Friday, May 2, 2014

The Miller Effect: The LA Times "Endorsement"

Radio Host Dem Matt Miller (Source: Jezz789)
Democrat Radio Host Matt Miller
Democrats Ted Lieu, Wendy, and Matt Miller are running to replace Congressman Henry Waxman.

Miller again? Not the retiring Republican Congressman Gary Miller who miraculously won reelection in a district witched from safe Republican to safe Democrat.

This time, it's Matt Miller, a "long shot" candidate just endorsed by Los Angeles Times.

The Times explained their endorsement:

Choosing among them raises a series of questions about what voters should be seeking in a representative. Does vision outweigh experience? Should a member of Congress be focused on bringing home funds and services for constituents or on solving the problems of the world and the nation? Should we prefer politicians who stand firmly for what they believe or those who know how to compromise and work cooperatively with others?

Rather than answering these questions decisively, The Board designed criteria reflecting every element of their concerns.

[T]his page put a premium on ideas, in the hope that a candidate who could articulate a broad vision with specific policy proposals to back it up could help revitalize the stalled conversations currently dominating Washington.

 Their mixed decision reflects on their odd endorsement. First,  no one candidate can meet these demands. Congressman Henry Waxman certainly never did.

The article outlined the best-known candidates as well as the star Republican, Elan Carr (although there are two other GOP candidates), yet settled on a lesser known:

Of the several strong candidates in the race, though, it is Matt Miller, an author, radio host and professional policy wonk making his first run for public office, who is best suited for the job.

What did the Times think of Carr?

[He] offered the best option among the GOP contenders. He is levelheaded and his positions are relatively moderate. Ultimately, though, his views skew too conservative for us.No criticism about Carr's vision or specific policies, and there is plenty about the gang prosecutor which indicates his capacity to work across the aisle. A previous article focused on Carr's outreach to all voters, not just Republicans. Why did the paper pass him up? "Too conservative." What does that mean?

About Wendy Greuel and state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), the editorial recognized their prior political experience. They then faulted the former Controller for attention-seeking during her tenure as Controller.

Isn't that what a city controller is hired to do? "Look at all this waste and fraud!” Too bad she took mayoral endorsements from the very special interests (Department of Water and Power) responsible the problems.

What about Lieu?

Lieu offers more policy specifics, and he has been effective in Sacramento. But his vision is on the near horizon, and his best legislative successes have been in reaction to events, not in looking forward at how to shape the future.

Lieu has been effective in Sacramento how? Regulating tanning salons from minors? Banning the private sale of pets? I agree with his legislation to stop serial swatting against celebrities, but he also attempted to triple the state car tax. Another tax-and-spend liberal in Congress?

This brings us to Miller, a long-shot political figure.

A policy expert in Washington at one time, then a radio host KCRW's "Left, Right and Center", Miller has little political experience. His neophyte status  doesn't disqualify him, according to the Times, since he knows how to think, possessing the clich├ęd "keen, analytical mind". Yet the paper claims that Waxman's legacy sets a higher bar. How does some low-level bureaucrat-turned-radio-host meet the grade?

It doesn't.

So, what's really behind this quixotic endorsement? The Times Editorial offers unconvincing, inconsistent explanations for dismissing the Democratic Party favorite (Lieu) and the Sacramento-Establishment pick (Greuel). The article ignores Tea-Party-of-the-Left Progressive Williamson and Libertarian Herd (both with cultivated, dedicated followings). To write off the moderate Carr as "too conservative" is both trite, ineffective and underwhelming. Carr sounds as centrist as Miller.

The paper readily acknowledges that their endorsement is a "gamble", one which may embolden Republicans, conservatives, and disaffected independents to place their bets on a non-Dem candidate.

I submit that the LA Times endorsed Matt Miller out of fear of the Gary Miller effect. Reading between the lines, since what major newspapers downplay or do not print tells the whole story, one can surmise that the Times fears the Democratic self-wounding infighting will permit a Republican and an Independent or two Independents to win the top-two for 2014.

Rather than putting their "editorial sway" behind a well-favored candidate certain to lose, they will promote a “centrist” Democrat, thus granting the paper some modicum of balance without losing any prestige after the June 3 primary.

Strangely enough, though, for the middling politicos in the LA area who still care about the mainstream media's take on elections, the Times endorsement may  actually foment the (Gary) Miller effect, since unsure/uncommitted Dems will give Matt Miller another glance, and maybe vote for him.

The Dem vote will split even further, resulting in a Republican and an Independent in the Top Two.

How ironic: by endorsing one Miller, the LA Times is promoting the Miller effect, and further diminishing its credibility to influence  LA elections, like the 33rd.

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