CHAMELEON BLUES: Poor Dan Secord. It’s not an
easy time to be a Republican. It’s even harder to run as one. It’s
Dan’s unhappy lot in life to run as a moderate, enlightened,
bike-path Republican for a spot on the County Board of Supervisors
at precisely the time that the true-believers, flat-Earthers, and
witch burners controlling that party have finally fallen into their
well-earned and overdue public disgrace. Dan is campaigning in the
solidly Democratic 2nd District — which includes most of Goleta and
parts of Santa Barbara — making the rope he is attempting to pee up
considerably taller than the Storke Tower and the Balboa Building
put together. And if he weren’t so bristly, I might be tempted to
give the guy a hug.

It took a lot to get here. Mainstream America seemed remarkably
unperturbed by 3,000 Americans getting killed in a war waged on
false pretenses, the 650,000 dead Iraqis whose souls will haunt us
for decades to come, the evisceration of our Bill of Rights, and
the fatal criminal negligence exhibited by the Bush administration
in the face of Hurricane Katrina. Likewise, most people experienced
little cognitive discomfort regarding the widespread corruption and
wholesale deceit emanating from an administration that sanctified
its excesses in the rhetorical oil of “moral values.” But when
Mark Foley, a smarmy Republican congressmember
from Florida, got caught trying to perpetuate the daisy chain of
his own sexual abuse, everything changed. The entire nation went
bat guano over a few improper text messages.

All of a sudden, it’s
“what-did-you-know-and-when-did-you-know-it?” all over again.
Obviously, none of this speaks well of our moral maturity as a
nation. But right now, I’ll take any help I can get. The Foley
Scandal seems to have neutralized the Republicans’ weapon of
choice—homophobia. Religious-minded blacks and Latinos who were
flirting with the GOP are fleeing in large numbers. Evangelical
voters, tired of being played for suckers, will stay home in droves
come Election Day.

As a result, the GOP war machine has been forced to rely on the
old stand-by: racism. In the Tennessee Senate race, the GOP just
produced television ads on behalf of a Caucasian Republican running
against an African-American Democrat that plays explicitly to white
fears about black men having sex with white women. In Virginia, the
GOP standard bearer — the son of former L.A. Rams coach
George Allen—is given to hurling ethnic epithets
in public and proudly flies the Confederate flag. Like the
president, Allen is strictly a spray-on redneck, and his carefully
crafted good-ol’-boy credentials have been tarnished by recent
revelations that he’s of Jewish descent.

Compared to this, Dr. Dan’s desperate contortions to beat out
Janet Wolf — who’s about as moderate a Democrat as
he is a Republican — for the nominally nonpartisan 2nd District
seat have been dignified and restrained. Last week, I found a large
color campaign brochure parked in my mailbox, courtesy of the
Secord campaign, accusing Janet of being a developer’s sheep in
wolf’s clothing. To prove his point, Dr. Dan — shown smiling in
front of the oh-so-blue Pacific Ocean — revealed that Wolf has been
endorsed by the Home Builders Association (HBA). He is correct, but
it’s a funny charge. It’s funny because the HBA actually endorsed
Secord in the June primary, back when there were four candidates in
the race. Presumably, when the HBA had Secord’s back, they were
okay. But now that they’ve switched sides — being fickle
opportunists who sensed Wolf was the odds-on favorites — he would
like us to believe the HBA and other developers are trying to take
over the Goleta Valley for their own greedy ends.

Of the two, my sense is that Dan will give greater weight to
property rights when deciding how hard to squeeze developers for
affordable housing or environmental considerations. In the Goleta
Valley, where affordable housing has become a dirty word, this has
given Dan a leg up with the ever-inflamed NIMBY crowd. It’s worth
remembering that when Secord was still sitting on the Santa Barbara
City Council, he was the candidate of choice for the business and
development crowd. Talk about being upside down. Sometimes I find
myself forced to agree with James Brown — the
Godfather of Soul — who exclaimed, “Man, I don’t even know what a
Goleta is!” when queried a few years ago about rumors that he might
be moving to the Good Land.

In politics, everything is personal, especially when you’re
losing. At forums, it’s clear that Wolf gets under Secord’s skin.
Part of that’s by design. For a while, Wolf took to calling Dan
“Mister Secord,” rather than “Doctor Secord,” which, with 6,000
babies delivered, is one of his genuine claims to fame. Giving this
a dose of bitter irony, Secord saved the life of Wolf’s campaign
manager, James Kyriaco, as an infant by untangling the umbilical
chord wrapped around his neck. To the extent this name-game
qualified as an insidious form of psychological warfare, Wolf has
reportedly relented. But she’s still attacking on the more obvious
levels. Rather than running from Secord’s accusations that she will
be a stooge of all “the union bosses” who endorsed her, Wolf held a
press conference celebrating their support. It’s worth noting that
in Dr. Dan’s last City Council campaign—immediately after the
September 11 attack — his campaign brochures highlighted his
support from the police and firefighters unions.

But back in the ashes of 9/11, the police and firefighters were
still heroes. That was then. Now we’re back to normal and they’re
“union bosses” again. It’s also worth noting that at Secord’s
campaign kick-off party, the first person invited to speak on Dr.
Dan’s behalf was Santa Barbara Fire Captain Pat
. That night, McElroy spoke highly of Dan’s direct
manner, hard work, and obvious intelligence, but when pressed shied
away from actually endorsing him. Since then, McElroy and his union
have come out strongly on behalf of Wolf.

That’s not to say it’s a slam dunk and that Wolf will win or
that the Democrats will win control of the House and Senate for the
first time in years. Few people have ever gone broke
underestimating the intelligence of the American people, and
likewise, no one should underestimate the ability of the Democrats
to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But as Dan Secord can
attest, it sure is a hard time for Republicans.


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