Editorial: Election Day Simplified

Becky O'Malley
Friday February 27, 2004

How to vote in the primary on Tuesday? Here’s a simple algorithm: If Kerry is way ahead, vote for Kucinich, because In Your Heart You Know He’s Right. (If you’re under 50, that was Barry Goldwater’s old slogan, and it worked for him. Well, not exactly. If you’re under 30, it’s too hard to explain who Goldwater was.)  

If Kerry and Edwards are closer (plus or minus eight percentage points apart), vote for Edwards, so that Kerry will be forced to listen to Edwards’ message on NAFTA. If you’re a Green, next time remember to switch to the Democratic Party in time to vote in the primary. You can always switch back later. Then again, if the Greens can’t do any better than Nader, why bother? (If you’re a Republican, move to Danville if you can afford it, and if you can’t afford it you really ought to be a Democrat.) 

And then there are the Berkeley ballot measures. Do you want to keep the wrong people off the ballot? Vote for Measure J, and at least you’ll exclude the ones who can’t afford to pay $150 to file. That might not be all of the wrong people, of course…. 

Want to save the city a hundred thousand bucks or so from time to time? Vote for Measure H, and there will be fewer runoffs. It’s great for incumbents, since incumbents almost never get less than 40 percent. Makes it harder to be a challenger, though. 

Another potential cash-saver is Instant Runoff Voting, supported by John Anderson, the former Republican congressman who tried to run for president as an independent in 1980. (When I was canvassing precincts for Democrats in my youth, I learned that “independents” were people who often didn’t vote and seldom knew what was going on. They mostly disapproved of politics and elections.) His national organization is the major funder ($6,500) of the pro-Measure I campaign. 

Here in Berkeley, Measure I seems to me to add up to a pro-incumbent Move to the Independent Middle (acronym MIM), though the list of its contributors is all over the map. Many progressives, especially Greens, believe it will make the world safe for progress. Many moderates believe the reverse. Could be they’re both wrong. The devil is always in the details, and one problem with Measure I is that it leaves the details up to the incumbent councilpersons. 

If all three Berkeley measures pass, we might just count on electing Councilpersons-for-Life. We might even be able to do away with elections altogether and really save money. 

Speaking of homogenization, by the way, a Social Note from All Over: sometime Progressive Mayor Tom Bates, the proud owner of an $85,000 campaign debt from the mayoral election, was the beneficiary of a High-Hills fundraiser last weekend. The hosts were stalwarts of The Faction Formerly Known as Moderate: Miriam Hawley, Harry Weininger, Maggy Gee, Gordon Wozniak and Fred Collignon, Mr. and Ms. Nice Guys all. (The guest/contributor list was not released to the press.) 

Have they changed stripes, or has Tom? Or perhaps none of them have…. It’s a new Era of Good Feeling, with Mayor Tom enacting the role of President Monroe, who was elected with all but one vote in the Electoral College.  

Which is why cynical curmudgeons like me will be tempted to vote no on All Of The Above. 

Even on the Bailout Bonds, Props. 57 and 58? The Schwarzenegger proposal is for the citizens to borrow about $430 per person this year, and even more next year. If the vehicle tax (a progressive tax under which those who can afford more pay more) were reinstated, the net shortfall would be $300 per person. We’d pay back $500 per person for that $300. 

Why not just raise taxes now, progressively more on those who can afford it, and save money in the long run? The best thing about this plan is that it doesn’t rescue Arnie, so we might be able to get rid of him in the next election.  

Because it’s the prudent solution, it’s unlikely to be adopted by the idiots in the Legislature. The poor will suffer while they’re arguing about it. Catch 22. But if Prop. 56 passes, they might do better. You have until 8 p.m. Tuesday night to make up your mind, and I can’t help you.  

Becky O’Malley is executive editor of the Daily Planet.