Dear Big Daddy,
Meg Whitman’s campaign team was the first to refuse to attend UC Berkeley’s traditional postmortem symposium on the gubernatorial election. Why?
— Flummoxed in Fairfield
Would YOU want to get grilled by a pack of political junkies after you’d lit a match and burned through $180 mil of your pocket change, only to lose to a guy who doesn’t know how to use a cell phone?
That’s like asking the drowning captain of the Titanic if he’d like to come to a hearing on seamanship. It’s like asking Napoleon if he’d like to come to a little soiree thrown by Wellington. It’s like asking Jay Cutler if he’d like to step out in the alley with a bunch of drunken Chicago Bears fans after Sunday’s game with the Packers. It’s like dancing cheek to cheek with Gloria Allred. I won’t say which cheeks or which dance.
Even after losing the governorship to Ronnie Reagan by a piddling half a million votes in 1970, I wouldn’t have been thrilled about rehashing it in front of God, grandma, political hacks and a bunch of newshounds, ravenous for any scrap of a story.
But unlike Majestic Meg, I had the sense not to duck the press even when I wanted to punch ’em out, which was often. Anyway, I could take all of them, except for maybe Walters or Bergholz. But that’s another story.
Fortunately for me, the little confab at UC didn’t exist in 1970, so I didn’t have to send anybody.
So here’s my own post-mortem: I ran a pretty good campaign against Ronnie. It only cost $1.2 million – just a little over $7 million in 2011 dollars, and about $170 million less than sank with Meg’s Campaign Titanic.
In 1970, the actor from “Bedtime for Bonzo” got 53 percent of the vote and I got over 45 percent. Compare that with Jerry’s 54 to 41 percent romp over Meg and her moolah, and you’d have to agree that Big Daddy handled his money a lot better than the frumpy blonde.
There WAS one alarming conclusion reached by the chowderheads at the conference.
Several of them argued that the Republican party in California is, for all intents and purposes, dead. No less a pundit than a fellow named Duf Sundheim, who once headed the Golden State’s GOPers, said that “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.”
That would be a disaster. As Big Daddy suggested a couple of weeks ago on this very page, Democrats NEED Republicans because we can always count on ’em to do something even stupider than Democrats. Libertarians, of course, don’t count because while they’re always doing something stupid, there aren’t enough of them to worry about.
I’m gonna float a proposal – all I can do is float these days – for Democrats to start a movement called Help Keep the Republican Party Barely Alive. We could have a seminar in Berkeley in 2012 to see how well we did. We’d want to ask Duf, Jim Brulte and Bob Naylor to speak. They were the poor souls who had to defend the Republicans last weekend in the absence of Meg’s troops.
From Big Daddy’s point of view, Democrats in the Barely Alive movement could help find future multi-gazillionaire Republicans and encourage them to run for statewide office by convincing them that they could win by blanketing the state with dozens of TV ads. No coherent message is necessary, and you want to be sure and bash Latinos and immigrants, we’d tell ’em. We could hire Mike Murphy, who may be available.
We’d have to hope that they’d been so busy running their companies that they hadn’t bothered to vote for several years, and we’d want at least two of the plutocrats to run against each other in the primary.
If the Barely Alive movement doesn’t work, maybe we could revive the Whigs. Sacramento’s own Ray McNally has all the info needed. At the Berkeley gathering, he read a confidential memo written by Abraham Lincoln in 1840 proposing a Whig organizing strategy against the Democrats. The Whigs actually won a couple of presidential elections, but then, alas, they went the way of today’s California Republicans.
One more thought before I sign off. Maybe last week’s seminar in Berkeley could have been a lot shorter and more to the point if there had only been one speaker, Meg’s housekeeper, Nicky Diaz.
She would have needed about 20 minutes to tell them how she was booted by the billionaire and shorted on her severance. That was the campaign. Big Daddy says the award for best California campaign consultant of 2010 should go to Gloria Allred. But don’t tell her yet – let us dance for a while.