Sunday, November 2, 2014

Machiavelli, Paul Wellstone and Butte County Democrats

The first campaign I volunteered for was Paul Wellstone's campaign for State Auditor back in 1982. His campaign manager back then was a peacenik by the name of Bob Lamb. I remember hanging out in the office, stuffing envelopes, walking precincts with Bob---who was a well respected radical. Paul would drop by the office and we'd chat for a bit. That was a special election because two eclectic politicians faced off. The guy who won the election was Arne Carlson. Arne was a different sort of Republican; hell, nowadays he'd be a Democrat. Arne went on to become Governor of Minnesota for a couple of terms. Paul Wellstone went on to win a seat in the US Senate.

When Paul Wellstone decided to run for the Senate, I was a drinking buddy with his first campaign manager, Dick Senese. Those were the days before the Internet so everything was done by paper. I had a spare room in the house I owned in Duluth, Minnesota---and Wellstone didn't have an office. Sending out a fund raising letter to every Democrat in Minnesota took up lots of paper and lots of space. We stored his first campaign letter in my spare room and licked thousands of  envelopes until we sent them all off. Paul went on to win that election in a dramatic underdog fashion.

Paul Wellstone said during that first election when he was running against a wealthy opponent that in order for people to vote for him, they needed to believe every word he said. Integrity mattered. I remember him saying that if he spoke from the heart, and spoke the truth, even people who didn't agree with him would respect him and even vote for him. He won the election when Rudy Boschwitz used some dirty tactics against him that backfired.

I broke my teeth in politics by working with honest candidates who wanted to make a difference. Paul Wellstone would never, ever think of sending out a duplicitous mailer. He knew that populist candidates lose when they are no longer considered to be trustworthy.

Take a look at this mailer that arrived in mailboxes in Chico yesterday:

This is a mailer that endorses the Republican ticket for Governor, Controller and Treasurer. It gives the impression that this is done by a conservative, Republican outfit. Instead, this is just a profit centered mailer that candidates pay money to get their names on them. This one was targeted at Republican voters in Chico.

Three Democrats bought space on this thing. Scott Gruendl, Lupe Arim-Law and Forough Molina. This is a deceitful piece of mail, designed to trick a Republican voter into voting for these three Democrats. It lacks integrity.

If I lived in Chico I wouldn't vote for any of these candidates. I have pretty high standards when it comes to politicians. The first one I worked for was Paul Wellstone. And he would never sink so low as to try and trick the voter. He had integrity.

Of course, the Republicans do it too. Here is a mailer put out by the same group that tries to trick Democrats into voting for a Republican:

Jeff Gorell is a Republican running for Congress in a Democratic District in Sacramento. Local Democratic Guru Bob Mulholland says that politics is dirty and we should just put up with it. Justin Meyer, the Butte County Democratic Chair, uses the above mailer to dampen the damage done by the mailers sent out during his watch. They both seem to imply that this is the new reality; the way things get done. Machiavelli rides into Butte County on a Democratic Ass (or donkey?).

Well, I say: Bullshit! We should not employ these sorts of tactics in the Democratic Party. We don't win elections by doing this. We only make people more cynical of government, of office holders, of democracy (with a small d).

I am amazed at my fellow Democrats behavior in Butte County this election cycle. From endorsing Measure B (a Measure that no print medium endorsed in Butte County--uniting the liberal CNR with the Chico ER and the Paradise Post against it) to sending out fake mailers, this cycle seems to have been built on fooling the voter. Whoever gave the Dems election advice like this, well, they should never be allowed to practice here again. The Dems should apologize and start over. And they should give that money back to the Cannabis Lobby as, it seems, they are borrowing tactics from their playbook.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Dems lose big on Tuesday. Tactics like these should not be rewarded with a vote. And so far, the mail in vote has been dismal.


  1. It seems that nearly all political ads these days are attack pieces based on lies or at best half-truths. They appeal to the worst in voters. During the last governor's race here we got robo calls saying one side planned to take away our guns and that the other side was going to outlaw birth control. I assume they wouldn't use tactics like that unless they've been determined to actually work. Meanwhile the meaningful discourse that should be happening gets drowned out in crap like that. Sigh.

  2. I just wanted to point out that the reason Paul Wellstone got elected to the US Senate was because of a the work of an advertising specialist named Bill Hillman who wrote a bunch of TV ads that could also be considered as deceptive. The bottom line is the mailer attempts to make the case that the three council candidates are the best choices for Republicans. I think that's accurate. Sorry you disagree.

    1. So you compare the Fast Paced Paul ads with these deceitful mailers? Or maybe you refer to the end of the campaign where Rudy claimed Wellstone wasn't good enough of a Jew? Alan, I think you are splitting hairs and that you have been a political consultant for much too long. Give me a break. The mailers are dishonest and you know it. Or maybe you knew it once before you started making your living deceiving voters.

  3. I will add (which I didn't know at the time) that Wellstone paid to be on a slate card calling himself the "Taxfighters choice" for US Senate. I don't remember Rudy ever claiming that Wellstone wasn't a good enough Jew, just that he was a peacenik because he had been Jesse Jackson's campaign chairman. If you read Bill Hilsman's book, you can find many instances where Wellstone made decisions in the Senate to benefit special interests that supported him. But that's beside the point. The bottom line is that candidates are supposed to make arguments as to why they are the best choice for voters. James Madison said an elected officials job was to "serve the public in the same way a clerk runs a shop for an absentee owner" and must always explain to the owner why they were the best choice. The three candiates you mentioned were for increasing the number of police in Chico, while their opponents opposed that for financial reasons. You should worry more about the name of the individual, not what team you think they play for.

  4. Of course Wellstone made trade offs in politics. And I will give the book you site a look see. I don't disagree with you that the three city council candidates were the best choices. They were. I disagree with the tactic; a tactic that was discovered and publicized and used against them. And frankly, probably contributed hugely to their defeat. Nothing smells more than rancid deception. I also don't think it helped them that they got into bed with the Pot Growers and Measure B. Pot growing and crime are linked in the run of the mill Chico Voter's mind. That was a huge mistake. As for more police officers? As Mellissa D. points out in her recent News and Review column (and CNR recent features), the pay for Chico police officers is out of hand. Hiring more probably is the sensible answer to reduce overtime. Let's see what the conservatives on the board do.