By Jim Miller
Meet Kevin Faulconer, man of the people. He’s running glossy commercials about how he’ll be “a mayor for all of us” and talking as if he’ll be the guy who will focus on neighborhoods that “have been underserved by this city for too long.”
His website and ballot statement have been scrubbed of any unpleasant reminders that he is a Republican backed by San Diego’s traditional power brokers, and he just can’t stop reminding us that there is “no such thing as a Democratic or Republican pothole.”
Like the Republicans at the national level who have decided that they can claim poverty as an issue while refusing to raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits, or stop cutting services to the poor, Faulconer seems to think that a couple visits south of the 8 and a new catch phrase will suffice to bring home the votes of naïve Democrats and Independents who will fall for his rhetorical head fake while failing to note that he opposes the prevailing wage, increasing the minimum wage, efforts to support affordable housing, bonds for infrastructure, and, of course, allowing working class communities of color to craft their own community plans if large corporate interests oppose them.
But that’s been the marketing plan all along. As I noted in my column a few weeks ago, “the entire strategy relies on tossing the actual history of San Diego down the memory hole and trying to sell enough gullible Democrats a version of San Diego based on doublethink and conservative mythology.”
Central to the doublethink in this election is Faulconer’s faux populism in which the life-long Republican who was hand-picked by San Diego’s power elite at a backroom meeting in La Jolla presents himself as a nonpartisan moderate who is independent of any special interests and will be a mayor for “all of us” who will serve all of our “neighborhoods.” The ugly fact behind the curtain is that nearly the entirety of Faucloner’s financial backing comes from the downtown insiders and corporate interests who have and will continue to fight a “neighborhoods first” agenda tooth and nail.
More specifically, in the primary and the run-off, cash aiding the Fauloncer effort has been pouring into both the Republican Party and the Lincoln Club from the likes of Walmart, the hotel lobby, the building industry association, companies hoping to profit from the outsourcing of city services, controversial big developers like Stuck in the Rough, Sempra Energy, Papa Doug’s Manchester Financial Group L.P., Roger Hedgecock’s Worldwide Community Forum Inc., and Rod Dammeyer, one of the architects of the failed San Diegans for Greater Schools initiative that would have undermined democratically elected school boards.
Hey, nothing says “moderate man of the people” than a crew like that.
And, in their initial mailer, the Lincoln Club goes right for the jugular with precisely the kind of racist dog whistle attack I predicted in my first column after the primary when I wrote that, “The Lincoln Club will crank up their hate machine” and “remind you that David Alvarez is a ‘South of 8’ guy in as many ways as they can muster.” Thus, not surprisingly, the club’s first effort makes sure to tell you that Alvarez is “Not OUR mayor” and wants to find ways to take funds away from “most communities” and “give them to just three neighborhoods that he cares about most” (Southeast San Diego, City Heights, and San Ysidro). This is accompanied by a picture of a mostly full pie going to “David’s favorites” and a meager slice left for “your community.”
In yet another mailer we are greeted with a photo-shopped image of a sullen Alvarez menacingly grabbing a fistful of cash with the subtitle, “David Alvarez supported raising the sales tax on working families.” As Doug Porter noted on Friday, the implication is that somehow Alvarez (who was not on the council at the time) was responsible for Jerry Sanders’ failed Proposition D that would have raised the sales tax by half a cent to fund city services. While that is a disingenuous claim, the real impact of the piece comes from the caricature of Alvarez. The take away: brown people are coming to suck up your tax dollars.
It’s a clear attempt to drum up racial and class anxieties and play to the fears of white suburban voters about the specter of a Latino takeover at city hall. Much like the racially charged attacks on Obama at the national level, the Lincoln Club’s effort is designed to play to the worst in us.
Hence, while candidate Faulconer gives lip service to the needs of the “underserved” to woo moderates, his nasty friends on the right are doing everything they can to make sure that San Diego’s historically underrepresented communities stay that way by demonizing Alvarez as a threatening figure aiming to plunder your neighborhood in order to dole out largesse to his “favorites.”
While most folks are familiar with the goals and retrograde agenda of the Republican Party U.S.A., the Lincoln Club (who will do most of the heavy lifting for the negative campaign through their committee Working Together For Neighborhood Fairness in Opposition to David Alvarez for Mayor 2014) is still relatively unknown outside of political circles. As Kelly Davis noted in a recent City Beat piece on the local branch of the club:
If money equals power, the Lincoln Club wields it like no other local political organization. Its 400 members, whose annual dues provide a guaranteed source of money for the group’s political action committee, are a who’s-who of lobbyists, developers, Republican-backed elected officials (and their staff members) and high-profile business owners—the people behind Mossy Nissan, Jerome’s Furniture and Coles Carpets sit on the club chairman’s special advisory committee. Though the Lincoln Club describes itself as nonpartisan and focused on “pro-prosperity” candidates and issues, what and whom it chooses to support is almost always partisan.
As investigative journalist Matthew Fleischer tells us, the Lincoln Club has a long and influential history in right wing California politics. In addition to serving as the hit-man of the Republican Party, the club has also functioned as a king maker and was instrumental in bringing us the notorious Citizens United case:
Since the days of Richard Nixon, the Lincoln Club has been the Matrix-like ideological birthing chamber of California Republicanism, whose grandees and arbiters once guided Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, George Deukmejian and Arnold Schwarzenegger when their political careers were in their larval stages. That same Lincoln Club gave us the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court victory—which paved the way for Super PACs and unlimited, anonymous corporate donations—and, over the past year, had been instrumental in pushing Proposition 32 onto the California ballot.
And the ultimate goal of the Lincoln Club is far from moderate or even vaguely democratic. Simply put, it is not so much a tool of the GOP as it is a weapon of plutocratic interests bent on buying our democracy lock stock and barrel from D.C. to San Diego. As John MacMurry puts it in the LA Progressive:
The Lincoln Club . . . by opening up campaign contributions to individuals and groups who can give unlimited amounts of anonymous dollars, gets the undying gratitude of billionaires and large corporations, and the ability to buy control of any government in California—or all of them.
And for those of us who are neither billionaires nor large corporations?
It’s a lot like the old Jerry Reed song about who gets the gold mine and who just gets the shaft. And for most of us, the Lincoln Club has worked hard to make sure that not too much of the gold mine is headed our way.
Here in San Diego, the local right’s strategy is to elect Kevin Faulconer as their tool in the mayor’s office as they lie and buy their way around our representative government by funding malicious ballot measures aimed against the Barrio Logan Community Plan and the affordable housing fee enacted by the City Council. Of course this is an ironic perversion of the initiative process, which was originally devised as a way for “the people” to go around unresponsive government, and is now being used by moneyed interests in order to actually subvert the democratic process.
It’s the same old story: for them, anything that impinges on corporate power or profits for the public good is a “jobs killer” while siphoning taxpayer money from the public trough for private gain is unquestionably sound policy.
Thus the kind of San Diego Team Faulconer envisions is a city where the downtown interests have the gold and the rest of us get the shaft–and their favored mayoral candidate is the lynchpin of their strategy because they know he’ll do their bidding. In the happy 1% world of Faulconer’s friends, what’s good for the Lincoln Club is good for “all of us.”
Nothing, dear reader, could be further from the truth.