Photo by Sam Hodgson
Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio addresses supporters at a rally at the U.S. Grant Hotel.
Among some of Nathan Fletcher’s supporters, a fair amount of disappointment lingered the day after it became clear he would not be mayor.
Had she made a secret deal with the Republicans?
I hate it when political actors whine about alliances among their rivals. It’s like when Rick Santorum complained that Mitt Romney was working with Ron Paul.
And this is offensive why?
Then there was Romney’s complaint that Santorum was courting Democrats in Michigan.
C’mon. These are like poker players complaining about their opponents’ bluffing. Bluffing is not illegal. Forming alliances in politics is not only not illegal (to a certain extent) but it’s what politics is! This is the game you are playing.
Politics is the game of alliance, the contest of coalitions. Build a strong coalition and you will be able to raise money and other types of support. Then you can afford to invest and influence voters to put you in power. The goal is to do this better than your rivals and to not break the law.
The Republican Party of San Diego is one such coalition. I’ve been following it change and coalesce around the uncompromising vigor of Councilman Carl DeMaio for several years now.
On Tuesday morning, the narrative had reached an interesting point. The party faced a potential existential threat.
Yet, by the middle of the night, the Republican Party had cemented itself as the unrivaled and most potent political coalition in the county.
The thing is, it is no longer clear whether people like Mayor Jerry Sanders, and the leaders he supported, fit in that coalition.
One of those people is Fletcher.
He had decided he did not fit in with the Republicans. He said the party had become too intolerant of compromise with opposing interests. He thought he’d teach it a lesson. He was going to build his own coalition strong enough to put him in the Mayor’s Office.
He bet on himself. The payoff would have been an extraordinary rush. The parties would suddenly not be as important to other politicians in the making. They’d merely need to form an independent coalition of businesses and interests and voters like Fletcher did. State laws recently enacted made it possible on a state level. Maybe even Congress.
The contagion could have sent shivers down the spines of party chairmen across the country.
Fletcher’s move was derided as cynical.
Look at this jerk. He left one alliance and tried to create a new one. He should have gotten in line. It’s like he was trying to get power without us or something!
For a while, it worked. He pulled in big money. He generated a buzz.
Maybe it was impossible for him to win from the very beginning. Maybe he and Dumanis sealed their fates when they couldn’t agree on who should defer to the other.
Whatever it was, the parties won. The Republican Party, in particular, won. And suddenly all of the things Fletcher had said about how ineffectual the party was didn’t matter. Everything he had said about how uncompromising the party was and how intolerable its chief, Tony Krvaric, was didn’t matter.
Krvaric and DeMaio won. The victory validated their approach. They got exactly what they wanted: They got to be the ones who stood for San Diego’s business community, not Fletcher, and not the loosely right-of-center coalition that had grown distant from the party. It’s largely that same coalition that had promoted Mayor Jerry Sanders and many mayors before him.
It’s a coalition that used to accommodate and deal with organized labor. Not that long ago, Republicans used to enjoy major support from public employee unions. They wouldn’t be shy about it.
That type of cooperation is unthinkable now. And that’s been DeMaio’s goal. To him the unions stand in the way of better governance and also economic growth. He’s going to try to dismantle the policies that give them leverage, one at a time.
And that’s what makes him different. Mayor Sanders has been no friend to labor, but he comes from a tradition of managing and respecting them — his is an assumption that labor is a part of the culture.
Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre was the last major city elected official to try to pick apart labor-friendly policies. But he was so unfocused and so hysterical that unions became just one panel of a diverse quilt that helped put Aguirre’s public career to sleep.
Fletcher tried to tap into the fear that Aguirre was coming back in the form of DeMaio — that the push for transformational change and a confrontational style would lead to less reform, not more. And that we would be constantly at each others’ throats, never getting anything done.
He thought he could build a new path to the city’s top job.
He could not.
The Republicans had such a good night, in fact, that I’m hard-pressed to find anything they sought in the election and didn’t get.
Their strategy to build a new coalition and to protect it vigorously survived a serious threat. It came out stronger.
Now we’ll see what those who aren’t a part of it, but also aren’t a part of the Democratic version, decide to do.
I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):
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