Just Breathe Deeply and Hold Your Nose on Tuesday

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 02, 2018 - 11:43:00 AM

A “giant sucking sound”—that’s what H. Ross Perot (remember him?) used to describe what we’d hear when international trade agreements like NAFTA sucked all U.S. jobs out of the country and into Mexico. He was kinda sorta on the far right, or at least far out in right field, but plenty of lefties went on record as agreeing with him.

Things didn’t turn out exactly as he’d predicted, and he picked up an uneasy ally in Donald Trump along the way, who’s now busy jettisoning trade agreements. I haven’t checked lately on what the official Left position should be on trade, but meanwhile that giant sucking sound has acquired a whole new identity.

That would be at least half of us, mostly on the left but also the ragged remnants of the conscientious right, holding their breath anticipating the results of next Tuesday’s election. We are the ones who fear that the country is in the hands of a dangerous maniac, a person who does not shrink from inciting his like-minded admirers to take up pipe bombs and assault rifles to carry out their murderous fantasies.

The best advice this year, even from some lifelong Republicans, is simply to vote for anyone running as a Democrat, including the prototypical Ol’ Yaller Dawg. And tell your friends and family who are in the toss-up states, which seems to be most states now. I’m proud to say that I have family in Missouri and Florida and Maryland and New York and Illinois, and I’m not worried about how a single one of them will vote, but we aren't all so lucky.

Here in California, it’s a bit more complicated. In much of the state, especially the Bay Area, we’ve already gotten rid of the Republicans. They are still lurking in some congressional districts (*Devin Nunes!) but reasonable people have been moving into places like Turlock and Orange County, so that might change on Tuesday, with the help of missionaries from the urban frontier.

But the party realignment in the Bay brings its own set of challenges. It’s easier to “hold your nose and pull the Democratic lever”, but the damned slate cards which arrive in every day’s mail are populated by people who claim to be the really truly official non-Republican Democrats. 

Folks, almost all the candidates are some kind of Democrat deep in their hearts, or at least non-Republicans. That including the ideologues of various flavors: Democratic Socialists, Greens (yes they are!), Peace and Freedom, even probably the Libertarians these days. Poke any of them and they’ll agree that Donald Trump is the Devil Incarnate—but that’s not enough. 

Here in Berkeley, to bring it all home in the end, there’s really only one issue where you can see a clear line of demarcation. Interestingly, there’s a headline on one of candidate Buffy Wicks’ three dozen pricey propaganda pieces that spells it out: The California Dream is at Risk: Buffy Wicks will Tackle Our Housing Crisis Head-On. Elsewhere her dark money backers dishonestly characterize opponent Jovanka Beckles’ position as There’s No Housing Crisis, conveniently omitting the second half of the sentence, “there’s an affordable housing crisis.” 

Really, the whole discussion can be boiled down to simple market fundamentalism. Proponents supporting Hicks and her patron, state legislator Scott Wiener, often cite Econ 101 as their bible, oblivious of upper-division courses with more nuanced analyses of markets. 

Just allow the market to build a lot of housing everywhere and some will eventually accrue to the needy, it’s argued by these neo-liberal true believers. And in order to let the market run free, let’s change state law to pre-empt large swathes of local land-use controls as well as weakening the California Environmental Quality Act. 

That position or some variant of it is espoused not only by Wicks but by some Berkeley City Council candidates, positioned as “moderates” on the local skewed spectrum, who would be Republicans (on this issue) anywhere else. Local progressives (those endorsed by Wellstone, Berkeley Progressive Alliance, BCA) favor retaining local control and actively prioritizing affordable housing over the let-the-market-decide philosophy. That would be, especially, Kate Harrison (District 4) and Mary Kay Lacey (District 8). Igor Tregub (District 1) and Rigel Robinson (District 7) also have these endorsements. They’re the ones to vote for if you don’t want Sacramento making our housing decisions. 

Recently a couple of funding measures on Tuesday’s ballot have come to my attention. State Proposition 3, water bonds, seemed at first to be a no-brainer. Who’s not in favor of water? But Andy Katz, on the Board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District and active in the Sierra Club, convinced me that this one was a stalking horse, a preliminary step toward Jerry Brown’s hair-brained scheme of building tunnels to divert even more water to greedy Big Agriculture, so I’ll be voting against it. 

Measure FF, benefiting the East Bay Regional Park District, is more difficult. Opponents are urging defeat of FF as a way of informing the district of their displeasure with what they believe to be a plan to clear-cut park eucalyptus forests and kill the stumps with toxic glyphosate (Round-Up). Checking with some academic ecologists of my acquaintance, I’ve learned that doing away with all non-native plants in the guise of fire prevention is not universally accepted and in fact widely criticized, so I guess I’ll vote no, in hopes that the district will put a better program forward before the next election. 

As always, when there are elections this space is open to advocacy of all kinds. We don’t have binary quotas (“one from each of the two sides”), being against bothsidesism and whataboutism as a matter of principle. We encourage our readers to throw away all of the expensive and wasteful paper glossies that candidates and causes have been sending, or at least the ones that consist mostly of selfies with celebrities, and seek out other sources of information. 

And about that national election: as they say in the birthing classes, just B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Inhale. Exhale. 

It will all be over before you know it, and then we can go on to the next crisis. Sigh. 

And for those who've inquired, once again, ENDORSEMENTS,