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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Mendelsohn’



Calbuzz Rescues Inaugural from Crashing Boredom

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Calbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack greatly enhanced his reputation as the Perle Mesta of California Monday night, as he tossed the toughest-ticket bash of Inaugural Week, featuring fine cuisine and libation, fine fellowship and the brightest stars in the state’s glittering political firmament.

In a political social whirl otherwise dominated by an event where the big payoff was a couple of dogs and a small bag of chips, Calbuzz party organizers agreed with each other that their gathering of First Amendment scumbags and rapacious consultants was by far the best shindig of the week.

Unfortunately for the good Doctor H., he missed his own soiree, after passing out cold beneath a banquet room table from rapidly throwing down 13 or 14  double Jamesons on the rocks several hours before his guests arrived.

Still, the 90 or so revelers who were actually conscious for the big party, held at fabulous Lucca restaurant (plenty of valet parking), did their best to overcome their disappointment at his absence, dining on smoked chicken risotto, chicken saltimbocca, pan roasted salmon and grilled bistro steak, consuming mass quantities of Ray Station Merlot, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Camelot Cabernet, and enjoying an evening utterly bereft of the tedious, mind-numbing speechifying that characterizes most such events in Sacramento.

Plus, they got a really cool credential — the type which the skinflint Brown operation provided to no one covering his big day.

Consistent with the post-post-partisan values and ethics of Calbuzz — which hold that folks of differing political persuasions are to view their rivals not as bitter enemies, but as nutty neighbors — Republican operatives like Adam Mendelsohn, Jim Brulte, Kevin Spillane, Marty Wilson, Beth Miller and Julie Soderlund (special kudos to Rob Stutzman and Mitch Zak for being the only ex-members of the GOP’s Legions of eMeg with the stones to show up) mixed and mingled with leading Democratic lights, including Tom Quinn, David Townsend, Joe Trippi, Donna Bojarsky, Jim Moore, Steve Glazer, Jason Kinney, Roger Salazar, Steve Maviglio, Karen Skelton  and Garry South (whose frequent harsh criticisms of Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor make him an intraparty marked man, matched Stutz and Zak’s raw courage in taking his place  at the festivities), while other hacks (widely suspected of  RINO tendencies by some in the Neanderthal Caucus) including Jack Flanigan, Bob Naylor, Donna Lucas and Don Sipple, added to a gemutlicht ambience of general hilarity.

Along with members of the Capitol press corps that Calbuzz actually knows (apologies to Sactown hacks we don’t know), world-class media types, including New York Times L.A. bureau chief Adam Ngourney, by-God L.A. Times sage George Skelton and national political correspondent Mark Barabak, A.P. political writers Juliet Williams and Judy Lin and KCRA-TV’s inimitable Kevin Riggs sprinkled the crowd, as Greg Lucas of “California’s Capitol,” Joel Fox of “Fox and Hounds” and Torey Van Oot of “Capitol Alert” ably represented the political blogosphere and blindingly insightful eggheads and policy makers like Dan Schnur, H.D. Palmer, Dave Lesher, Nancy McFadden and Peter Schrag raised the average I.Q. of the room at least a point or two.

Here stood newly sworn-in governor Brown, huddling with newly named Resources Secretary John Laird over matters of apparent great urgency.

There was new First Lady Anne Gust, explaining to an astonished inaugural witness how she was surprised to find out she was introducing her husband about two minutes before his swearing in.

Across the room,  almost Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom passionately held forth on the insider intricacies of San Francisco politics that have delayed his swearing in (see Agnos, Art and his five votes).

We even have a boozy recollection of overhearing Krusty and the Prince dividing up the world: Gavin focuses on economic development and UC and stays out of Jerry’s way as he tries to run the government. Such a deal.

Worried Democrats meanwhile kept an anxious eye on Brown, lest he keel over and make incumbent Lite Gov Abel Maldonado a full-term governor before Newsom takes the oath of office.

A good time was had by all, except for the aforementioned, utterly plastered Dr. H. There were no injuries.

Why Indie Voters Don’t Make California Purple

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Purple2In recent years, some pollsters, pundits and consultants have pointed to declines in partisan voter registration, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two elections, to question California’s reputation as a left-leaning “blue state” and to argue that it is in fact a post-partisan “purple state.”

Exhibit A, for the post-partisan advocates, is the voter roll: Democratic registration stands at 45%, down 12% since 1978; Republican registration is 31%, down 3%, and independents now represent 20% of the voters, up 12%. These data, it is argued, prove that partisanship is waning and California is evolving into a bastion of independence.

Here at the Calbuzz Repository of Analysis and Policy, we’ve never bought the neo-kumbaya thesis. It’s long been our view that while political parties, like other large institutions –- corporations, unions, metro newspapers, etc. –- have become atomized and decentralized in the modern era, political behavior is pretty much like it’s always been.

And the Field Poll’s release of a new study of 30 years of voting patterns last week offers further evidence that advocates for the post-partisan theory  misread our history and attitudes. While Field’s data confirm the long-term trend of voters increasingly bypassing both parties to register as independent declines-to-state, their analysis also shows that these independents reliably think and vote like Democrats most of the time.

Consider, for example, voter attitudes on same-sex marriage – one of the most incendiary issues in California politics. Back in 1977, Democrats were opposed 29-63%, Republicans were opposed 30-65% and independents and others were opposed 38-55%. Three decades later – in 2009 – Republicans have hardened their opposition to 23-68%. But Democrats have flipped their position to 64-30% in favor and so have independents — to 57-38% in favor.

Likewise on abortion rights, another divisive issue. Back in 1975, a narrow majority of California voters approved of abortion rights, with Republicans in favor 50-44%, Democrats at 52-43% and independents at 59-34%. By 2006, 70% of voters overall favored abortion rights and the big movement came among Democrats, now 82-10% on the issue and independents at 73-14%. Republicans’ attitude on the issue moved only slightly, to 55-40% in favor.

As Mark DiCamillo and Merv Field explained in the Field Poll release, public attitudes about death and taxes haven’t moved much, but on social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia,  “California voters, especially Democrats, have become more socially tolerant” over the past three decades. What’s important in the numbers is that independents – while there are more of them – function for all intents and purposes as if they were unregistered Democrats.

The purple state thesis was stated perhaps most forcefully –- and mistakenly — by GOP consultant and former Schwarzenegger communications director Adam Mendelsohn during last year’s presidential elections, when he predicted in September that John McCain was “exactly the kind of Republican” who would be competitive amid the purple hues of the Golden State.

“Certain Republicans are able to win in California and when you have a Republican , like John McCain who has a proven track record of reaching out to independents, reaching out to disaffected Democrats, this is something he built a career on doing. It’s exactly the kind of Republican who poses a real opportunity for us in California,” Mendelsohn told Fox News in September, adding that “California (is) not a red state, or a blue state, but a purple state.”

Others, like Dave Lesher and Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California have made the case more subtly, arguing that because California’s independents combine strains of social liberals and fiscal conservatives, “their vote is up for grabs.”

“Independents’ attitudes, in contrast to that of Democrats and Republicans, don’t fit neatly into traditional liberal and conservative camps,” the two wrote in a LAT op-ed in 2006, adding that this made for “a surprising degree of uncertainty and volatility.”

In fact, it hasn’t. The analysis of fiscal conservatism is based on a single issue: the long-standing strong support of Proposition 13 by voters of every ideological stripe. But by almost any other measure, the notion that independents have their finger to the wind in every election cycle is, we think, not right.

For starters, the rise of independent registration has not been accompanied by the surfacing of any independent political movement. Setting aside the Superintendent of Public Instruction (a nominally non-partisan office) no one has been elected to a statewide office without partisan identification. Beyond that, independents have sided with Democrats most of the time.

– Democrats have won the state in five of the eight presidential elections since 1978 and have made a clean sweep since 1992, when the move towards independent voters started gaining steam. (And no candidate who opposes abortion rights, on which independents have moved left, has won at the top of the ticket, i.e. for president, governor or senator, since George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis here in 1988.)

– Democrats have dominated every single Legislative session except for the anamolus “Contract with America” election of 1994, when Republicans briefly held a majority.

– Democrats have controlled most of the statewide constitutional offices in the last 30 years, buoyed by independent backing.

The purple staters’ best case is the history of the governor’s office which, since Jerry Brown’s re-election in 1978, has been won only twice by a Democrat, who was tossed out before finishing his second term.

But even in the case of the governor, California independents –- with their Democratic-leaning tendencies on social issues and their centrist outlook on fiscal issues –- have for two decades only rewarded the GOP when they have fielded relative moderates like Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  When the GOP has tried to win statewide with one of their red-meat candidates (see: Dan Lungren, 38%, and Bill Simon, 43%) they have been crushed by their inability to win independents.

It is undeniably true that voters are increasingly declining to declare themselves either Democrat or Republican when they register to vote. But scratch an independent in California and you find a voter who leans Democratic.

If the Republicans were to nominate a fiscally moderate, pro-choice, pro-environment candidate who is not seen as virulently anti-immigrant or anti-gay, that candidate might well attract enough independents (and Democrats) to win at the top of the ticket. But it’s unclear that such a candidate can win a Republican primary without first lurching so far to the right as to be poisoned in a general election (recall that Schwarzenegger never had to run in a contested primary, and that Wilson first won nomination after being drafted from the U.S. Senate by GOP leaders as the party’s best hope of ensuring a competitive reapportionment).

The problem with confusing independent voter registration with independent voting behavior is that it leads to the kind of thinking Schwarzenegger’s former communications director engaged in when he told the SF Chronicle in 2008:  “John McCain will give a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama a serious run in any purple state like California.”

Calbuzz sez: Purple staters can argue that ’til they’re blue in the face, but they’ll still end up red-faced with embarrassment.