Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Now, More Than Ever

[Cross-posted at NewWestSide.org]

Given Eugene Kang's narrow defeat this evening in the Ward 2 Democratic Primary, it may seem that student interests have taken a blow. Not so. Eugene Kang's candidacy was better funded and more representative of Democratic values than Stephen Rapundalo's, and that was not enough to win. This means to me, first, that Democratic loyalty is not particularly strong in Ann Arbor. I have absolutely no problem with Rapundalo coming to the Democratic Party. I wish more Republicans would. However, it is indicative that people don't care that Rapundalo, until two years ago, identified more strongly with a party that did not advocate women's reproductive rights, that espoused trickle-down economics, and that had a problem with tolerance.

For me, the lesson is that Ann Arbor's summer voters want institutional choices. Rapundalo had been around city government for a while, running for Mayor in 2002 2000 and serving on the Parks board in the interim. Students and renters -- those of us disparaged in the press and in conversation as "transients" and "temporary" -- have to form a permanent constituency for our issues. We have to organize in any of a thousand ways, participate in city and county government and, most of all, mobilize at the grassroots level. Every student and every renter should think of him or herself in that way; as part of a group which is only beginning to see itself as having common interests; as being underserved and underconsidered in a large share of city government; and as having the potential to help change that.

I think everyone reading this should join the effort to defend and promote student and renter issues. They should get to know their neighbors and learn that they hold common cause. And they should realize that getting involved and helping shape the future of this city is important because STUDENTS MATTER. Undergrad and grad school may be intellectually and emotionally taxing, but they are no reason to ignore the conditions of the place you live. Two years, four years, eight years in Ann Arbor: it matters not a whit to me. If you are here, you feel the affects of the culture and government of the city. Do not be a passive recipient or pretend it doesn't matter because you are only passing through. Every place matters, and I particularly think that Ann Arbor matters. Ann Arbor, as the home of one of the nation's largest institutions devoted to learning, thought, and experimentation, should be the state's -- if not the nation's -- laboratory for political innovation and cultural enlightenment. That it is not speaks to the influence of moneyed, conservative, and tradition-bound interests.

Let's get to work.

UPDATE: For those linking just to this post from AAiO or Arbor Update, please check out the rest of the site and feel free to comment.


Anonymous Lazaro said...

Excellent post, Dale. As a renter, I was a little pissed that Kang lost, but can take a bit of comfort in the narrowness of his defeat. I'm wondering if the dip in student population over the summer means that people who aren't regularly called "transients" are starting to "get it." I hope so.

Hey, at least Hendrix beat Kilpatrick in Detroit--that was a good deal, I thought.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Larry Kestenbaum said...

I agree with your recommendations, but not your analysis of the election, especially the comment that "Democratic loyalty is not particularly strong in Ann Arbor." I conclude the opposite!

Consider that probably at least 40% of the voters in the Kang-Rapundalo primary were Republicans, who after all are very numerous in this ward, and didn't have anything else going on at the time. Probably almost all of them voted for Rapundalo.

That means that Eugene got a huge majority of the actual Democrats who voted. Given the demographics of the ward, and the negligible student turnout, even the Democratic voters would have been made up almost entirely of affluent homeowners over age 50. Yet they voted overwhelmingly for a 21-year-old UM undergrad.

Possibly they were fair minded enough to see something wrong with a ten member council with zero representation from the student community. Or perhaps they met Eugene and were impressed with him. But underlying it all is undoubtedly their partisanship: they voted for the "real Democrat" over a former Republican mayoral candidate.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Joan Lowenstein said...

Larry, I disagree with your analysis. From what I observed at the polls and also heard from a leading Republican making a snide comment, I think Republicans showed up to vote for Kang, hoping they could have the weaker candidate (a student) in November against Tom Bourque. I think having a student on council is not out of the questions, but it seems much more likely that the 1st Ward would be the only ward where a student could get elected. In order to be elected, a student has to be able to count on mostly non-student votes. Why try to count on those votes in the most conservative ward? Regardless of how a candidate does in a primary, that person still has to win against a Republican in the November election.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Alex Donn said...

As I understand it, your post says that a student can't win in Ward 2. I just want to make sure I understand you correctly.
Alex Donn
Campaign Manager
Kang for City Council

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Larry Kestenbaum said...

I can believe that a few crafty and intensely partisan Republican activists voted for Kang so as to help Bourque. But that's not generally the way unorganized crossover votes work.

Even in the other party's primary, voters tend to support the candidate who they see as closest to their own preferences, e.g., Democrats voting for McCain in the 2000 Republican primary or Republicans voting for George Wallace in the 1972 Democratic primary.

Republicans in Ann Arbor are very dispirited following Jane Lumm's very poor showing, and I doubt many of them are all that psyched up for the big race in November to keep their one council seat. They know that even in the 2nd Ward, their base is slipping away.

Rather, they took part in the Democratic primary to choose which Democrat is going to represent them.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Leigh Greden said...

Larry, I also disagree with your analysis. Consider the facts.

First, most of the Republicans who voted on Tuesday voted Republican. After all, Tom Bourque received almost 200 votes in an off-year August primary – even though he had no opposition. The Republicans voted Republican.

Second, the Republicans who did cross over voted for Eugene. Your analysis, with all due respect, is based purely on speculation. Joan’s analysis is based on actual evidence of what people told her at the polls. Eugene’s strongest showing was in a neighborhood I know well: amongst Greenhills moderate Republicans in the Waldenwood/Penberton area. Indeed, Eugene beat Stephen almost 2-to-1 in that area. That area is hardly a bastion of Democratic primary voters.

Most importantly, the implications about Stephen not being a “real Democrat” defy the facts. Stephen has publicly stated that he is pro-choice. He is pro-gay rights. He served for several years with distinction on the PAC. He voted for Granholm and Kerry.

These “real Democrat” allegations are also illogical. If Stephen is not a “real Democrat,” then Hillary Clinton is not a “real Democrat.” Neither is Don Riegle. After all, both Senators Clinton and Riegle were Republicans as adults— and then switched to the Democratic Party.

Apparently, some people believe that we Democrats should not accept moderate Republicans who realize that the GOP is too extremist. I guess it’s time to close the Party door and keep everyone else out. Not a good way to build a Democratic Party that desperately needs to reach out to more people.

11:16 PM  
Blogger accidentalactivist said...

A local Republican politico I was talking to this morning thought that the similarities between the Rs and Ds (a la the August Observer) meant that the primaries and elections became largely local issue-driven, ie though Kang was "impressive" (a loaded term), more agreed with Rapundalo's issue positions.

3:59 PM  

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