Jeff Pelline: Who’s to the right of Attila the Hun? |

Jeff Pelline: Who’s to the right of Attila the Hun?

At UC Berkeley in the ’70s, my classmates used to sit around the dinner table and needle a guy from Orange County, the state’s most conservative county at the time.

Despite what you read about Berkeley (Mario Savio et al. in the ’60s), there were plenty of conservatives at the table ” typically Ronald Reagan conservatives.

What bothered them was a state assemblyman from the OC named John Briggs. He was getting publicity for something called “the Briggs Initiative,” which was on the state ballot in 1978.

It called for banning gays and lesbians from working in California’s public schools. It came amid a campaign in Miami, led by Anita Bryant, to repeal one of the nation’s first gay rights ordinances.

Briggs’ initiative, known as Proposition 6, failed. In fact, Reagan himself opposed it – daring since he was preparing to run for president and needed support from all conservatives, including the religious right.

Though it lost, Briggs’ counterproductive initiative polarized the population when it came to gay rights, from San Francisco to, well, Orange County.

Times have changed. The California Supreme Court just legalized gay marriages, though the decision will be challenged. (I understand the backlash, because some judges are arrogant and out of touch). Briggs has relocated to Las Vegas and also has a home at Zepher Cove in Lake Tahoe. Nice rebound, JB!

Orange County has become a more politically diverse place. Nevada County is still one of the most conservative counties in the state. Our congressional district is the most conservative.

So in our area, we’re engaging in a game of political “oneupsmanship”to see who is the most conservative candidate. We play the game “Who’s to the right of Attila the Hun”?

Nowhere is this exercise more apparent than the current election season. Choose whatever race you want: Tom McClintock versus Doug Ose, or Sue Horne versus Dan Logue. (Needless to say, the game doesn’t apply in Nevada City, now “Queen of the Quaint Flea Market.”)

Focus on local issues

“Secure our borders!” reads the Logue campaign signs I saw all along Highway 99 the other day on the way to speak to Chico State journalism students – a long way from the borders, I might add.

This is supposed to be a state Assembly race. Though I understand it can have an impact on California’s state tax coffers, cracking down on illegal immigration – “securing our borders,” for example – is more of a federal issue.

“Dan Logue is a strong advocate for private property rights,” said state Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) in a letter supporting Logue in the state Assembly race. In the same letter, Aanestad derides Horne.

In the Congressional race, McClintock labels Ose “liberal.”

But neither Horne nor Ose is very liberal.

Horne certainly is a strong advocate for property rights. She led the charge to defeat the Natural Heritage, 2020, land-use debate six years ago. Horne also led the charge to remove nudie paintings from the Rood Center in 2003, stirring up some controversy.

As for Ose, he points to authoring a resolution to reaffirm support for including the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, voting for one of the nation’s biggest tax cuts and helping to expose the Clintons for failing to report receipt of personal gifts.

Whether you agree or not, it’s hard to see the actions of either candidate as “liberal.”

What bothers me is smitten campaign managers leading voters (and their candidates) around by the nose with labels, signs with simplistic slogans, robo-campaign calls and negative attacks with a cookie-cutter approach to campaigning.

The spin doctors choose emotional issues that resonate with voters – “illegal immigration” or “property rights” (I haven’t heard gay rights, at least so far) – rather than focus on specific, local issues that many people care about: securing federal or state money to build the Dorsey Drive interchange, for example.

McClintock visited our offices the other day, and I asked him about his stand on the Dorsey Drive interchange. He didn’t know what I was talking about. John Doolittle did.

I also worry about politicians who are idealogues rather than pragmatic problem solvers. Sen. Aanestad has been effective in many instances, helping to obtain bond funding to protect against flooding in our state district, for example.

On the other hand, a guy like Sam or anybody else can go down to Sacramento and wind up “pounding sand” if they are set in their ways and don’t know how to work with the other side of the aisle. How productive is that?

Nowadays politics is more about compromise. We need independent-minded elected officials who can narrow the partisan divide in Sacramento and Washington, not widen it.

As voters and citizens who can bring about change, we’ve obviously got a lot of work to do.

Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays. Contact him at 477-4235,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User