Singing the Post-Election Blues
By Gino Rembetes
When the Nazis took over Greece, the composer-musician
Vasilis Tsitanis wrote a song about it, “Cloudy Sunday.” I’m reminded of
it this post-election morning as I look out at a gray San Francisco sky.
Have the Nazis gained control here? One could make a
case for it.
Locally, statewide, and nationally, the results reflect
a meanness among the electorate - from Supervisor/would-be Mayor Gavin
Newsom’s no-cash, no-care initiative (Prop. N) that San Francisco voters
passed overwhelmingly to the Republican sweep in Congress that promises
to enable the Cheney-Bush administration to move its anti-civil rights,
pro-corporate agenda ever so swiftly and broadly forward.
Nor should the Democrats take comfort in their
candidates’ success in California; Gov. Gray Davis is no friend of civil
rights, especially the First Amendment, or of the public’s right to
know, and he’s never seen an execution he didn’t like. Small wonder that
several thousand of the party “faithful” weren’t, opting instead to
leave that part of their ballots blank or vote for (dare we say it?) the
Greens’ Peter Camejo.
Here’s what San Franciscans can expect: Even in this
“liberal” city, the rich will get richer and more oppressive, thanks to
low voter turnout in predominantly progressive neighborhoods and assists
from PG&E surrogates such as Mayor Willie Brown and the company’s
favorite U.S. senator, Dianne Feinstein.
With PG&E having again defeated a public-power measure
(Prop. D) and being apparently close to escaping the jurisdiction of
state regulators, don’t be surprised if your electricity bill starts a
rapid, steep climb within a year.
The victory of Prop. N, coupled with the defeat of an
initiative (Prop. O) that would have mandated some assistance programs
for the homeless, will deteriorate public safety. Illness and premature
death among the homeless will rise, while “respectable” folk will
increasingly become prey to robbers, pick-pockets, purse-snatchers,
burglars, thieves, etc. - people forced to turn to crime to feed their
children or buy life-saving medicine.
Sure, City Hall could put more police officers on the
streets - except that it can’t afford them because voters turned down a
measure (Prop. L) that would have made downtown businesses pay their
fair share of taxes.
In a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, Paul
Krugman examines the phenomenon and the consequences of the
disappearance of the nation’s middle class. One upshot, he says, is that
the wealthy are able to manipulate the communications media and, thus,
the public discourse.
(Ben Bagdikian, a nationally renowned professor emeritus
of UC Berkeley, has warned for decades about the consolidation of media
ownership, pointing out that it eliminates the competition incentive to
buoy the quality of news coverage, and it robs us of the diversity of
viewpoints and the vigorous debate that are essential to democracy.)
The outcomes of local public-power measures this year
and last underscore Krugman’s point: PG&E won because it could buy lots
of television and radio time, and produce reams of material to
distribute to the voters. The company outspent public-power proponents
by about 24-1 last year, and the ratio this year is likely to approach
Air-time buying power isn’t the only form of
manipulation. Davis refused to include “minor” party challengers,
particularly Camejo, in a debate sponsored by the Los Angeles Times; in
fact, he even insisted that Camejo not be allowed to join the audience
as a guest of Republican Bill Simon. Worse, the Times bowed to Davis on
the matter. Similarly, at Feinstein’s insistence, the Greens’ Medea
Benjamin was barred from participating in a senatorial-race debate at
KRON-TV in 2000.
It’s bad enough that the mainstream media choose to
ignore the diminution of the voice of the economically and politically
dispossessed; it’s worse - in fact, unpardonable - that they help effect
And the skies grow ever cloudier.
Gino Rembetes is a San Francisco-based freelance
writer and progressive activist.