Yes the Indian casinos are the biggest spenders in state politics, but they aren't the reason California is in a hole. Arnold has taken their money before. So what's with the TV ads? Dan Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee, showing why he has scored so many points for his recall coverage, makes a case that it may be part of the Pete Wilson's team's pattern of demonizing some minority group or interest to win elections. The tribes are just the "scapegoat du jour," Weintraub suggests.
I have been having a running, private e-mail debate with a non-partisan, non-aligned reader about Arnolds ads attacking the Indian casino contributions. My correspondent, for whom I have high regard, suggests that the commercials fit a pattern for the Wilson team: they ran against Latinos in 1994 with Proposition 187, against blacks in 1995 (for Wilsons short-lived presidential campaign) via affirmative action, and now the Indians, under cover of the political reform issue...
In fact it goes back further than my friend suggests. In 1990 Wilson surprised the political world by endorsing term limits, which were in part code for terminating Willie Brown, then the flamboyant, black speaker of the California Assembly. In 1992, in the mid-term elections, the Wilson operation ran against welfare mothers with a ballot measure that would have slashed their benefits. What to make of this, and how do the Indians fit in?
I think it might have more to do with the fact that Wilson and now Schwarzenegger have tried to perform uncomfortable balancing acts at the center of the political spectrum and toward the left of the Republican Party. It is difficult to energize your base when your key issues are children and education and the environment and other such squishy things. There are not too many angry white males beating down doors for the Hydrogen Highway. And even though Schwarzenegger shouldn't have any problem with the macho vote, he does have a problem with true believers in the party who need some raw meat to chew on.
Enter the Indians -- a perfect symbol of special interest influence running amok in Sacramento.
If this is Dan muzzled, let's muzzle him some more. (Only joking -- Weintraub hasn't been reined in a bit.)
Final word on the debate: Marc Cooper observes in the LA Weekly on the old Republican pol who sat at center stage:
We all deserved a moderator more competent than the bizarre Stan Statham... Erratic, unfair, at once ineffective and too interventionist, and at all times way above his head, Statham at least admitted at one point that he was getting dizzy. No kidding!
The highlight of Statham's legislative career was sponsoring a move to divide California into three states.