Run for the middle

first_imgIf you look at the returns in Tuesday’s primary elections, a clear pattern emerges: In races that pitted party hard-liners against consensus-building moderates, the party hard-liners usually won. Intra-party races tend to attract the party faithful, and this year, only the party faithful bothered to show up. Some two out of every three registered voters stayed home. No one was aided more by this trend than the new Democratic nominee for governor, state Treasurer Phil Angelides. Ever since the recall of Gray Davis made the ballot in 2003, Angelides has positioned himself as his party’s staunchest ideologue and fiercest obstructionist. He has opposed any and all reform in Sacramento, and refused to cooperate with Republicans, even as fellow Democrats sometimes tried to put petty politics aside and work constructively to tackle the state’s problems. For his part, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – after catastrophically overreaching in last year’s special election – has worked hard to regain the mainstream. Making the job easier is that he faced no meaningful primary opposition, and that Angelides and Westly spent the past few months ignoring him and attacking each other. Between Schwarzenegger’s political victories over the past few months – such as successfully putting together a bipartisan infrastructure bond package – and Angelides’ own overreaching, Schwarzenegger appears to have the advantage in winning over the middle between now and November. But there’s still plenty of time left, and both candidates must find a way to persuade the vast majority of California voters that they’re more interested in solving problems than in picking fights.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! So far, the strategy has paid off. In a vicious primary campaign, Angelides derided Westly for his occasional lapses in partisanship and his failure to uphold the far-left ideological orthodoxy. Among the portion of the state’s Democratic Party that makes up its base, this strategy was enough to propel Angelides to victory. But it could prove to be a disaster in the general election, when more than just the party faithful turn out to the polls. An ominous sign for Angelides’ prospects is the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 82, the ballot measure that would have raised taxes on the rich to pay for state-run, universal preschool. The fact that the measure failed so spectacularly suggests that – even in a primary dominated by liberal Democratic voters – voters are highly skeptical of giving any more money or power to their dysfunctional leaders in Sacramento. Yet giving more money and power to Sacramento is the whole of Angelides’ platform. Despite booming state revenues, he says Californians must sharply raise taxes – an agenda that seems to have little mainstream support if the fate of Proposition 82 is any indication. It’s an old rule of campaigns that politicians must pander to their base in the primary, then shift to the middle for the general election. Though Angelides has traveled far to the left, he now has the chance to talk to the center. last_img read more