Revisiting L. A. Politics

When this columnist read on the Internets that Jane Harman was going to resign from her job as the Congressional representative from California’s 36th Congressional District, we spent a moment wondering who would replace her and made a note to get back to that topic.  Recently while looking for a column topic we spied something written by Marcy Winograd and figured that we had the answer to our question because the school teacher has been doing well as a Democratic Party candidate trying to wrestle the office away from the incumbent. 

On February 7, 2011, Ms. Harman announced that she would be resigning from Congress to become the head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  We learned online that Jane Margaret Lakes Harman had graduated from Harvard Law School in 1969. 

Since we lived in that area for several decades, we figured a closer look might yield the ingredients for a good column. 

The District was created in by redistricting caused by the 1990 census and there was no incumbent in 1992.  We went to a meet and greet event for the candidates hoping to win the new seat which was held at Loyola Marymont University.  We saw the array of hopefuls.  Ms. Harmon did a credible job of presenting her case and seeming personable. 

Marcy Winograd has in two past primary seasons given the incumbent reason to campaign very hard and not take the incumbency advantage for granted.  Ms. Winograd got Gore Vidal to speak at one local rally attended by this columnist.  She too did a noteworthy job of sounding both sensible and dependable, but she now lives in Santa Monica which is outside the district (according to something Ms. Winograd posted online).

We then learned that Los Angeles City council representative Janice Hahn may seek to become the new congressional representative from the 36th Congressional District in California.  Her brother has been the mayor of L. A. and her father was a member of the L. A. County board of supervisors.  We wondered if we could do a column about the possibility that political dynasties in the USA are becoming the American version of a title in Great Britain. 

Most Americans are aware of the big name dynasties such as the Kennedy family, the Gore family and the Bush family (which may try for a revival via JEB’s bid to become the next Republican Presidential Candidate.)  How many other American Political Dynasties are in play but are not as well known.  How many voters (for example) in Berekeley CA would know (or care) about the Hahn family history down in SoCal?  How many other similar mini-dynasties are there around the USA?  Since when does a family have a right to a big name factor advantage in free elections?  And why?

We can see the potential for a book in using the topic of American Dynasties but we were only looking for a column’s worth of information.

Then we learned about yet a third Democrat, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who has expressed an interest in running for that particular congressional seat.  Ms. Bowen has battled against the use of electronic voting machines.  It was beginning to look like there might be enough material for a book about the political maneuvering in just this one Congressional District  and sadly that much material in columns aimed at a national audience would tend to bore readers outside the district.

You can just bet that some Republican political strategists are paying very close attention to many facets of this complex district with a smorgasbord of voters.  The district includes portions of Venice, Marina del Rey, part of Mar Vista (it might be only a tiny sliver), Playa del Rey and (as I recall) portions of the South Bay.  There are still some hippie/beatniks living in Venice.  Marina del Rey seems to have gone a bit more Yuppie than it was in the “swinging singles” era in the Seventies.  (We knew people who were not challenged when they said they attended the famous LSD party reported in Sports Illustrated in the late Sixties.  [We never did find out why Sports Illustrated ran a trend spotting article about the fact that the baby boom generation was entering their courtship phase.])  

The South Bay is a conservative enclave with folks employed by both the Defense and  Aero Space Industries.  Don’t know how they are dong in the Bush era but supposedly old voting habits die hard.

To even a causal observer the workers in the Defense and Aero Space industries seem to be the antithesis of the voters living in close proximity to Ocean Front Walk.

In a time when being well informed seems to mean that folks skim a large variety of web sites, it may be asking too much to suggest that there should be complex analysis of each and every Congressional District available online. 

Will political junkies really read bios and synopsis of the political views of three Democratic candidates just to prepare for one local primary contest?  If you think that then please explain the success of Senate candidate Alvin Greene in South Carolina.  (Isn’t he running for a new office?)

What about the Republican efforts in that District?  We’ll have to research their efforts to win a seat this year and maybe have the incumbent advantage in the general elections in 2012.

While we were collecting information for a nostalgic look back at that particular Congressional District where we spent a few decades, we got the “bat-signal” from the President of the Marina (del Rey) Tenants Association.  He’s a long time friend and he wants some volunteer help on a local issue and so as we will answer the call and go back “on the road” to go help him.

Other than talking to local residents involved in the area’s issues, fact finding will be a challenging chore.  The Santa Monica Outlook suspended publication and their “morgue” is probably in a storage room somewhere in Torrance CA.  It is available on mircrofilm at the Santa Monica Public Library.  The Argonaut newspaper, which did a commendable job of covering local politics still has an office in the area (and their archives are available online) but the effort necessary to get a closer look at the background for one particular Democratic Primary race is a formidable challenge if one hopes for a comprehensive roundup article.  We realize that a good amount of facts may go unreported in a great many races around the state and that only tends to increase our pessimistic outlook on America’s political future.  The Republicans tend to rely on sloppy voter preparation and a heavy advertising budget to win political races.

Maybe while we are helping the Marina (del Rey) Tenants Associaton we can use some spare time to pick up enough facts for a “behind the scenes” look at this one particular special election.

If we get to L. A.; isn’t there a blog entrepreneur who holds weekly literary salon parties up in Brentwood?  How do we go about getting an invitation?  Is there room for a visiting columnist from Berkeley at the “in crowd” events held close to the UCLA campus?

What “sells” online these days?  How can an outsider get a bigger online audience?  The task facing liberal web sites and citizen journalists brings to mind an old expression about using a sieve to bail the water out of a leaky old row boat.  The conservatives “own” the airwaves.

That, in turn, reminds us of the “rumor” that there is a possibility that the bloggers whose work appears on a certain recently sold high profile website are going to have their salaries doubled (2 X 0 = ?) and that makes us think of the old joke about some good news and some bad news for the guys pulling the oars on the Emperor’s boat.  The good news was their food ratio would be doubled.  The bad news was:  “This afternoon the emperor wants to go water skiing.”

Which comedian is credited with the line:  “That joke is so old it was found carved on the Rosetta Stone!”?  Bah-dump-bump.

Has it come to be that the only material available for use by liberal media is recycled half century old jokes?  If so, the Democratic platform may start to sound like articles of surrender.

In case you are wondering why Jane Harman is stepping down, according to information found online, she will be appointed by the President to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Once she “steps out of the picture,” most national web sites will not want to expend valuable time and effort to track her career at a think tank.

Getting a shipload of information into a short easy to read column that folks will skim over reminds this columnist of the long lost concept of “a blivet.”  If you don’t know, go down to the local workman’s bar and offer to buy an old guy a beer in return for the definition.

Doing volunteer work for the Marina Tenants Association might present us with the chance to call Reverend Dan while he is on the air with his “Music for Nimrods” show and request Elvis’ “Old Shep.” 

Should this columnist be lest flippant?  The way we assess the situation for the Democrats, the unions, the decrepit remains of the New Deal (isn’t the New Deal on life support?), and women’s rights, it can best be summarized by quoting W. C Fields:  “The time has come to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”

Speaking of unions, this columnist, when he isn’t “on the road,” gets days off only when public libraries are closed because we need them to get access to the web to post our columns and photos.  When they are not open, we get a day off.  When we are “on the road,” it’s never a sure thing.  We are well acquainted with the hours of operation for the various Libraries on L. A.’s Westside, so stay tuned.

Until then, we’ll leave you with the almost thirty five years old words of Howard Beale:  “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.”

Now the disk jockey will take us back to the swinging singles era by playing Disco Tex and the Sex-o-lettes’ “Get Dancin’”  Barry White’s “Can’t get enough of your love, babe,” and Johnny Cash’s 1976 comeback hit “One piece at a time.”  We have to go find a copy of a 1936 Army Corps of Engineers report.  Have a “Stayin’ Alive” type week.

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