Fighting Voter Panic: By BECKY O'MALLEY

Friday October 29, 2004

In the long ago distant days before the war on Vietnam, older people referred to what they called “the standard liberal position.” This included support for civil rights and a general belief that it was the responsibility of the government, especially the federal government, to make sure that all citizens had a job with a decent wage and a respectable retirement, and were protected by regulations from some of the standard abuses of corporate capitalists like drug companies. The “standard liberal position” concept was mightily fractured by support for the war, by Democrats, labor unions and others, which lasted much too long. “Liberal” became a pejorative term for some on the left, who favored, variously and from time to time, “radical” or “progressive” to describe their own politics. The Old Left used the term “politically correct” to describe positions they espoused, but this term was translated by their irreverent offspring into a form of mockery of their parents’ doctrinaire beliefs. Meanwhile, Rightists, sarcasm-challenged, started attacking the concept of political correctness without realizing that it had already turned into a put-down in Left circles. Are you still with me? 

The point here is that many people, herd animals that they are, are always looking for someone or something to follow. They want branding for their political opinions. The San Francisco Bay Guardian for 30 years has supplied a reasonably reliable brand—my 90-year-old mother, not their target demographic, has often used their endorsements. I do remember being in the Guardian news room when someone shouted over the noise “anyone here know anyone in Marin?” as a way of finding someone for the paper to support, but on the average they’ve gotten a lot right. Still, that’s why the Daily Planet is not officially endorsing in this election. 

A reader, Michael Katz, has just informed us that there’s another place to look for advice. He writes: 

“If you’re still as baffled by ballot propositions as the Planet’s editorial page was on Oct. 26, check out the local/regional recommendations posted by the new ‘League of Pissed Off Voters’ (kid you not) at: www.indyvoter.org/voterguide.php?area=5.  

“This is a Michael Moore-inspired, democratic experiment in which anyone is free to create and post their own grassroots ‘slate card.’ Some of what you’ll find here reflects particular candidates’ supporters, or small-party or personal preferences. But it’s certainly richer, and more honest, information than you’ll get on the fake slate cards invading your mailbox from fake ‘COPS’ in L.A. 

“And if you don’t like what you see, you can post your own slate card. Or click the ‘About Us: Who Are We?’ links to read background information and a blog and stuff.” 

I took a quick look, and I must say the first Berkeley slate I clicked on didn’t quite make it for me. For example, the writer called far-out District 6 candidate Norine Smith (endorsed by the Bay Guardian) a “reactionary,” which certainly doesn’t capture her particular style of in-your-face independent thinking. Nevertheless, the page is good reading. But is it really a great idea to let some unknown stranger tell you how to vote? Probably not, but it might be a good second choice for those who haven’t done their homework and don’t have a copy of the Guardian handy. And of course, if you seriously want to catch up, you can read the letters and news articles in back issues of the Planet at berkeleydailyplanet.com, or at the library. We don’t have all the answers, but we’ve at least provided the opportunity for intelligent proponents of candidates and measures to do their best to convince you. The last batch of election correspondence is in this issue, so you have one more shot at getting informed. And by the way, Peace and Freedom Senate candidate Marsha Feinland, a Berkeley resident, dropped by the Planet office to tell us she’s the anti-capital-punishment candidate some have been looking for as an alternative to Barbara Boxer. Check her out. 

—Becky O’Malley