Home > Donald H. Harrison, Israel, Palestinian Authority, United States of America > California’s election dominated by loud, nasty voices

California’s election dominated by loud, nasty voices

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Here it is, the day before the California primary election, and I seriously would like to see a new third party formed, one which would adopt the motto “Let’s lower our voices.”

It has been almost impossible to avoid watching on television the primary battles among Republicans for the California governorship, and among Democrats for a state Senate seat from San Diego.  For anyone who prefers reasoned debate to name-calling and demagoguery, both contests have been painful to watch.  

A choice between Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner for governor, in my opinion, is no choice at all because both candidates have been more about tearing down the opponent than building a case for himself or herself.   Both call each other “liberals,” assuming that in the ears of the audience that they want to attract, that term is a pejorative.  To my mind, we are all liberals and are all conservatives, depending on the issue before us.  Name-calling, labeling, and branding, aren’t helpful in the public discourse. They are the weapons that we should insist candidates renounce, or instead forfeit our vote.

I’m particularly distressed that Whitman and Poizner have been trying to outflank each other on the issue of illegal immigration, which ultimately is a matter that has to be resolved by the federal government, and not by the California state government.  The campaigning we are watching simply is grandstanding, playing to some people’s fears while fanning racism and potential discrimination against our Hispanic citizens.   There used to be a bitter joke among African-Americans who would be pulled over by police in white neighborhoods.  Their suspicious behavior, they said, was being “caught driving while Black.”  The Arizona law fosters the same fear and cynicism about our American way of life among Hispanics.   This is not the way we should treat our fellow human beings. 

As a Jew, I understand that some people feel compelled to cross borders, either to avoid persecution or for economic betterment.  Many of our own people crossed borders illegally in the past, not only to escape Russian pogroms or Nazi concentration camps, but also to find economic opportunities in the New World.  Even though in some cases it was illegal to leave the countries in which they had been raised, we Jews surged toward freedom and safety.  So did other peoples who helped build America, notwithstanding Nativist sentiment that would have kept us all out.

It’s pointless to blame a Mexican for wanting to work in the United States, particularly when there seem to be so many jobs here involving hard labor that Americans don’t seem to want to take.  Farm work is one example.  Kitchen work appears to be another.   I can’t think of a person as a criminal who wants to get away from the drug wars of Mexico, and away from that country’s depressed economy, any more than I can consider as criminals our Jewish great grandparents and grandparents who surreptitiously slipped across European borders.  Nor can I think of those Jewish refugees who attempted to defy the British blockade of Palestine as criminals either.  

I’m disappointed that Steve Poizner, a member of our Jewish community, is taking such a hard line, notwithstanding our own people’s historic experience. I’m not saying we should throw open our borders to anyone who should cross.  What we need to resolve immigration problems is not loud, tough, belligerent talk, but quiet, compassionate persuasiveness.  I think we should consider reinstating a documented guest worker program, offering Mexicans and other foreign-born peoples the opportunity to work in our country legally and with dignity in any field where jobs go unfilled.

In the local Democratic state Seante contest, I haven’t seen anything to commend either Juan Vargas or Mary Salas.   Negative campaigning predominates in this race too.  I have met both Vargas and Salas in my years covering California politics.  Neither is the villainous character the other has painted.  Both, in ordinary circumstances, can be charming people.  But in this primary they both have engaged in character assassination.   Please, many of us in the electorate want to vote for someone who will take the time to offer proposals and explain why they are necessary.  We don’t want to be forced to choose on the basis of whose campaign we like the least.

I have been “turned off” by the ballot proposition concerning electrical companies.  The proposition that would require a two-thirds vote by the electorate, it seems to me, has generated false fears.  Before the barrage of television advertising attempting to scare us about protecting our right to vote, does anyone recall this being an issue?  And if the right to vote is so important, why does Proposition 16 require two-thirds of the electorate to approve any new public electrical program?  Why should the future vote of those who favor public electricity be worth only half as much as those who oppose it?  Are we really talking about a right to vote?  I think not.  I think the electorate is being hoodwinked into protecting special interests.

Some of the primary contests are being waged without noise and little fanfare.  If you don’t know much about those issues or candidates, you are not alone.  The screaming and the shouting in the aforementioned races – and the obscene expenditures of money to provide a forum for such behavior – has all but drowned them out.  

This is the primary election.  After tomorrow, the field will be narrowed.  If we all insist, perhaps voices will be lowered.  Perhaps we will be able as an informed citizenry to deliberate what courses are best for us all.  Perhaps the candidates—and the rest of us—will be persuaded to lower voices.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

  1. June 8, 2010 at 7:15 am

    This column nakedly exposes the left-wing, Reform bias that is implicit in this publication. Go ahead – spend yourself into oblivion.

  2. Garry Fabian
    June 7, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    > Hi Don,
    > I always read your column with interest. Your latest on the California
    > primaries in many ways reflects what is currently going on here in
    > Australia with the “boat people” or an assortment of refugees arriving
    > illegally in small boats, mainly via Indonesia, and are detained in
    > various places for long periods. Both political parties – and this is an
    > election year – are adopting a hard stand, and these less that
    > humanitarian measures have the backing of the majority of the population –
    > are providing a dilemma – who are genuine refugees deserving of a new
    > life, and who could be potential terrorists – which for us a Jews and our
    > history presents a real moral dilemma on which side of the argument we
    > should be on. One of the factors is that apart from all other
    > considerations – the illegal boat people are regarded as “queue jumpers”
    > ahead of those who are awaiting application for refugee status to be
    > approved while they go through the system.
    > Yes the world is not an ideal place, and choice become more difficult
    > as when we are faced with ever growing conflicts in many parts of the
    > world that have a catastrophic impact on innocent human beings

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