On Politics and Blue Jeans

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As post-election ennui settles in among those of us on the political left – and many in the center – the opening lines of Neil Diamond’s song “Forever in Blue Jeans” keep running through my head: “Money talks, but it don’t sing and dance, and it don’t walk.”

Money, of course, talks big in American politics. Despite the lamentations that would have it otherwise, money talks bigger with every election cycle.

We saw that up close in the campaign for “Yes on Y.” Those colorful mailers that flooded our homes in recent weeks cost $10,000 to $15,000 to go to the city’s registered voters, according to sources at several campaigns.

The PACs who funded pro-Measure Y mailers were funded by other PACs, which were funded by other PACs, some far afield from Newport Beach.

By contrast, the “No on Y” campaign was predominantly funded by residents of the city fed up with real estate development interests that trump this residential city’s best interests. (Augmented by a substantial contribution from a local woman named Audrey Steele Burnand.)

So it’s notable that, amid the red tide that swept across the nation on Election Night, Proposition Y was defeated by a dramatic, more than two-to-one margin: 69.5% No; 30.5% Yes.

In this instance, money did not carry the vote, leaving the residents of this town free to “sing and dance,” as Diamond would say.

That was the indeed the mood at the China Palace restaurant on the corner of Riverside Ave. and PCH on Election Night, where the proponents of “No on Y” had gathered.

In a telephone conversation the morning after, Dorothy Kraus, a leader in the fight against Measure Y, said, “We feel like we’ve got a groundswell of residents coming together, and we plan to continue our efforts to preserve the residential quality of life in Newport Beach. We have a huge opportunity to sit down with the new city council and talk about their vision for the city – let’s work together on this.” Kraus added. “We’ll be talking about the next steps to take in the weeks to come.

What Kraus is talking about is keeping Newport Beach a relaxed, blue jeans sort of town by the sea, rather than dominated by the marble and glass towers of our Taj Ma Hal on the hill, Newport Center. (And isn’t it ironic that, as one wag put it, newly-elected city councilman Scott Peotter will now be working in what he has termed the “Taj Ma City Hall” that he finds so objectionable?)

A further word here about blue jeans. When you think about it, the Baby Boomers were the first generation to refuse to give them up when we hit adulthood, a not-so-small fashion rebellion. Today there are myriad styles of jeans for every sort of person.

A few years ago, my husband decided that the fad for faded, ripped $300 designer jeans gave him license to wear his old gardening jeans to social occasions. He felt strongly about this, but the younger members of our family intervened, and he eventually gave up the practice.

On Election Night I wore my favorite jeans to the “No on Y” celebration at the China Palace and to the Suzanne Savary for Congress gathering at Muldoon’s Irish Pub. Savary had run a spirited campaign against an entrenched and ultimately victorious incumbent, Dana Rohrabacher, and she may well have changed the face of politics in this town: She ran as a fiscally responsible Democrat with a passion for social justice – and she’s refreshingly collegial. She has a place in politics and it’s my hope that she runs for office again.

As I consider the people I’ve gotten to know through the “No on Y” and Savary for Congress campaigns, Neil Diamond’s song returns to mind — “Long as I can have you here with me, I’d much rather be forever in blue jeans.”

The writer is President of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club. She can be reached at [email protected].


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