing mayor in the history of San Diego—and that’s saying something.
And DeMaio will have done so by duping Democrats. In my piece before the primary I outlined the strategy:
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.
As opposed to the moderate fellow Carl has been impersonating this fall, he is, in fact, a radical right-winger. Indeed, I wrote a three part series outlining the nightmare scenario that DeMaio’s crusade to make San Diego the “Wisconsin of the West” represents. This fall I followed those pieces with two more noting DeMaio’s connections to the Republican wrecking crew that brought us the Abramoff scandal, and his cozy partnership with San Diego Robber Baron San Diego Union-Tribune owner Doug Manchester.
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 Abramoff 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 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. He doesn’t have good “fresh ideas,” he has bad old ones.
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, Vladimir Kogan, and Scott MacKenzie 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 away 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.
Having the money to outspend Bob Filner by a large margin is the key. Week after week of carpet bombing Filner with negative ads is working. The goal is to erode Filner’s initial lead by throwing as many lies at him as money can buy, and then marry those lies to more lies about Cuddly Carl the moderate—friend of everything and everyone he has spent his entire career trying to destroy.
Hence, if Obama needs to cure America of Romnesia to win, we need to cure San Diego of Carl Dementia, an ailment whose symptoms include confusion and incurable double think caused by a severe overdose of negative political advertisements brought to you by moneyed interests bent on further feathering their own nests. Insert the shit-eating grin of Doug Manchester here.
The question of the day is whether or not a large enough chunk of San Diego Democrats are stupid enough to buy Carl’s snake oil. If they are, Welcome to America’s Shittiest City sponsored by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Charles and Molly in Charge?
Similarly in the California ballot war, the fate of Proposition 30 and the future of our state’s education system are in jeopardy as Charles Munger and his rich friends have dumped in yet another $24 million in the last week or so to kill Prop. 30 and boost Prop. 32. While the good news is that the union-busting Proposition 32 looks dead in the water at 39% in both major state polls last week, 30 is also sliding, down to 46% in the USC survey and 48% in PPIC.
The deciding group here, drumroll: . . . Obama Democrats. Yes, as with the mayoral contest, the polls suggest that if all the Obama Democrats come home to Proposition 30 statewide, Brown’s measure will win. If not, you’ll have Democrats voting for a President who wants the wealthy to pay their fair share at the national level, while voting against that very same principle in California.
A key group in that demographic are Proposition 38 supporters who, as of now, are not inclined to vote for 30 as a result of Molly Munger’s negative ads against Proposition 30. If those folks, most of whom are Democrats who will end up voting for Obama, get a clue and realize that 38 is sitting at 28% approval in the polls and that 30 is the ONLY chance to avoid a catastrophe for our children, it can win.
If not, we’ll see $6 billion of cuts to education in California and have not just Charles and Molly to blame but also Democrats who voted for a President in favor of progressive taxes and then against progressive taxes in their own state. Let’s “hope,” to use an overused word, that wayward Democrats come home in a week or we’ll be in for a world of hurt on multiple fronts.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to Jim Miller’s column “Under the Perfect Sun” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
Latest posts by Jim Miller (see all)
- The State Of the Union: Obama is an Eisenhower Republican - January 26, 2015
- We Need Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Fierce Urgency of Now”: Beyond Our Current Failure of Imagination - January 19, 2015
- Notes From the Left Coast: California Democrats Need to Raise the Bar on Budget - January 12, 2015