When only 28 percent of the public turns out to vote in your community, the winners, their like-minded constituents, or their political operatives shouldn’t be too boastful about any “mandate from the people.” Any business would recognize that. I rarely see that in local politics, however.
They often just crow “We are the champions,” rally around their like-minded constituents and the polarization continues. It’s going to happen again — in fact, it is happening.
But beneath it all, I have noticed that the local “R’s” have been more successful than the “D’s” when it comes to grassroots organizing, at least in the past two races, often with some hardball tactics.
In our county, the voter roles are becoming more evenly split among “R’s” and “D’s,” with a large number of “decline to state.” So when too many “R’s” get elected, it’s a “governance gap” — and it also can be a sign of ineffective grassroots organizing on one side or another. Voters are apathetic by nature, so you need to rally them to your cause.
As for the “R’s” successful organizing efforts in our community, examples include: Jan Arbuckle’s (R) first-place finish in the Grass Valley City Council race in 2012 and Democrat leader Jim Firth’s defeat, and this time around, Dan Miller’s toppling of incumbent Terry Lamphier for District 3 supervisor, and Hank Weston’s decisive win against Fran Cole in District 4.
Another poignant example this time: the closer than expected race for County Superintendent of Schools —Hermansen vs. Haas — where the hard-right used Common Core standards as a political battering ram to win grassroots support. It turned out to be effective, at least for Haas’ side.
To be sure, some of this reflects on the individual candidates, such as “likeability.” In a small town, people like that, often more than the critical thinking aspect. You hear: “But he’s so nice, or she’s so nice.”
Name recognition also is a dominant factor in local races, with the so-called “one minute” voter who often is not aware of the unintended consequences of voting for one candidate or another — until after the fact.
The “R’s” grassroots efforts — led by an alliance with the moderates and hard right — include some hardball tactics, including political bullying, personal attacks and a Tea Party-managed PAC. We saw it in some of the races. The PAC dollars also infiltrated the judges’ races, which are supposed to be immune from politics. Ha!
A small community like ours has always been vulnerable to “hardball tactics,” because most people aren’t like that. They just walk away from confrontation, rather than stand up to it. It’s one reason for low voter turnout. They view our local politics are toxic.
If the “D”s are unsatisfied with the outcome of local races, they ought to regroup. Because for now, the “R’s,” supported by the hard right, largely are running the show in our community.
And it’s going to ramp up too, as witnessed by the campaign of the Tea Party-supported “Americans for Good Government” that I wrote about last week.
“Americans for Good Government” plans to fill 60 open seats on boards and commissions throughout the County with like-minded candidates to “build a strong farm team for elevation to local office, while affecting local policy and fiscal matters,” with support from organizers who include Tea Party Co-Founder Mark Meckler. The details are here.
Some “D’s” laughed at this, but they shouldn’t be.