Mixed feelings, but still hopeful after the election

4 Jun

Like I said on Monday, I’m really glad the election has come and passed. But I have some mixed feelings today. I couldn’t be much happier that Rebecca Kaplan far surpassed her challengers in votes for the at large seat – though I’m sad that I was sick at home last night and couldn’t make it to her victory party. It looks like she’ll be facing Kerry Hammill in November. I’m confident she’ll win and after I take a break for a few weeks, I’ll be back out campaigning for her.

I’m also overjoyed that Mark Leno will move onto the state Senate, that Prop. 98 lost, and that my friend and former co-worker Edie Irons will soon be representing the Democratic Party on the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. And watching the next President of the United States last night speak to a huge crowd in Minnesota about the time for change brought tears to my eyes.

But I’m also sad and confused. The voter turnout was abysmally low, not just in Oakland, but across the state. And none of the other incumbents on the City Council were defeated, though a couple of them were challenged by formidable candidates. I could go on and on all afternoon about my election thoughts, but instead I’ll share some of the thoughts of others.

David Dayen, at Calitics, liked the overall results of the election but had these statewide concerns that I think were at play here in Oakland:

Turnout was horrendous. These numbers will go up, but with all precincts reporting we’re looking at 22% turnout, the lowest in recent memory, far lower than 2006 and 2004. There still is not much of a real political culture in California with respect to state politics, and I think that’s something we have to recognize. I saw a lot of activism and citizen-led activity leading up to these primaries which made me somewhat hopeful, but it did not translate at the ballot box. Of course, with so many uncontested primaries there was little at stake. But as a measure of intensity of the electorate, there wasn’t much…

Incumbency can be defeated, but it’s tough. Carole Migden is something like the first incumbent to be beaten in a primary in California in a dozen years. Mervyn Dymally was a sitting Assemblyman and something of a legendary figure so I’ll call him a sort-of beaten incumbent. But it took lots of money to unseat these two and they had their share of political scandal. Otherwise, it’s just real hard to get your message out.

Several of us Oakland bloggers dedicated time and energy to the city council races, and East Bay Conservative had this advice for us:

My friends. My fellow bloggers: Oakland does not want your help. And, largely, those you aim to help do not deserve your time and effort.

Oakland has spoken loud and clear: Oakland does not care about changes in leadership and government. Oakland is fine the way it is. Murders, rapes, carjackings and all.

I know that there is a tendency in the face of such defeat to think such things as, “we fought the good fight; we got our message out.”

Let me say this very clearly. By participating in the political process in Oakland, you have wasted your time. You have accomplished absolutely nothing, save providing the government-media machine with a new set of intruders to repel. Our government is a self-healing mechanism, and you have strengthened its immune system for the next election…

Remember that this is not your government. It is their government, and we are all in their crosshairs. So, be selfish and self-reliant. Make decisions to protect yourselves. Be willing to leave if necessary.

I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. I had a similar argument with some of my coworkers yesterday who were registered in other parties so could not vote in the Democratic primaries. I argued that if we’re upset with the direction of the Democratic Party, we should change it. If we don’t, we can’t expect others to do that for us. And I feel the same way about Oakland politics.

Even though V Smoothe was understandably crushed by the results in the District 3 race, she seems to ultimately feel the same way as I do about this:

Whatever the reason, it just hurts. I watch nearly every Council and Committee meeting, and I watch her performance, and I see how she treats people, and I just feel like if other people did the same thing, they would all agree that Nancy Nadel is just plain bad for Oakland. Sean Sullivan, on the other hand, well I already said it, but I just can’t say enough how incredibly fortunate Oakland would have been to have him on the City Council. I’m so upset. It’s incredibly tempting to sit around and curse the voters (and not just in this race – the other City Council outcomes didn’t surprise me, but I found the margins, in every District, unbelievable. Also, poor Tony Thurmond!), but that would be unproductive. Ultimately, it was our job to make that case to the people who live here, and we just…well, as hard as it is to accept, we clearly failed to do that. I don’t know what more we could have done. I really don’t know what more I could have done. I guess I took two nights off to go to baseball games – could I have convinced 114 people in that time?

Wev. You can’t think like that. Almost exactly two years ago, I felt, like Joanna, that I should just give up on Oakland politics and the ability of the people here to make good choices. And it isn’t just Oakland. The American public has let me down over and over again. But I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it had to always be that way. You do what you can, you try to educate people, and you just hold out hope that someday people will wake up, get informed, and do the right thing. If I didn’t believe that could eventually happen, well, not only could I not write this blog, I don’t think I could even stand to read the newspaper. So you just promise yourself to work harder next time. And until then, go back and do whatever you can to make where you live a better place. Volunteer for a cause you care about, get out there on Sunday morning and clean up the trash on your street, and try to get your friends and neighbors to do the same.

I couldn’t agree more with that. Now is the time to reflect and figure out what we can do differently next time. It’s not the time to give up; it’s the time to fight harder.

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