Thursday, November 5, 2009
I'm going to keep my next few posts short, I hope, because I can only think about this election in tiny little fragments.
For now, I'll note Rich Lord's piece today in the P-G, asking whether Ravenstahl's 55 percent showing shows a "chink in [his] armor."
I submit that it doesn't make a goddamn bit of difference. (Though note update below, please.)
News flash: In the 1997 primary, incumbent Mayor Tom Murphy beat Bob O'Connor with LESS than 55 percent of the vote.
Did that chasten Tom Murphy, or make him humble? Let's put it this way: The Post-Gazette characterized Murphy's win as "solid and everywhere." (Murphy won 30 of 32 wards; Ravenstahl took all of them.)
And what did Murphy do with his less-than-55 percent mandate in the next four years? Let's see. Pushed through Plan B to finance stadiums, tried to muscle through a highly unpopular Fifth/Forbes redevelopment plan, and generally irked the shit out of everybody.
What was the consquence? In 2001, voters "punished" Murphy with another win. Facing Bob O'Connor again, Murphy won another primary victory -- this time by less than 1,000 votes.
Does anyone draw any conclusions from that history?
Let's keep our eye on the ball here, people. This question of whether Ravenstahl should have gotten a couple more percentage points is meaningless. Barring that indictment I still hear people praying for, Ravenstahl has got four years. If he does well, then Tuesday's margin won't matter at all.
And if he does badly with his full term? Again: Look to 1997 and 2001. Despite Murphy's lack of popularity -- despite a clear front-runner with plenty of name recognition -- he still eked out a victory.
And here's the thing: Ravenstahl's opponents are worse off today than Murphy's rivals were. Today's losing side doesn't have an obvious champion.
That's the kind of problem they ought to be working on. Let's quit the bullshit about whether Kevin Acklin or Dok Harris should have dropped out. It is pointless. The race is over. Did they divide up the anti-Ravenstahl base and blah blah blah? Maybe. But at this point, the debate itself is divisive. It can only serve to perpetuate the very problem everyone is decrying.
Drop it. Move on. Find more important, more productive questions to argue about. For example, how to start preparing for 2011.
I've already argued that the real problem here isn't too many candidates: It's not enough of a power base to rival Ravenstahl's. Both Harris and Acklin tried to create their own networks because there isn't a rival political party, or political movement, viable enough to advance a campaign. Harris tried to create that network using 21st century networking ideas; Acklin tried to use face-to-face doorknocking that would have been at home in the 18th century. The problem, though, is that Pittsburgh's political culture is stuck in 1978, so both approaches seem to have missed the mark. What can be done about that?
You don't have to read my ponderous essay. But Judas Priest can we just skip the bullshit and talk about something else?
UPDATE: It's been brought to my attention that this article sounds like I'm really taking Rich Lord to task. Not my intention at all -- I am not worthly to unloose his sandals, as the saying goes -- though I can certainly see that it sounds that way. What I'm mainly bothered by is the possiblity that progressives will seize on this as some form of consolation, or as a sign that we were THIS close ... and engage in another round of mutual recrimination.
My point is just that there is no reason at all to take heart in the narrow margin of victory here. Nor is there much traction to be gained by insisting that Ravenstahl lacks a mandate, or any of the rest of it.
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