HEART BERN: Checked out Bernie Sanders at City College this weekend. Not the wearisome-but-right uncle I anticipated, forefingers ever aloft, highlighting violent inequalities of the so-called social order. I loved it. Miraculously, Bernie has managed to reach my kids — both voting age — who hitherto have remained unmoved by parental exhortations about civic responsibility. Even so, I never really felt “The Bern.” Maybe LBJ’s dictum WAS stuck in my head: Winning elections is all about not losing them. Right now, not losing to Trump trumps everything.
I get the rage and despair. Every time the Republican Main Street-versus-Wall Street crowd has sought to vent its outrage — remember the Tea Party and their quaint three-cornered hats — Karl Rove and Republican Establishment goons squads have co-opted them. Conservative outsider voices were forced to such extreme positions not even Rove could follow. That’s one reason we now have Trump, proof positive of what happens when Tourette’s syndrome is left untreated. I get “A plague on both your houses.” But how is anyone who says, “I kind of hope for” the real estate crash, as Trump did, not a plague himself?
These are historic times. That a commie Jew is now a serious, albeit distant, contender for the White House qualifies as a genuine first. But more so is the prospect of electing the first woman. So come November, all you Bernie lovers, be ready to put aside all feelings of burned idealism and vote Hillary. Right now, it’s all about not losing. If you think otherwise, ask the people who fought the unwinnable war we’re still waging — 14 years later — in Iraq.
In Santa Barbara County, the encouraging news is that voter registration has exploded. As of last count, there were 201,000 registered voters; that compares to 183,000 in the 2008 primary — the historic Hillary versus Obama showdown. In just the past five months, 10,400 new registrations were recorded with county elections officials. About 9,000 were Democrats, 2,000 Republicans, and the no-party-preference crowd — typically the fastest-growing voter block — recorded an actual drop in numbers. Something is happening.
The Democratic machine — whether fine-tuned or not — is moving heaven and earth to get 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal elected to Congress and State Assemblymember Das Williams elected to replace Carbajal. In both instances, the strangeness of the political bedfellows might have brought both up on morals charges in less open-minded times. Carbajal is a smart, safe and strategic, middle-of-the-road candidate who’s survived in politics by making few mistakes and working harder than God. (Unlike the Almighty, Carbajal doesn’t take the seventh day to rest.) Almost as insatiable as his need to be liked is Carbajal’s phenomenal ability to raise money.
Where other candidates despise fundraising, Carbajal finds it merely “annoying.” In other words, he’s a beast. Little wonder May 19 he was a conspicuous no-show at a congressional debate hosted by San Marcos High School students. Carbajal was hosting a long-planned major fundraiser at the baronial estate of Donald Trump supporter Patrick Nesbitt — near Padaro Lane — where well-heeled congregants on both sides of the aisle paid big bucks to bask in Carbajal’s non-ideological, solutions-oriented mojo.
Making this bizarre, Nesbitt had sued Carbajal’s beloved former boss and legendary political mentor Naomi Schwartz, who objected loudly back in the ’90s when Nesbitt sought ag grading permits for a new mansion and polo field under the nakedly ridiculous guise of being a sod farm. Nesbitt would later sue Schwartz for violating his free-speech rights by bringing the wrath of the county planners upon him for speaking out against the Pacifica Graduate Institute, where septic system overflows were then more numerous than all the Jungian archetypes wandering the campus combined. Pacifica bigwigs, Nesbitt alleged, were big buddies and supporters of Schwartz, and she was getting back at him — and his proposed development — for speaking ill of them. Ultimately, Nesbitt and the county would settle, and he’d get approval for his mansion, polo field, and state-of-the-art, poop-free, fly-free stables made with the finest cherry wood. Since then Nesbitt has emerged as one of the biggest water guzzlers in Montecito and has been waging scorched-earth legal warfare against the water district to get the cheaper water rates set aside for genuine agricultural operations. That Carbajal could go brazo a brazo — rather than mano a mano — with the man who attacked his boss and mentor with the same ferocity that’s earned Nesbitt the nickname “the Maroon Harpoon” for his aggressive polo play — suggests a degree of pragmatism on Carbajal’s part bordering on contortionism.
Almost as striking was the endorsement Democrat Das Williams, über-liberal eco warrior in the state legislature, nearly secured from the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce in his 1st District supervisor race even though the statewide California Chamber ranked his voting record second-worst of all assemblymembers in four of the past five years. Williams, however, scored big points with local Chamber leadership for his pedal-to-the-metal support for the freeway-widening project, warts and all. His opponent, Jennifer Christensen — though far more business-friendly on a wide array of issues — had the temerity to suggest plans for the freeway widening were seriously deficient on a few fronts and should be fixed. This is not merely the most important issue to the Chamber brass; it’s the only issue. When Christensen leaked word that Williams was about to get the nod, rank-n-file Chamber members stormed the bastille, armed with pitchforks and rakes. Chamber leadership was forced to beat a strategic retreat, and mum’s been the word ever since.
In the meantime, meditate on Vince Lombardi’s immortal words: “Not losing isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”