Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | February 9, 2005

Nirvana for political junkie

Political junkie that I am, I’ve been happy as a cold pig in warm mud with all the primary news and analysis available online, on the airwaves and in print in recent weeks.

John Kerry’s upset win in the Iowa caucuses combined with Dick Gephardt’s surprisingly poor showing and the now-infamous “Dean scream” provided plenty of fodder for those in the punditry business.

I enjoyed watching the prognosticators repeatedly being proven wrong. They didn’t think anyone could beat Howard Dean in Iowa and predicted a strong showing for Gephardt. They thought the Dean campaign was over after his hyperactive concession speech. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Television’s talking heads predicted a close race in New Hampshire – as soon as the polls closed, I watched Wolf Blitzer touting CNN’s tracking polls making that point while below him ran actual results showing a double-digit gap between first (Kerry) and second (Dean) place. What fun!

Pollsters analyzed their surveys to determine if people were voting for a candidate because they agree with him on the issues or because they believe he’s electable. Not surprisingly, given the 2000 election debacle, most Democrats are choosing electability. Apparently Ralph Nader taught at least some ideologues that electability counts.

My close attention to the primary races hasn’t always been pleasant. My favorite Democratic candidate, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, has stumbled on the campaign trail, his first try for elected office. I’m not too surprised that learning to be a slick politician while running for the nation’s top office leads to a few gaffes. TV pundits latched onto his missteps, questioning how Clark ever got to be a general, expressing surprise that he graduated from West Point (top of his class, they conveniently forget, Rhodes Scholar, they noticeably omit, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, they don’t mention). Because Clark’s made some slips while learning to campaign under the unblinking eye of television cameras, they dismiss all those accomplishments as flukes.

At least Clark didn’t take a visual aid to a radio debate like Dennis Kucinich did.

In one month, Californians will choose from whoever is left in the presidential primary race. If you’re a Democrat, now’s the time to study the candidates who want to face George W. Bush in November.

Despite its marquee value, the presidential primary is not the only – or even the most important – reason to brush up on election issues. State and local issues on the March 2 ballot will have much more impact on your life than who becomes the Democratic nominee.

Gilroy and Morgan Hill residents will be asked to decide whether to renew and slightly increase a special property tax to fund library operations. Would a reduction in library hours and services impact you? I’d vote on March 2 if this were the only item on the ballot.

But it’s not. All Santa Clara County residents will be asked to approve a plan to restructure oversight of Juvenile Hall. If crime, justice and kids are important to you, this issue ought to be worth a little study and a few moments in the voting booth.

Morgan Hill voters will be considering whether to renew and alter the city’s residential growth control ordinance. It doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to know that growth control has a direct impact on any community’s quality of life. Whether growth control has a positive or negative impact might be debatable, but the fact that it has an effect is a given.

Gavilan Community College is asking South Valley residents to lend it $108 million dollars in the form of municipal bonds to upgrade its three campuses. If voters approve the bond, it will add $15 for every $100,000 of assessed value to homeowners’ property tax bills.

Californians have to pass judgment on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $15-billion bond – his plan to keep the state from drowning in a sea of red ink. Voters will decide if borrowing money to get out of debt makes sense.

There are also questions about borrowing $12 billion to finance the construction of schools and changing the way the legislature approves budgets and amending the state’s constitution to require it to not spend more money than it takes in.

So, while the presidential primary is the sexy, spotlight-grabbing election issue, the more local the issues get, the more they impact your daily life. You don’t need to be a Democrat to find lots of reasons to study the candidates and issues facing voters on March 2.

Record numbers of South Valley voters casting educated ballots on March 2 – that would make me happy as a comedy writer during a Kucinich administration.


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