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Jerry Brown Seen As Political Liability To Ignacio De La Fuente

M. Joe Hunt wrote this interesting blog, which I've reprinted and linked to here. He also writes that De La Fuente suffers from AGS: Al Gore Syndrome!

"“The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend”
-unknown

Having sat in the front row for many of the recent Oakland Mayoral Debates and Forums, I have begun to notice something in one of the candidates that has me very concerned for both his current campaign and the duration of his political career.

While I concede that I am no doctor, I do fancy myself as a keen observer of body language, social mannerisms, verbal tendencies, and a little something people in the business refer to as “vibes”. And now having spent the last few months observing each one, listening as they each take turn after repetitive turn explaining how they see best fit to turn Oakland around I am convinced that Ignacio De La Fuente has become stricken with a condition I refer to as Al Gore Syndrome. Is it politically deadly? No. Is it potentially debilitating? Absolutely.

My unofficial medical definition of AGS is the following: “a condition found to afflict candidates who follow in the footsteps of departing politicians who possess sizable name recognition and who have so polarized a population that any person they endorse is widely considered as a product of a similar political ilk.” Former Governor of California and current Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown is the reason De La Fuente became exposed to AGS. Brown is both a blessing and a curse the candidate has to deal with daily. But as the city stands, Brown may be seen most often as a political liability.

Named after the former Vice President from Tennessee, AGS is a concept I began to consider during the 2000 Democratic National Convention. As the Republicans began to develop their platform, focused on bringing esteem and a, so called, moral compass back to the Executive Branch of US Government, Democratic candidate Al Gore and his advisors were forced to think long and hard about the role they wanted President Bill Clinton to play during the convention and throughout the remaining months of Gore’s campaign.

It was a battle Gore couldn’t win. He was trying to run on the success he and Clinton had achieved during the eight years the two shared the West Wing, meanwhile trying to shut out the Democratic Party’s biggest star, Clinton himself. It was like Robin was trying to be the star of a Batman movie and Republicans loved every second of it. In the end, Gore and the Democratic Committee invited their controversial Head of State to the four day event in Los Angeles where he, as always, brought the house down with his huge persona and rousing words about a prospering economy and the promise of better days ahead with continued Democratic Leadership. But at what cost?

As a country, we’ll never know what could have been had Monica Lewinsky never walked into the Oval Office and, subsequently, into all our lives. Neither the OJ Simpson murder trial nor Osama bin Laden have had such a day to day grip on the national media spotlight.

In this Oakland 2006 Mayoral election, the buzz words are crime, affordable housing, and education. Mayor Brown, as far as we know, has had no sexual indiscretions that we can focus our attention on. All we have to look at are the facts. There is little imagery here. No interns, no dead cabinet members, no political pardons. Instead, the City of Oakland has a skyrocketing homicide rate, a state supervised public school system with an administrator who attends each School Board Meeting with a bodyguard, a Police Force working in a constant state of High Alert, myriad community action groups who feel helpless in their fight to rebuild programs that were lost due to budget cuts and reallocation of public funding, and finally, a youth that can’t help but feel abandoned by everyone but their local drug dealer or liquor store owner. See, no imagery here.

As City Council President De La Fuente goes forward with his most recent campaign, he finds himself fighting two uphill battles. One is against his highly qualified opponents. The other battle is against the universal belief that he is just another link in the chain which some feel has handcuffed the hopes of Oaklanders for years.

For better or for worse AGS is a real issue the candidate must face. He is, after all, linked to some highly contentious folks in local lore. Be it Mayor Brown, Don Perata, Signature Properties Development Group, or Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, De La Fuente must make his own moves while standing on the two feet that brought him from Mexico thirty-five years ago, and have helped him to become the successful politician he is today. But like his opponents, he will need to draw some extensive lines in the sand separating him from the current administration and its public policy, no matter how closely he is aligned with it.

In June voters will go to the polls in search of a new voice, someone with a renewed commitment to change, and with the hope of electing the candidate they feel will take them as far away from the Oakland they read about, see on TV, or observe from AC Transit bus windows. De La Fuente is embedded in this current version of Oakland. Whether he continues to be as entrenched in future versions will depend on how he treats this recent political condition. One lesson he must learn in treating Al Gore Syndrome is that it’s always easier to lose those who are with you than it is to win over those who aren’t.

MJH
4.9.2006"
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