If anything hasn’t become blatantly obvious to anyone who has read this space previously, I’m sort of a progressive curmudgeon. While I’m as open and embracing of technological innovation to allow me to eat healthier, be more productive and live proactively, in the same breath I embrace throwbacks all but fogotten because, hey, I’m actually old enough to remember what they were and how they make me feel.
I like actual newspapers. I keep score at baseball games with a pen., I look through whatever TV listings grids that still exist to at least familairize myself with what’s on when, if for no other reason than to be conversant. ANd I believe in my civic duty.
So, yep, I voted today. Actually, I voted about a month ago when I first got my mail-in ballot. I briefly campaigned for a city council candidate, a progressive who ran against more established and well-heeled competitors, so I was somewhat invested in this election. The job ended quickly for reasons I’d rather not rehash, but it did remind me that I should be sure to vote myself, so as to authentically encourage those I would attempt to solicit to follow my lead.
But in the frustrating process of ringing doorbells, the overwhelming majority of my targets were either a) not home at all or b) so wrapped up in their own worlds in their fortresses of solitude that they were thoroughly disinterested. Those that did open their doors did so with the latch on, grotesquely large KN95 masks covering almost their entire lower face, either with headphones on or with a zoom call loudly on in the background and asking that I merely leave my flyers at their door like an Uber Eats delivery person–G-d forbid they should have any actual contact with another human being.
So when it was revealed tonight that barely 15% of eligible voters chose to cast a vote at all in a key mayoral election here in LA, that revelation was hardly unexpected. In times where social isolation is rampant and the alleged pressures of trying to conduct life exclusively within a one-bedroom apartment a priroity it’s no surprise that a target demo voter could truly care less about something as personally irrelevant to them as to who will run their city. Since so many apparently are reluctant to even step outside, whether Rick Caruso, Karen Bass or some other schmegeggie replaces Eric Garcetti is, to them, far less meaningful than, say, the new Kardashains series on Hulu, or what they’re going to have delivered contact-free.
When many of them do go out, thet go shopping, and often their top choice is The Grove, Caruso’s overpriced mall complex in the heart of the city, adjacent to Farmers’ Market and the home of many higher-end brick and mortar stores and perhaps the most elaborate Christmas decorations this side of Wilshire Boulevard. Caruso’s presence via his homage to decadence, not to mention over $40 million in paid ads mostly self-financed, made him a ubiquiotus enough presence on tv, radio and elsewhere that he was able to rise from near-obscurity to overtake the more experienced Karen Bass, a Westside congresswoman and chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus who was under serious consideration for the Vice Presidential nomination that eventually went to Kamala Harris.
Bass was and once again is my congresswoman, and has served in both the California State Assembly and Congress since 2004. When she knocked on my door while she was campaigning for her initial office my brilliant but snarky (yes, snarkier than me) brother-in-law mused “Well, she hits all the tick marks”. I knew what he really meant, but I goaded him to explain nevertheless. He then added “She says what you’ve like to hear from a mouth you’re reluctant to say shut up to”. And as the years went on, and I’d listen in via phone to her monthly town halls, it became evident that my brother-in-law had her pegged. The calls she did respond to appeared orchestrated, her answers were sound bites of hope fuily in concert with whatever Democrat was running for a higher office, and during the Obama era she was particularly encouraging to the demographic she truly championed. Which wasn’t me.
In Caruso, she is facing the formindable challenge of someone who exemplifies the habits of today’s Republicans–exceptionally rich, little political experience, and a very simplified agenda that focuses on basic issues like crime and homelessness. Along the way, he’s gotten endorsements from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Elon Musk and, yes, Kim Kardashian. You know, the political activist who visited the White House’s previous occupant? Or, as they’re otherwise known, the poster children for NBCU networks’ reality series of yore.
Caruso won the night but didn’t quite reach the 50% threshold needed to clinch, so he and Bass will square off again in the fall. With so much attention and emotion, let alone media spending, present this promises to be perhaps the pre-eminent local election of these midterms and one whose results will arguably be as significant as the midterms that will potentially reshape Congress. Those sighs of relief you likely heard at the Grove, where Caruso’s victory lap was taken or at the chic W Hotel in Hollywood where Bass’ supporters congregated (outdoors on its roof, natch) were from sales executives at local media companies who know they will be sold out for a good chunk of the months leading up to Election Day.
The expectation is that an actual election will draw more voters than a primary, which in this case likely means a lesser majority of people still won’t vote. I’m sorry, but if you don’t care enough to exercise your vote you truly don’t have the right to complain about who wins an election. Bass’ challenge will be to actually get her base to care enough to show up. Caruso, although now registered as a Democrat, enbraces the Republican style and priorities that shaped his slate, or at least is embracing those of the donors who support him. It’s a situation being played out across America, and we certainly know where that tide is.
I voted, and I will again in November. I suspect you can guess who I chose. But who knows if I’m even gonna be living here by November? And even if I am, I might change my mind. I might not.
But I’m sure not gonna vote for the city council candidate that fired me.
Until next time…