Claremont Insider: Democracy Takes a Hit

Monday, November 3, 2008

Democracy Takes a Hit

The end of the latest political season is nigh, which means campaign hi-jinx on all sides are running rampant. File these latest events under the heading HYPOCRISY:

Saturday's Claremont Courier had an article by Tony Krickl with the headline "It's the Season for Dirty Campaign Tricks and Literature." (The Krickl piece is not posted on the Courier website.) The article talked about some of the usual stuff like campaign lawn signs going missing, and it also mentioned complaints about an anti-Obama mailing with racist overtones.

Krickl wrote that local Republicans, too, had complaints about an unidentified man who left a leaflet that had a list of "The Early Signs of Fascism" outside the local Republican headquarters.

And the Daily Bulletin reported last week that the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office is investigating a complaint from a Pomona resident:

POMONA - Roberta Perlman-Hensen has been a resident of Los Angeles County for nearly three decades, so she was surprised when she recently received an unsolicited absentee ballot - from San Bernardino County.

Perlman-Hensen lives in Pomona but has a business address in Chino.

"It was really odd. Apparently someone filled out a card with my name," she said.

The matter was odd enough that the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office is having the county District Attorney's Office investigate.

What a lot of these complaints have in common is that the incidents are pushed by independent groups who support their candidates of choice not by offering up reasons to vote for those persons but by giving negative messages about their candidates' opponents.

These sorts of occurrences are by no means limited to state and federal elections. In the last three Claremont municipal elections, for instance, city-wide mailers went out to voters on the last Friday before the respective elections. That particular day is chosen because the targeted candidates cannot respond in time before election day to rebut the charges raised in the mailers. We saw an unsubtle and ineffectual dig at Elderkin, Yao, and Pedroza in the last election. Before that, it was Valerie Martinez's and Roger Hogan's Claremont Business PAC. And who can forget, six years ago, Residents United for Claremont, the forerunner of the 2005 Preserve Claremont.

So it came as no surprise late last week that a hit piece mailer went out attacking incumbent Congressman David Dreier (R-26). The piece was a large, four-color, glossy mailer that had the photo of two men in swim trunks lying on beach towels together with the headline: "Why are taxpayers paying for David Dreier's Homosexual lifestyle?" The headline was in white letters, except for the word "Homosexual", which was in red.

The mailer claimed that "...Dreier took 92 trips overseas with his male partner on our tax dollars." The mailer also indicated that it was paid for by Blue America PAC, which is an organization headed by DJ, record producer and political blogger Howie Klein. Here is the mailer itself:

Click to Enlarge

What was disturbing about the Blue America mailer is that it so clearly seeks to stir up homophobia to help Dreier's Democratic opponent, Russ Warner, win tomorrow's election. Isn't a Blue America supposed to be a tolerant America? We are finding it a little tough to square that circle.

Update, November 5, 10 a.m. The Federal Election Commission has posted the campaign finance document for the mailer. It is available at the FEC website, and also reproduced here. Click on the image at the right to enlarge so that the disclosure is readable.

Warner, who has not disavowed the Blue America mailer--that we have heard*, stands to benefit here. Silence seems to be the rule on this one: silence from the Daily Bulletin and the Courier; silence from the Claremont Colleges, where quelling hate speech is a daily event; and silence from Warner and his supporters.

Where, one must ask, is the outrage? It's more than a little hypocritical to rightly complain about racist hit pieces on the one hand and to support with silence homophobic pieces on the other. And, whether from the left or the right, what do exactly you win when you abandon all first principles to win an election?

Update, election morning, 7 a.m. We received a note from a member of the Claremont community on this issue pointing out hypocrisy on the Dreier side: "The fact that Dreier is gay, closeted, and enjoyed a multi-decade relationship with his chief-of-staff has been well-known since the story broke in 2004. Many GLBT Americans are offended by Dreier's hypocrisy, and your post would have been better for mentioning that fact."

We are agnostic on Dreier's re-election. Or not. And were a bit tentative in even exposing this whole affair. Our reader implies that the piece in question was along the lines of an Act Up! action--queer, here, and in your face.

*We checked the Warner for Congress website about 11:15 a.m. Monday and couldn't find anything authoritative or otherwise. We'll check as we can throughout the day and tomorrow.

7:00 a.m. Tuesday. Still no statement one way or the other from the Warner camp. Our purpose here is not to put pressure on Warner--God knows he's probably busy enough today--but this note was the easiest way we could come up with to allow for an anticipated change in the fact situation underlying statements in this post. We checked several times yesterday afternoon and evening, but have removed the times in this footnote because they had too much of a "countdown" look to them. Probably Warner doesn't even read the Insider, and has the intelligence not to respond if he did. This is getting way too complicated for us--"lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta threads,"

10:00 a.m. Wednesday. We will stop posting on this subject now. Dreier apparently has won re-election.