By Jim Miller
Everywhere you look, there is a different Nathan Fletcher. The magic never stops. You can see it in a recent mailer from the Municipal Employees Association (MEA) that touts the man with an 18% lifetime score on labor issues and a 36% Sierra Club score on environmental issues as someone with “a consistent progressive record we can trust.” The MEA magic comes by taking a handful of votes that Fletcher made while re-positioning himself for his mayoral run and giving them the tag line, “Show Us the Facts.”
Well, brothers and sisters, if you think that Fletcher is a progressive, with both a labor and an environmental record that actually comes in behind Republican Kevin Faulconer’s, you just don’t care about the facts. Particularly when you know that David Alvarez’s record on these issues is far superior to both of them.
You can see a different kind of magic in the Police Officers Association’s mailer promoting Fletcher as a candidate who is “standing up to special interests and extreme partisans,” hoping that the average voter is dumb enough not to consider that the cops’ union is just as interested a party as anybody else.
While I surely respect the public service of the police, this is double-think at its worst: a union praising someone with their own union’s endorsement for standing up to “partisans” like them while using the broad term “special interests,” a label usually favored by the right to attack unions, rather than “moneyed interests” or “downtown interests” which might indicate a more progressive critique. But, alas, such is not the case.
Yet more crazy double-think magic can be seen in the mailer funded by Jacobs and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union among others under the ironically named independent expenditure committee “Restoring Trust in San Diego.” This mailer asks the reader if she is “Tired of partisan gridlock in Washington D.C. and at San Diego City Hall?”
Then, after making the false claim that San Diego city government has been shut down by partisan gridlock just like D.C., this mailer directs the reader to “send a message to the politicians” by electing a mayor “who will put problem-solving ahead of politics.” The man for this job is, of course, our savior Nathan Fletcher.
The irony here is that the only candidate in this race who took the Norquist anti-tax pledge, stuck to it, and helped grind effective governing to a virtual halt in California is Nathan Fletcher. He was the rising star of Team Gridlock from his time working for the Republicans at the grassroots level, to his stint in Randy “Duke” Cunnigham’s office, to his tenure in Sacramento where he ably helped the Republicans’ efforts to “starve the beast,” to the moment he bragged about his support for an all-cuts budget to San Diego Republicans as he was asking for their endorsement in the last mayor’s race (I know, it was so far back in the murky reaches of the distant past—2011—that we can all barely remember it).
The “Restoring Trust in San Diego” mailer also attacks David Alvarez for his union support even as Fletcher has championed the few endorsements he has gotten from a handful of break away unions and welcomed the money that some of them are spending to promote him. More specifically, it cites the report card the Labor Council put out under the leadership of number one Fletcher fan Lorena Gonzalez (where Alvarez does quite well) as evidence of Alvarez’s “partisan” sins.
Along with Filner-baiting him (that’s odd, didn’t the Plumbers and Pipefitters support Filner as well in the last election?) this mailer also points to the fact that most of Alvarez’s support comes from, gasp, unions (128 of 135 San Diego unions are with Alvarez).
Interestingly, this bit of campaign razzle dazzle brought to us by this plutocrats and proletarians combo makes an effort to put Fletcher squarely in the middle, in between the supposed extremes of Alvarez and Faulconer.
Thus the MEA’s “progressive” Fletcher is transformed into the Jacobs’ model corporate Democrat with some help from Jacobs’ labor-bashing union allies.
So what’s a confused Democrat to think? Well, when one part of Team Fletcher is calling him a progressive while others on the same side are union bashing and praising his stand against partisan “extremists” and unions the astute observer might think that there’s something fishy about Nathan.
Or maybe it’s just more of that Fletcher magic: he’s a champion of working families one moment and someone who has his sugar daddy Jacobs attack unions the next; he’s a “progressive” in one mailer and a business Democrat in the next. Just close your eyes, listen to his seductive promises, and stop asking all those pesky questions. The Fletcher magic makes him all things to all people, so why not lay back and enjoy it? Maybe the magic is true.
Or perhaps double-think is not the exclusive right of the seemingly Republican-hating Republican Lincoln Club after all.
Let’s be real: just because the Lincoln Club is sending out mailers telling you about Fletcher’s wretched right wing record as a member of the wrecking crew, doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. Sure they are hypocritical scoundrels and will do an about face on November 20th when they start attacking Alvarez and his allies as the spawn of the devil if he makes the run-off, but they are correct when they point out that Fletcher was one of their ilk and still shares a lot of friends in their circles.
Perhaps that’s why the progressive Courage Campaign has taken shots at Fletcher recently for his connections to the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who’ve brought us everything from the assault on collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin to Florida’s notorious “Stand Your Ground” law. And (full disclosure) my union, the American Federation of Teachers, is also going after Fletcher for his extensive right wing history and horrible record on education funding during California’s worst budget crisis in half a century. I wrote about why here.)
And finally, there is the man waiting for the run-off, Kevin Faulconer, who is busy doing his best Filner impression —minus the groping—in his television ads. Now, in his commercials, he loves neighborhoods (unless they are Barrio Logan where all those brown people live) and wants to fix your potholes and make sure you are getting the services you need (as long as that doesn’t take money out of the pockets of the downtown crowd).
He has his campaign spokesman telling folks he’s not your average Republican and soon he’ll be echoing Filner’s vision for the city even as he demonizes all those who once helped elect the former mayor.
And Faulconer hopes you won’t figure out that he’s exactly the same kind of Republican his friends in the Lincoln Club just got through telling you are the scum of the earth.
So go the increasingly surreal “Flauconer Follies,” a spectacle worthy of coverage by Will Ferrell with full mock seriousness.
Postscript: With Friends Like These . . .
To those of late who’ve been upset with me for criticizing Democrats, please note the reporting that Doug Porter beat me to last week. In one column, Doug broke the news that interim Mayor Todd Gloria, yes he’s a Democrat, hired the same privatization expert that Jerry Sanders admired. It turns out that this expert is straight out of the same network of right wing think tanks that spawned Carl DeMaio. Back in 2006 when I wrote about this for the CityBeat I noted:
In a recent CityBeat interview, Sanders downplayed what his “reforms” will mean for union workers, an astoundingly disingenuous comment given the fact that his plan to play the cops and firefighters against the municipal employees is straight out of the Claremont Institute’s dictum of “playing off one part of the welfare state against another.” Apparently, Sanders hoped that most readers would be unaware of the fact that his outsourcing plans are borrowed from the strategies of the most anti-union groups in the United States.
Finally, those who know the right should have seen a red flag when Sanders told CityBeat that his “ideas about privatization” and “the contracting out of city services” came from “Steve Goldsmith of Indianapolis.” Goldsmith literally wrote the book on the hard right’s vision for America’s cities. As Cokorinos writes:
“The Reason Foundation is not just about introducing privatized toll roads, eliminating environmental regulations or privatizing education…. [C]onservatism is undergoing a transition from being an oppositional movement to a power structure with a governing philosophy. Reason’s approach to this is the concept of “governing by network”-breaking open governing structures and inserting into them a dense complex of political and business relationships built up over the past two decades. It is spelled out most concisely in a book released in November 2004 written by former Indianapolis mayor Steven Goldsmith and former Reason privatization director William Eggers.”
If this sounds a little bit like bringing the K Street project, with its aim to privatize as much of the federal government as possible, to the municipal level, then you are on the right track. Confessore observed in 2003, “Republicans [at the federal level] are engineering a tectonic political shift in two phases. First, move the party to K Street. Then move the government there, too.” The central truth of “the emerging GOP machine” is that it is “premised on a unity of interests between party and industry.” When this kind of thought moves to the state and municipal level, you get government dominated by business interests to the point that the barriers begin to break down. Welcome to Indy by the Sea.
So who needs Republicans when the Democrats are happy to do their business for them?
Our esteemed Mr. Porter was also the only one in the local media to note how Scott Peters just made yet another abysmal vote, this time selling us down the river to Wall Street. As Doug aptly put it, “They’re ‘protecting’ us from proposed regulations that make a person selling you retirement products be honest about who’s paying the bill for that ‘free’ consultation.” Hence, just as Democrats are gearing up to work us into a lather about Carl DeMaio winning a House seat, Scott Peters is singing straight out of his song book. Of course we don’t want Carl DeMaio in the House of Representatives, but Peters has got to do better than this.
What’s the moral of the story? If you don’t want to get sold out by a corporate Democrat, don’t elect one. That’s not creating divisiveness within the ranks; it’s learning the lessons of history and trying not to repeat them.
P.P.S. The Perils of Polling
Speaking of history repeating itself, the San Diego Union-Tribune released a poll yesterday that had Kevin Faulconer surging way ahead with Fletcher dropping and Alvarez losing ground behind him. This, of course, is the same newspaper that put Carl DeMaio up by ten points during last year’s mayor’s race. If this is true, then start making your plans for the Faulconer inauguration party now. But, if we are to believe the tracking polls inside the campaigns, the story is quite different with Faulconer still ahead but with Alvarez trending upwards, pulling even to, or passing Fletcher.
Indeed, the poll released by Garin-Hart-Yang Research for Working Families for a Better San Diego shows Faulconer with a much smaller 34% followed by a dead heat between Fletcher and Alvarez with Alvarez at 22% and Fletcher at 21%. Aguirre trails them with just 5%. Thus, whoever makes it to the run-off would seem to have a good shot against Faulconer.
This would explain why the Neighborhood Market Association mailer goes after Alvarez as a guy who can’t win and the above-mentioned Jacobs mailers hit him as well. Generally campaigns don’t go on the attack if they think they’re way ahead. So it seems the Fletcher camp knows better than to believe the UT poll. Only time will tell if this is a second straight whopper of a bad poll from the UT or if we are really in for a return to business as usual in San Diego with an uninspiring Faulconer/Fletcher race that the plutocrats win either way.