Shock and Dread in the 29th District
Incumbent Adam Schiff called the most pro-Bush, pro-war Democrat in Congress
Against a political landscape of the most divisive Presidential campaign in US history coupled with the certainty of debilitating affronts to the political system by whichever party wins control of Congress, Southern California news media have abdicated their responsiblity to the more than 700,000 people living in some ten communities constituting the 29th District.
Published on LatinoLA: October 9, 2004
The 29th, running from Temple City on the East to Burbank on the West includes such cities as South Pasadena, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Glendale, and Altadena. It became a "safe" Democratic district when incumbent Adam Schiff took 40,000 votes in the March Primary, while Schiff?s five would-be rivals from GOP, Green, and Libertarian parties, altogether eked out a feeble 30,000 votes.
The district is served by the Los Angeles Times and several "community" mastheads, including Glendale News-Press, LA Daily News, Pasadena Star News, Pasadena Weekly, and San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Newspaper coverage of the race in the 29th amounts to little more than lazy rehashes of Schiff press releases. Adopting an attitude of "Democrat by default," the newspapers have failed to recognize a crucial issue in the election, best voiced by Green Party candidate Philip Koebel, who told radio station KPFK that incumbent Adam Schiff is "the most ardently pro-Bush, most unabashedly pro-war elected Democrat in Congress."
Voters in the 29th have a right to know whose side is Schiff on. The Democrat Presidential candidate is running hard against the Iraq war and other excesses of the current administration. And there is Schiff, almost invisibly going about his pro-GOP business with nary a discouraging word from constituents, unchallenged in his proud proclamations of his sponsorship of the PATRIOT Act, the War Powers bill, and Schiff?s unquestioning support for everything the GOP President wants.
With so obvious a contradiction between the national party and the local candidate, it is fair to say our newsmedia have abdicated a clear responsibility to provide information on alternatives. With no one holding Schiff accountable, who knows but that Schiff has become the 29th?s own Zell Miller. Miller is the Georgia Democrat whose prime time endorsement of the Republican ticket at that party?s convention garnered extensive coverage in the same Southern California papers that continuously ignore Schiff?s advocacy for the Republican cause.
Republican far-right wing candidate Harry Scolinos is no alternative for committed Democrats seeking regime change in the United States. And, thanks to Ralph Nader?s quixotic campaigns, Green Party candidate Koebel and Libertarian Ted Brown are severely challenged to overcome acute voter distaste for third party candidates.
The absence of a hue and cry about Schiff?s politics does not represent widespread agreement with Schiff?s politics, but widespread ignorance of his practices. The region?s leading news voice, the Los Angeles Times, bears the principal responsibility to inform the region. Rather than wait for Schiff to send out more press releases telling the paper what to say, editors need to assign a team of reporters to dig into the candidate?s loyalties. Voters-- Democrats in particular? have a right to know if they are throwing away their vote on a Republican in Democratic clothing.
With the Times and other newspapers abdicating responsibility to inform voters of options in the 29th, the approaching election fills thoughtful voters with shock and dread. Shock at the sorry state of political coverage from newspapers that ought to do better. Dread, that absent responsible journalism, voters will return to Congress by default the nation?s most ardently pro-Bush, most unabashedly pro-war Democrat.