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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Inside Dem Party Bubble: No Self-Criticism for Shocking Das Loss, but "Snarky Journalists" Are to Blame; Rezone Follies

"Victory has a thousand fathers," President John F. Kennedy famously remarked, "but defeat is an orphan."

Rarely has JFK's wise epigram applied so aptly as in the case of Roy Lee's triumph over soon-to-be former Supervisor Das Williams, a thoroughly unforeseen toppling that ranks as Santa Barbara's most shocking political upset since...maybe forever.

On this week's episode of Newsmakers TV, Gwyn Lurie, Josh Molina, Nick Welsh, and Ryan P. Cruz pitch in, to look ahead to what Lee's politics and policy portfolio may look like on the Board of Supervisors - while also looking back in search of the "fathers" of Das's ignominious defeat.

The panel finds no shortage of causes for the epic fail -- from blind partisanship and catastrophic underestimation of a worthy opponent, to a long trail of disrespectful behavior, abusive public remarks, double-dealing and lies left by the outgoing incumbent, over the course of a 21-year elected office career that apparently made him feel invincible but instead left him oh-so-vulnerable to being blindsided.

In the end, the gang's collective analysis of Das's epic loss boils down to this: the hubris of the Democratic Party and the superciliousness of its candidate.

Self-delusion costs no more. Nothing could depart more from that judgment, however, than an inter-party review of the election, circulating this week among the most party hearty Dem loyalists, its most true-blue believers, and the most active of its' activists. This after-action report speaks volumes about the self-delusion, self-regard, and self-propagandizing that cost Das his seat.

The e-blasted analysis, penned by Charles Clouse, president of the insider Democratic Service Club, yielded not a whiff of self-reflection, let alone self-criticism, about the county committee's campaign organization and execution, and certainly none of The Great Man himself.

"For better or worse Das has become tagged, somewhat disparagingly, as a product of the Santa Barbara 'Democratic machine,'" the memo reads. "Snarky journalists have used that vague term so freely, for so long, that readers rarely think about what it means."


About the party's role in the upset loss of the century, Clouse writes: "I can assure you, the same strategies, commitment, and volunteer energy went into Das's race," as did into the smashing victory of Third District incumbent Joan Hartmann. "Still our volunteers can be proud of their work this time around as much as we are when every race goes our way - not an uncommon outcome! We stuck together and the machine is ready to go again."

As for the incumbent who embodied (and padded the county payroll with) the party apparatus: "Das himself worked every bit as hard, answered as many hard questions (hah! -ed.), and articulated his vision for the county as clearly as he ever has in winning multiple Santa Barbara City Council races, State Assembly races, and twice before in the 1st District."

Speaking of snarky journalists, the memo adds, "Newspapers make endorsements, but have little active follow-up. This time, though, calling Das 'arrogant' and suggesting he's "more interested in being right than effective" was sufficient for the (SB Independent's) editorial board to peel off a portion of voters who may be bothered by the odor of cannabis plants and yet not want to consider how difficult it might be to tap the potential for generating county revenues from a previously demonized but now perfectly legal substance."

Please diagram this sentence.

To summarize then:

1. Das and the Democratic Party campaign operation did everything exactly right.

2. Those snarky journalists, allowed to write "so freely" (damn you First Amendment!) peddled a fantasy about Dems having a chokehold on local, non-partisan offices.

3. Voters were too stupid to think about, and see through, what the snarky journalists wrote.

4. The Indy concocted the claim that Das is arrogant and disparaging of those who disagree with him -- another fantasy!

5. Voters are ingrates who keep whining about the stench of pot but never once consider how hard Das worked to drum up new tax revenues...that maybe fell a teeny bit short.

An orphan defeat, indeed.

The county's rezoning charade. For the first time in over 400 editions of Newsmakers TV that we've produced on Zoom since the early days of the pandemic, technology failed us.

Loyal viewers, at least those still awake around the 21:00 minute mark of Friday's program, will note that it ends rather...abruptly, with the invisible genial host shouting into the void.

Apologies to all those who wanted to hear the latest about State Street, the Public Market and the Miramar, which we'd teed up before getting kicked off our own show by an app. We promise to return to those topics next week.

Before the world went black, the gang did have a spirited discussion of the dog and pony show which county planning suits put together on behalf of developers this week, the latest chapter in the endless saga of building thousands of units of new housing while pretending they care one whit what the community thinks about any of this.

Spoiler alert: Why didn't Lisa Plowman release the secret letter from the state?

All this and more, right here, right now, on Newsmakers TV.


Check out the latest episode on YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, airs the program every weeknight at 8 p.m. and on weekends at 9 a.m. KCSB, 91.9 FM, broadcasts the show at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

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