You Tell Us: Recall campaigns agree to disagree, but why?
on January 4, 2012
Here, to me, is the best current illustration of Oakland’s fractious politics. The people who want to recall Mayor Jean Quan can’t even agree to run a single campaign. There are two separate campaigns collecting signatures for a recall measure.
(Actually, there are three, but the third supports the first, if I have my chronology correct.) This isn’t some innocent “I thought *I* was supposed to feed the dog! You fed the dog, too? Now the dog is going to get fat!” situation. We can all have a good laugh at a dog with obesity. (Can’t we? Or is that not okay anymore?)
No, this is bona fide acrimony, and nobody involved is laughing. It started as one campaign and splintered into two, then three.
They’re fighting over who gets to feed the dog.
They also appear to be fighting over how to feed the dog (and over why, and where, and what food — so really all of the classic journalistic questions are in dispute). One campaign, led by Gene Hazzard, says they’ll use volunteers to collect the not quite 20,000 signatures needed to get a recall measure on the ballot. The other campaign, led by Greg Harland, reports that they intend to adopt the proud California tradition of paying signature gatherers for their petition.
(They could at least, in all of this reconfiguration, have had the decency to choose leaders with different initials. It’s like they’re trying to make it impossible to keep track of the dog feeding. Look, on the chore wheel, someone has written “feed dog – GH.” Not helpful!)
I’ll grant that this is a big tactical disagreement: grassroots or professional, volunteers or paid. I can see how it might have led to some heated discussions.
But at no point in a disagreement about recall tactics, however acrimonious, was the right answer ever going to be: “Let’s go start a second petition! Yeah! That’ll show ‘em!”
Our political history, from the Revolutionary War on, is chock-a-block with coalitions of otherwise disparate interests coming together to advance some common cause. “Strange bedfellows” and all that. Did anyone, in the heady early days of their revolution against the tyrannical reign of Queen Quan, make that case?
A recall is a binary proposition: Is the mayor recalled or not? The recall proponents all agree, obviously, on the answer to that question. They all agree, as well, that the question should be on the ballot. What else is there, really?
I’m not involved in any of these recall campaigns. (And in fact I don’t intend this piece to take a position on the recall at all. That “Queen Quan” thing above? I just like alliteration.) I’m sure the people who are involved are ready to defend this fracturing for all kinds of reasons, ranging from “the other measure is vulnerable to legal challenges” to “that guy is a jerk, and I hate his jerky face.”
While they’re having this fight, their dog is starving. Someone might want to tell them.
Brock Winstead lives in the Golden Gate neighborhood. He’s delighted to be a resident of a city where the politics are never boring
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