Candidates seem to forget people attending these meetings aren’t the usual “man on the street” who just happens to wander by for a listen to a politician. The folks taking time to show up are generally well informed and aware of the issues facing their communities. These times are also when the phrase, “Know Your Audience” is often ignored by candidates. Recently, two-term Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Barbara Boxer had such an opportunity and according to the Contra Costa Times Political Blotter it didn’t go well.
Like many candidates, Candidate Chavez appearing before an East Bay Republican Central Committee began by informing members about his background and experience, then came the “Question & Answer” time. That’s where according to the story “…the crowd’s mood began to change.”
Asked about immigration, Candidate Chavez apparently rambled on about economic and social distress in the world causing illegal immigration all over the world. Answering a question about Common Core he said the problem was the Legislature failed to properly fund the program and give teachers adequate time and resources to implement it.
Then came a global warming question which Candidate Chavez essentially said that he agreed with “U.S. military leaders” who believe the “…greatest threat facing the nation in the Pacific is sea-level rise.” At this point, loud voices broke out from the crowd and Candidate Chavez made his exit from the meeting.
Talking with a reporter afterwards about the criticisms he faced Candidate Chavez said that a bunch of people have been “indoctrinated” to believe things about immigration, Common Core, and climate change and his job is “…to educate and enlighten them.” Later, presumably to justify his logic regarding the unfortunate indoctrination of voters Candidate Chavez told the reporter “It’s not an issue of getting elected, it’s an issue of governance.” (Emphasis added.)
This news account of the encounter between Candidate Chavez and the voters he’s running to represent embodies one of the best examples in the world of politics of the arrogance of candidates who believe their job is to teach the backward rubes they deal with during a campaign. It’s also an example of a candidate who fails to understand that to many voters elections are in fact about governance and how their elected officials will represent them in the halls of power.
Candidate Chavez didn’t remember he wasn’t on the floor of the State Assembly “educating” fellow Republicans on how to get along with their Democrat colleagues or speaking before the local chapter of the SEIU. Rather, his audience was a group of voters that knew the issues they were asking about and didn’t need an education, seeking instead to hear how he’d represent them in the U.S. Senate.
Of course, he may not have taken into account the fact that they already knew where he stands on issues they believe important to the future of our country.
For example, they may have known that Candidate Chavez wouldn’t support repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a healthcare program that keeps the promise of affordability, portability, and access. Or, when it came to the issue of immigration, they may have already been aware of his failure to cast a vote for or against the measure that turned California into a “Sanctuary State,” making cooperation with immigration officials discretionary.
Since the county he was speaking in is next door to the home of the family of Kate Steinle who was murdered by an illegal alien with seven felony convictions and who was deported five time, it may have been more “educational” to explain whether he would support Kate’s Law or not. Or, they may have known he supports issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, he just wasn’t crazy about the look of license being issued so he voted against the final version of the bill.
Yeah, the problem with elections are some people want to get elected and govern, but they have to deal with bothersome voters who want candidates to answer questions they already know the answer to because they want to see if you’re a teacher or a true representative of their beliefs.
Doug Haaland worked for nearly 30 years as legislative staff and policy consultant in the California State Legislature. He is currently serving as the Executive Director of the Sacramento County Republican Party.