I've been tracking the 2010 political race almost as much as I've tracked previous races, but with one exception: California Republican candidate for Governor, Meg Whitman. Why did I ignore her race? Because my niece is working the campaign.
My niece came out of the womb smarter than all of us (even if she didn't have any hair. :-) She graduated from Santa Clara with a double major in communications and political science. She has a passion for politics that seems to be in the genetic code of the females in our family. She's been in love with the same guy, a Democrat by the way, oh, since high school or maybe earlier. But she had the maturity to pursue her dreams - first by taking a semester in London and second by going to work in Washington, DC right out of college - even though these things took her far away from her boyfriend, now husband. Obviously, I'm proud of her.
I've scratched my head a few times, wondering how she could be so smart and still be a Republican. I just figured that she was of the fiscal conservative, pro-business type and not the fringe Tea Party ignorant hater type.
I was relieved that at least she's working for a candidate that isn't a freak show. Whitman isn't a religious fanatic with the burning desire to force Christianity upon America, its government or its people. She's not an experienced politician but she's an experienced business woman - and since big business has traditionally voted Republican, this is a major asset for her campaign. Especially since California is in a fiscal crisis and Whitman has a track record for growing businesses and charitable organizations and her own wealth. To me, the pursuit of wealth isn't bad, as long as it's balanced with giving. And Whitman has done a great deal of that. She's a woman and I want to see more viable women run for office, from both sides of the aisle. She has a brain, which is refreshing, compared to O'Donnell and Palin, who are an embarrassment to all women.
Even while avoiding any news about Whitman, I couldn't avoid one of the ugly ads that played over and over again, ad nauseum, while I was watching Jon Stewart's Daily Show online. I "spoofed" my browser to make it look like I lived in the US so that I could watch the full episodes of Stewart and Colbert. With this spoofing, came the ads before, during and after the shows. The ad is about "Bobble-head Meg." It pisses me off to no end. I don't even know the content of the ad, because I can't get past somebody making a candidate into a bobble head. It's sexist. It's personal. And it distracts from real issues. These kind of attacks have plagued all women candidates. I will look forward to the day when the press and opponents of female candidates can stop making attacks related to their gender, personal appearance or clothing. O'Donnell is a joke of a candidate, but this recent stuff about her one-night stand a million years ago was disgusting. I know, she's from the religious right and so, they aren't aloud to have one-nighters in their past, supposedly. (My God, I can never run for office.)
I also don't like how Whitman's referred to as "Queen Meg" in a song by the band SCHWARZENATOR. They like to dismiss her work track record as irrelevant and imply that it can't be translated into managing "the 8th largest economy in the world." Yeah, but the action figure movie star the band honors was perfectly qualified for the same job.
So, what are the real negatives about Whitman (caveat - I haven't researched them all)? In her pre-political life, she supported environmental causes with huge funding. Unfortunately (I say this from a Democratic POV), probably in order to maintain the business vote, she changed her stance in this area.
She also may have an anger problem, at least she did have (shoving a female employee), which cost her company a six-figure settlement. But after that size of a settlement, if anybody else had a legitimate gripe or had just been nudged by her in the hallway, they would have been coming out of the woodwork with lawsuits. So, this may have been a one-time mistake that she learned from.
She also is using the unfortunate Glenn Beckish Tea Partyish "Take Back" slogan: "My bus, right there, it's called the 'Take Back Sac Express' because we're going to take back California for our children and our grandchildren." Ugh. From whom? Who is the unspoken boogieman? Could it be insinuating that she needs to take back California from the scary brown (or gay) hoard? I hope not. perhaps she means that she, a Republican, is taking California back from Schwarzenegger, a Republican? I don't get it, probably because there's nothing to get. I would bet it's just a clever way to make the "thar tekkin' arr jobs!" people feel like Meg's on their side.
Her stance on same-sex marriage? She voted for Prop 8. Terrible. But probably strategic, politically. She needs the conservative hater vote (sorry, but that's the only way to put it). I don't know how she would get around this, except to a) be a Democrat or b) take a brave, compelling, humanistic stand. Her reason for voting against prop 8? She thinks marriage is a religious term that should be between a man and a woman. As Chris Kelly translates, "Marriage is strictly a religious idea, and that's why I voted to have it written into state law." (From queerty.com) She's also under the false impression (I'll be nice & assume she's just uninformed, which is STILL no excuse), as unfortunately many voters are as well, that civil partnerships give same-sex couples all the rights they need. There's a long list of rights that come with marriage that don't come with civil unions, starting with no social security benefits can be paid to the surviving partner of a civil union and federal immigration laws do not offer the foreign civil union partner the same visa or citizen path that is available to married couples. (Many more differences here.)
I can't believe that the Christian right hasn't attacked her as a secret gay lover, though. After all, she was the one who imported the Teletubbies TV show to America. She HAD to have known that Tinky Winky, with his purple color, triangular antenna and handbag was secretly indoctrinating America's children to turn them into The Gay. Luckily for Meg, Jerry Falwell died and there was nobody to take up his Tinky Winky Torch. (And soon, all those secret gay children will be grown up and with a radar beam from Tinky Wink's triangular antenna, they will begin to vote. Mwahahaha!)
And then, of course, there's the 8-year employment of an undocumented (or false-documented) immigrant as a housekeeper. It's hard for anyone to believe that Whitman and her husband "didn't know" that their long-time employee was in the country illegally. But if she did know, she fumbled by letting the housekeeper go (how this happened is still open to speculation). She would have gained much more respect if she, knowing she was going to run for governor and that an undocumented employee was a liability, helped her employee get a work visa and made this process public. She could have preached to big business about the benefits of assisting qualified workers to gain legal status. She would have gained the respect of Latino voters, who are often dismissed as liberals or as inconsequential to the campaign. But In 2008, Latinos represented almost 22% of the registered voters and turnout in California and also in California, in 2008, Latinos represented 29% of the Democratic votes for President and 13% or 317,610 Republican votes (Stats Word File). 300K possible Latino Republican votes probably shouldn't be ignored.
The undocumented worker conundrum is problematic. Since the far right has decided to use it as an emotional rabble-rousing fear and hate football, all normal, productive solutions-oriented discussion has become impossible and any candidate is in between a rock and a hard place on this issue. Undocumented workers, whose only crime is that they want to live in a better place and make more money, are hired all the time, by people of all political persuasions, including the loudest mouths in the anti-immigrant movement. Some of the biggest mouths have been busted (Dobbs for one, but there have been more) and then crucified for their hypocrisy, as they should be. Whitman's opposition to Arizona's recent anti-immigrant law and her choice of moderate, Latino Republican Abel Maldonado as her Lt. Gov. running mate, positions her as a more sane voice in this hot potato issue, but all this was drowned out by the salacious media story of her former housekeeper.
If I were really researching this candidate, I'd dive into some of the allegations that:
- Her charitable trust has supported only environmental causes that are backed by big business (but I have to say, the group she supports, the Environmental Defense Fund, has a long list of amazing accomplishments)
- One of her recipient organizations was preserving meadows in Telluride, Colorado, where she and her husband own a condo and a dude ranch (I guess this could be seen both ways - because she's part of the community, she wants to help that community or she only cares about the meadows because it would infringe on her land. I'd go for the former, based on her past environmental track record.)
- Her trust has been used as an off-shore (Caymans) tax haven. This doesn't surprise me, because all billionaires (and their accountants) constantly look for tax havens. I don't like it. I wish billionaires would pay their fucking taxes instead of devising ways to avoid them, but there you go.
- A too-close relationship to Goldman Sachs. I don't have time to dive into this, but she has promised to eliminate any investment conflicts of interest if elected, by using a blind trust. This is a common and viable path that has been and is still used by elected officials on both sides of the aisle.
I don't live in California anymore, but if I did, I'd vote for Jerry Brown. I'm a Democrat, after all. But if I did live in California, I wouldn't be terrified and looking for an escape route, if Brown lost and Whitman were elected. It's why I'm voting (at the last minute, of course) in the Arizona race, since Governor Jan Brewer has made Arizona a pariah state and is a menace to sane Arizonans, especially those with brown skin. I have to vote, because the alternatives are frightening.
But Meg Whitman doesn't scare me. I just disagree with her. I'm sure that those in the know can add other negative issues or educate me on those issues that I've dismissed. But the bottom line - she isn't a freak show. And that's refreshing in this insane campaign.
I also really like that she once managed Mr. Potato Head. Since Meg Whitman and I are only one year apart in age, I imagine that she and I were sticking eyes, ears and noses into potatoes at around the same time. She in Long Island, me in Philly. She, like me, also graduated from high school in three years instead of four. High five!
You see, after attending Stewart and Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (in Paris - couldn't go to DC), I'm looking for sane candidates and trying to find the common denominator on which we as individual citizens, along with our elected representatives, can begin to build trust and discover solutions. I can see me, Meg and my niece (unless she's horrified at this idea), casually chatting at Meg's conference table, playing with Mr. Potato Head. We all might be surprised at the outcome.