I was sitting peacefully at home, watching the final episode of The West Wing, which my partner describes as "liberal porn," when Steve Westly drew first blood in the governor’s race.
We all knew there’d be some negative ads before this was over, and frankly, all the hand-wringing about the evil of negative campaigning has never really appealed to me: Politicians have been launching vicious, often slanderous attacks on their opponents since the dawn of democracy. But this one made me furious.
The simple story is that Westly — borrowing a chapter from the Book of Rove — is assailing Phil Angelides for wanting to tax the rich. And he’s doing it in the most misleading, unprincipled, and utterly disgraceful way.
The ad features what seems like a crushing list of new taxes that Angelides wants to impose — $10 billion worth, Westly’s hit squad claims. Then it winds up with a smarmy tagline: "With high gas prices, housing and health care costs, can working families afford Phil Angelides’s tax plan?"
Of course, Westly had pledged some time ago not to be the first candidate to attack the other by name, but what the hell: The election’s coming up, the race seems to be narrowing, and this guy will do whatever’s necessary to win.
But more than that, with this ad Westly is promoting the exact mentality that has damaged public education, health care, environmental protection, infrastructure needs, and so much else of what used to be the California dream. Republicans love to hit Democrats on taxes, and we’ll see plenty of that in the fall, no matter who’s the nominee. And for Westly to start the "no new taxes" cry just leaves the Democrats politically crippled.
For the record, Angelides is right: The state needs more tax revenue. And under his proposal, most of it would come not from "working families" who are worried about their gas bills but from people like, well, Steve Westly and Phil Angelides — millionaires. His proposed income tax increase only affects households with more than $500,000 in income. Sorry: You’re in that range, you can afford it.
So Mr. Westly: Stop with the antitax lies. This shit makes me sick.
On to the good news.
I get the feeling, from over here in San Francisco, that there’s a real change afoot in East Bay politics. For the past few years, a not-so-loose cadre made up of state senator Don Perata, Mayor Jerry Brown, and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente has been consolidating power in Oakland, calling the political shots and giving developers a blank check. Two of the three have real, ahem, ethical issues, and one’s itching to leave town for Sacramento, but so far, nobody’s been able to truly challenge them.
Until Ron Dellums.
Now, I know that Dellums has been out of Oakland for years, that he’s a DC lobbyist, and I’ve heard the rap that he’s long on rhetoric and short on urban policy ideas. But we met him last week, and I can tell you that, at 71, he’s still one of the most energetic and inspirational speakers around, and if he’s elected mayor, he will, by force of personality and national stature, instantly become a center of power that’s distinct from (and will often be in opposition to) the Perata–De La Fuente bloc. SFBG