Crossposted on CalWatchDog
For the past two decades, California Republicans have perfected one thing, the circular firing squad. No political party, organization or institution has been better at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Republican monopoly on this self-destructive habit is about to end, thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown and civil rights attorney Molly Munger and their dueling tax measures.
This week, Munger’s Yes on Prop. 38 campaign began to compare its ballot measure, which is behind in the polls, with Brown’s tax hike, which is polling ever so slightly above 50 percent. Education leaders are worried that Munger’s comparison ads will doom both measures. Tax-raisers see that as the worst-case scenario. Education leaders tried to engage the two campaigns in what the LA Times described as a “peace summit.”
But, it’s not just Jerry and Molly that can’t play nicely in the Democrats’ sandbox. This week, San Fernando Valley Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman got into a physical altercation at a debate. The race has been a conflict between two giant liberal egos rather than issues or ideology. The two share almost identical voting records, but neither man was willing to run in the neighboring congressional district.
There’s not much advice to offer Howard and Brad, who are doing a first-rate job of wasting millions of Democratic dollars smearing each other. Might we simply suggest that the Berman team consider filing assault charges for Brad’s aggressive hug?
Jerry and Molly, you’re also off to a great start—on the verge of a truly historic mutually assured destruction. But, you also still have a long way to go before matching California Republican’s worst infighting. That’s why CalWatchDog has assembled a list of suggestions for the liberal circular firing squad.
10. Stop Talking to Your Opponent & Refuse All Peace Offerings
The first step to any successful circular firing squad is to cut off all communication with your compatriots and turn them into mortal enemies. In 2000, the New Majority expressed its frustrations with the lack of minority and moderate candidates brought forward by the Orange County GOP. Instead of working cooperatively with conservative party officials to develop a candidate recruitment program, the moderates spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on what USA Today described as a “hostile takeover of the county GOP’s controlling body.” (I’m sure both sides object to my characterization of the dispute.)
Dialogue and engagement inevitably lead to compromise. You don’t want to compromise, do you? And besides, they started it! Brown’s campaign seems to be well on its way to adopting this mantra. According to a late update to the LA Times’ most recent story, the Yes on Prop 30 campaign has refused the PTA’s peace summit:
“Brown’s campaign, which has ramped up its criticisms of Munger’s campaign tactics in recent days, dismissed PTA’s call for a meeting.
“‘Why would we meet with her?’” said Dan Newman, a spokesman for the campaign. ‘We’re minding our own business, running a positive campaign and not mentioning any other initiative — while she’s spending milions in false attack ads against us.’
“[Updated 8:40 p.m.: Munger's campaign, on the other hand, said 'Molly would be happy to meet with Governor Brown.' However, spokesman Nathan Ballard said Munger would not drop her advertising critical of Proposition 30.
"['If the Prop 30 campaign takes down their misleading ads, then we would certainly consider taking down our ad responding to them,' he said.]“
9. Stick to Personal Attacks Instead of Policy Disagreements
California Republicans have proven it’s best to ignore the policy arguments in favor of ad hominem attacks. Call your opponents a squish, RINO or my personal favorite “a computer screen conservative.” There’s nothing like a personal attack to turn a one-time disagreement into an irreparable conflict. Gov. Brown is to be commended for launching the first personal attack. In September, he implied that by opposing his tax hike, Munger was committing a “sin.” When asked why he couldn’t stop Munger, Gov. Brown replied, “There’s something called free will. Even God can’t stop somebody from sinning if that’s their free will.”
Well done, Governor. To clarify— is Ms. Munger committing a venial or mortal sin?
8. Coin a Clever Acronym (RINO) to Separate True Believers from Moderate Sell-Outs
No one likes to think. When a new politician comes around, even party activists can’t be bothered to research a politician’s position on the issues. Clever acronyms give party activists a mental shortcut. “Don’t support Joe, he’s a RINO, or Republican in Name Only.” RINO is an effective label because 1) it’s an acronym and 2) it plays off the animal-political party symbolism.
This could be a bit of a challenge for Democrats. DINO doesn’t really have the same symbolism. Maybe, LION? Liberal Identity Only in Name. Sure, lions have a reputation as strong and dominant creatures. Again, that’s if you think about it logically. Get creative. Lions are essentially the elite 1% of the animal kingdom. Not to mention lions are lazy and chauvinistic. Lionesses do all the hunting, while the male lion sleeps up to 20 hours per day. The only time a male lion fights is when confronted by another lion that’s trying to steal away his pride.
Does this sound totally absurd? Then, you aren’t ready for a circular firing squad, which requires a person to stop thinking. Seriously, why is it an insult to call someone a rhinoceros? Tell me logically why that makes sense. The only link to the insult: a rhino is not the same thing as an elephant.
The lion insult could take off with NOW and Planned Parenthood activists. Plus, for the environmentalists, what’s the carbon footprint on a lion’s carnivorous diet? Certainly more than an ideologically-pure vegetarian donkey.
7. Extend the Campaign Season: Launch a Recall
Under normal circumstances, a party feud is limited to one election. One side wins, and the losing side lives to fight another day, presumably the next election. Long before Republicans succeeded in recalling Gov. Gray Davis, they perfected the recall on lower-level party turncoats. Anthony Adams, Paul Horcher, Doris Allen, the list goes on and on. With a recall, it’s open season for circular firing squads all-year. Recalls help turn the occasional party primary feud into a permanent campaign.
It’d be tough to see Munger organize a recall of the Governor. She should consider a state legislator that is backing the Governor’s tax hike. Such a politician clearly doesn’t care for our children. Moreover, there are plenty of school board officials that could be recruited as challengers. Just look at the long list of school boards that have endorsed Proposition 38 and compare that to the number of state legislators.
6. Get the Courts Involved (Bonus Points for Criminal Charges)
The best circular firing squads get the courts involved. The other side isn’t just wrong on policy; they’re bad people who should be punished. In the 1990s, many of Orange County’s best Republican operatives were the subject of criminal charges for their campaign activities. Most avoided jail time because they didn’t break the law. The accusations and trial were enough to sideline them from future campaigns. And poor campaign workers usually can’t afford the expensive legal bills. When you try to send the other side to jail, it makes it impossible to forgive and forget.
The Munger-Brown tiff has already landed in the courts. Remember, Munger submitted her ballot measure before Brown, which normally would have given her a higher order on the ballot. Brown responded by pressing county registrars to verify his signatures before checking Munger’s. That led to a lawsuit filed by Munger challenging Brown’s ballot numbering shenanigans. Ultimately, Brown won the lawsuit. Not to be discouraged, circular firing quads aren’t about legal victories. It’s about cultivating ill will and setting the precedent that all disputes should involve lawyers.
Coming Soon: The Top 5 Tips for a Circular Firing Squad