28 February 2007

Politics: National and Local

First off, let's get one thing straight: I'm no kinda "...ist." When I was a teenager in the '60s and number eight in the draft lottery for Vietnam, I was a dope-crazed, anarcho-syndicalist, Yippie, draft-card burning (cutting-up in my case), SDS organizing marauding gang of one. Then I mellowed a bit, don't we all?, at which point I might have refered to myself as a "Groucho Marxist."

Now, arrogantly enough, I prefer to think of myself, if anything, as a "rationalist." But that's not really any sort of ist at all.

So while I have some basic ideas as to what's better or worse for the world, those ideas are not tied to any particular ideology. They're fluid. I figure that sometimes something will work better somewhere than something else; and sometimes not. Countries and circumstances are variable and the problem with ideology is that it gets in the way of flexibility.

But I am certain of where I stand on the issue of tacos. Or more specifically, taco trucks. I've written about this before. The L.A. City Council has passed a law that makes it very difficult for taco trucks to go about their business unmolested by either ticket-writing or bribe-soliciting cops. (There are undoubtedly a whole lot more ticket-writers than bribe-solicitors out there, but the law creates opportunities for both.) And it also restrains trade that is more often than not harmless, while providing a welcome service to mostly poor and underserved neighborhoods.

My city councilman - a nice enough fellow, he's a neighbor of mine - was one of the big supporters of this stupid law. He's currently up for re-election and that (with a couple of other things thrown in) would be enough for me to vote against him. But he's running unopposed, there isn't even a write-in candidate for me to vote for. Other city council seats will be voted on next Tuesday though, and I'm pleased to see that Bandini, whose The Great Taco Hunt blog is a wonderful and useful guide to one of Los Angeles' most vital resources - tacos, has made his electoral endorsements for the upcoming vote. If you live in any of the districts where Bandini has made his recommendations, I urge you to go to his blog and consider what he has to say. (Click on the red words to get there.)

It has been said, frequently, that all politics are local. The ravening pack of would be presidents has been descending upon Los Angeles - Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Malibu in particular - to raise money. I don't think anyone has asked Barack or Hillary where they stand on the issue of taco trucks. My guess is that the taco truck issue is beneath them, far beneath them. And I suppose that's as it should be. All things considered I'd rather that they pay more attention to Iran and North Korea's bombs than to al pastor or carnitas. But I wish someone would ask them anyhow. If they had a real answer to the question it might tell you something about how they view the world.

Now don't get me wrong. I like Barack and Hillary just fine and I'll happily vote for nearly anyone - not everyone, but nearly - the Democrats nominate to run next year. But there's a lot that I don't like about their candidacies.

The big problem is what their front-runnerdom says about money and the electoral process. There are other candidates, several who I like a whole lot better - Bill Richardson for instance - who aren't getting heard from because they don't have the money. If Bill Richardson were to somehow get the nomination, I think he'd be easily elected and he'd be a great president. But it will be almost impossible for him to get the nomination unless Barack and Hillary are discovered snorting coke and orgying together or something. (At this point they're both smart enough to put that sort of thing off until after the election.)

My state, California, isn't making any of this any easier. For years we've felt neglected because by the time our primary election rolled around in June, the nominees were pretty much already decided. So the most populous state in the nation didn't have much say in who runs for President. Other than, of course, by contributing enormous sums of cash. Our state legislature and governor have decided to remedy that by moving the primary to February.

It costs millions, tens of millions of dollars to run an effective statewide campaign in California - most of it on TV. What that means is that candidates for the nomination will have to spend everything they can here, if they have any hope of winning the nomination. They'll pretty much have to neglect all the other, smaller, cheaper states.

In the past, lesser known, less well-financed candidates would concentrate on the smaller, cheaper states in the hope of winning some early victories and building up momentum that would help them raise the money to run in the bigger, more expensive states later. That's how Carter got the nomination. Clinton too. And Kerry - but we won't talk so much about that.

Moving California - and several other big states' - primary elections up, means that candidates who don't go into the race with a whole lot of money from the start, have far less of a chance than in the past to get anywhere. And that sucks.

Meanwhile, Hillary? I thought her husband was a good president, not that that has anything to do with her running. But I also think she'd be a good president, and I'd like to see a woman elected. But for whatever reason - most of them bogus, but still with resonance - she is a divisive figure in this country. She might well get elected but an awful lot depends on who the Republicans nominate, who she takes on as a vice presidential candidate and a lot of other factors. I don't think she'll have an easy time getting elected. (I'm also getting tired of this whole dynasty thing. What are we, England? If Hillary gets elected and serves two terms, that would make 28 years during which we've had a Clinton or a Bush as president. After Hillary, who? Jeb? Then Chelsea?)

As for Barack, I wish I was, but I'm just not sure that this country is going to elect a black man president. Not yet. Even if he is half-white. (Stephen Colbert asked the question: "Why isn't he running as a white man?") Now I would personally love to see a black man or woman elected president. I'd be especially pleased if it was someone whose color we couldn't figure out and didn't give any thought to. Is Barack half-black? Or is he half-white? Who cares? That's one of the things I like about him. After eight years of Bush though, I'd like him a lot better if I thought he could be easily elected. Racism runs deeper in this country than we like to own up to.

As I said earlier, I like Bill Richardson. He's got a ton of experience, both domestic and foreign. He's a governor - and a whole lot more governors get elected president than senators. (For the excellent reason that they have hands on administrative experience that comes in very handy when doing the job.) He's liberal on civil liberties and the role of government in such things as education and health care; and he's moderate to conservative economically, all of which I like. He doesn't strike me as anyone with imperial ambitions - like the current crowd in D.C. He's even half Latino or Hispanic. (I haven't heard him bother to characterize it himself, so I don't know what he calls himself. And I don't care.)

And he's the governor of New Mexico. I've eaten some mighty fine tacos in his state. I'd bet he could give me and Bandini an answer we'd like on the taco truck question.

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