Blog Archives

July 29 – August 4, 2020

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Felix Street Development, Justin Cummings Monument, Democratic Socialists of Santa Cruz, Corn on the cob, B Movie Bratton. GREENSITE…on Remembering Al Mitchell. KROHN…Jimmy Panetta letting us down, AOC‘s stinging reply, real estate developers. STEINBRUNER…UCSC and growth, LRDP, enrollment numbers, County General Plan, Washington bust in Watsonville. PATTON…Biden, the liberals and progressives. EAGANQUOTES…”Virtual”


WALNUT AND PACIFIC & DOWNTOWN SANTA CRUZ 1925. That would be Super Silver where the theatre used to be. Berdel’s on the left , Forever 21 on the very close right hand side. And yes, my sources are dated.

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email

Don McCaslin and Warmth Band on the Capitola Wharf

HOOSIER HOT SHOTS. Pre Spike Jones musical geniuses.


FELIX STREET DEVELOPMENT, OR??? Friends and neighbors of the Westside Neary Lagoon area emailed me to let all of us know about the proposed development at 101 Felix Street.  Felix runs parallel to Chestnut Street, off Laurel by the Santa Cruz High football field. (That’s five three-story buildings) The would-be developers are Braddock and Logan. Let me know if you can find out any information on their reputation. Below are the points and issues, just as the neighbors sent them.

Issue: Overcrowding

  • The construction of 80 new units in five 3 story buildings on a street with an existing 312 residences, where there is extremely limited parking. 
    • Spot rezoning the project area to higher density would require an amendment to the City’s General Plan, which would set the stage for more 3 story buildings throughout our neighborhoods. 
    • This is not the right area to build– we are the densest neighborhood of the Lower Westside. 
    • Expensive apartments create overcrowding– 16 of the 80 proposed units will be “low income,” while the remaining 64 will be at market value ($3k/month). 
  • We support affordable housing, just not on this already overcrowded street on the banks of a sensitive wildlife refuge.

Issue: Environment & Conservation

  • Cutting of 22 heritage trees (redwoods, cypresses, and willows)
  • Cutting these mature trees depletes a daily supply of oxygen for up to 88 people. 
  • Significant negative impacts to the sensitive and endangered wildlife in Neary Lagoon. 
  • More pets on the shores of Neary Lagoon will negatively impact the habitat. 
  • Weakening of the Local Coastal Program by the California Coastal Commission
  • Construction debris and increased car presence will further pollute the Lagoon, which drains to Cowell’s Beach– one of the most polluted beaches in California

Issue: Social Equity

  • The owners of Cypress Point do not manage or maintain their 240 expensive apartments now, we cannot trust them to manage 80 more units and 100s more new tenants. 
  • 80% of the new units will be unaffordable. 
  • Construction noise for 1.5+ years
  • Less on-property parking for tenants during the construction. 
  • Increased traffic means less family-friendly streets. 
  • Climate crisis– the climate crisis is a social justice issue. Access to clean air is a human right. Heritage trees absorb over a half a ton of carbon each year.
  • Cypress Point Apartments only has one path of egress in the case of a fire or tsunami. Further densifying puts human lives at risk. 

The information below includes links to some basic information on the proposed development at Cypress Point Apartments located at 101 Felix Street, names of who to contact, actions you can take, and other ways to express your opposition to this project.   

How to Express Your Opposition 

Email the following people (and CC!)

Copy & paste their emails here for convenience:,,,,,,,,,,, 

If you’ve already contacted these people, we encourage you to do it again. We MUST continue to remind them of our opposition to this project. 

Other Ways to Communicate 

  • Submit concerns directly through the City’s Planning and Community Development webpage for the proposal here
  • On the same webpage linked above, scroll down and sign up to “stay informed” so you can receive information on upcoming City planning meetings and hearings. 

A call for experts!

If you or someone you know is an expert in marine biology, environmental science, birding, etc. please let us know! We need YOU especially to write letters and join our fight”. 

from Your neighbors of the Neary Lagoon Neighborhood. 

JUSTIN CUMMINGS MONUMENT. A member of the Democratic Socialists of Santa Cruz
wrote to state.. “Justin Cummings’ membership gained him support in his campaign…but now he doesn’t even show up for meetings”. I can attest to Justin Cummings appearing at the Community Water Coalition asking for our support in his campaign for City Council, and he got it. We too believed he’d be community-oriented, environmentally focused and what we still call “progressive”. We soon learned that Cummings is friends with the developers of the Errett Circle Church property. He voted to tear down the church and build many, many condo visitor apartments — exactly the way they wanted him to. His Cynthia Mathews-inspired vote to tear down our community library and build the parking garage combo library monstrosity cements his reputation just about forever. So when it’s time, let’s be sure to join together and tear down any monument to Justin Cummings.

DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS OF SANTA CRUZ. The meetings are the first Saturday of each month. That would be this Saturday August 1st. Here is a link to DSA (Santa Cruz). They have many committee/group meetings check out the ones you’re interested in.

MARY KELLY’S COMMENTS. Mary K. reads, researches, and ruminates on some of the funniest stuff I see online. Here’s an example from Buzzfeed: 19 More Stores With The Perfect Response To People Not Wearing Masks… thank Mary when you see her. 

CORN ON THE COB. I’m not about to start a cooking/food/ column, but I’ve always loved corn on the cob. It was a tradition in my family. So anyway, I had a week-old sweet corn on the cob, with silks, husks and all. The internet said to pop the entire piece into the microwave and cook for 5 (five) minutes. It was perfect. Sweet, no need for salt, easy removal of the silk. Try it.

B MOVIE BRATTON & BUSHWHACKERS. Every Friday morning on KZSC (88.1 fm or live online at from 8:10 am-8:20 am or thereabouts I present my “B Movie Bratton” segment of short critiques (not reviews) of what’s on our screens. Tune in this Friday and hear my critiques of such a boring, dull, fairly well-acted murder chase as Defending Jacob. Michelle Dockery (star of Downton Abbey) is the only reason to link to this one. She’s  developed an almost perfect American dialect from her snippy, efficient British one. Then there’s “Doctor Sleep” and believe it or not is a sort of sequel to “The Shining”. It contains noting close to the Jack Nicolson insanity. It does have Ewan McGregor in the lead. It’s only for the curious to stream in on. Then I wrote last week …do not miss the odd, grisly, well-acted, murder drama as “The Plagues of Breslau” (2018) It’s a Polish film with a 83 RT score. I’d never heard of it, and lucked on it by chance. (Netflix ). Odd and brilliant plot about a serial killer who kills every day for five days at 6 p.m.. The  there’s huge flops, such as KNIVES OUT. It got great reviews, has a very famous cast including Daniel Craig with the worst fake cowboy accent ever, but even Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer can’t save this waste. 

July 27


I hoped the day would never come when I would write of Al Mitchell in the past tense. But eventually it comes for all of us. I once asked Al if he feared death. “It won’t worry me at all!” he exclaimed. “I won’t be aware I’m gone.” Sadness and grief are for the still living. There will be countless stories shared about Al and many knew him long before I did. I’ll just share a few reflections on a man I liked and admired. 

For those who did not know Al Mitchell, the name Mitchell’s Cove is probably the easiest link. That stretch of beach between Almar and Woodrow was named for Al by a surfing buddy in the early days and the name stuck. Al was born in Santa Cruz and lived for the rest of his life with his wife Ruth Mitchell in the house built by his grandfather on Almar Avenue. Both Ruth and Al were local schoolteachers. Al taught woodshop and math at Mission Hill for many years, which means that most local boys had Al for a teacher and still refer to him as Mr. Mitchell despite their being well into their adult years. 

Al was a marine in the Korean War. I once introduced him to an Army Captain, saying, “Al was a Marine” for which I received the non-judgmental, clear retort, “not were…you are always a Marine.” I’d love to ask him if that still holds true after death if only to hear him laugh. 

My John and I became acquainted with Al at Gilda’s restaurant, the family owned Stagnaro business on the wharf, which recently closed. We were regulars since the 1980’s, far later than many but long enough to cast off the label “newbies.” We eventually graduated from the restaurant to the bar, that pocket sized human space where regulars came to eat, drink, laugh, share stories and gaze out at the ocean glinting with light as birds soar and marine mammals dive. A magical place. Big Boy Stagnaro had honored John and me as “family” and after John died Al noted that only he and I were left with that privilege at Gilda’s. Al’s privilege was etched in stone as it were. A tiny plaque on the wall at the north end of the bar read “Reserved for Al Mitchell.” If a visitor unknowingly sat in his seat and Al happened to come in, as he did almost every day, he would never say anything. The rest of us did that work for him with an, “Oh that’s Al’s seat, we’ll move down.” The Gilda’s shuffle.

One of Al Mitchell’s lasting legacies is the city’s Junior Lifeguard Program, started by Al in 1964 after a trip to Huntington Beach where he saw such a program contributing much for the youth of that community. He brought back the idea and it soon became a reality and a popular city Parks and Recreation program, contributing to the water skills and safety of local youth. Actually Al had a number of ideas and plans for Santa Cruz Harbor, (the area between Lighthouse Point and the Small Crafts Harbor as he never failed to remind me) including a mooring program for boats and the proper placement of the swimming buoys (that one’s for you Al.)

More personally, Al and I had great political discussions. We saw eye to eye on most issues. He was a good listener and a keen observer of people. We shared a feeling for a small town Santa Cruz, a more modest size UCSC and antipathy for the proposed Wharf dolled-up make-over, as do most locals. I am blessed to have known him and keenly feel his passing. RIP dear friend.

Gillian Greensite is a long time local activist, a member of Save Our Big Trees and the Santa Cruz chapter of IDA, International Dark Sky Association    Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.


July 27

“Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man.”

–Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

(Who’s that again?)
It was an astonishing week for women. There she was, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the floor of Congress doing her job, on her way up the steps of the capital and then verbally pounced upon by Rep. Ted Yoho who represents the Gainesville, Fl. area in congress. “Fucking bitch” is what Ocasio-Cortez and others standing nearby heard said Yoho utter. (It was also corroborated by reporter Mike Lillis from The Hill.) AOC said later it was not so much the epithet that sent her into justice-action in the house chamber, it was Yoho’s comment after realizing he screwed up and he ran back to congress to enter into the congressional record a statement the following day. “I cannot apologize for my passion, or for loving my God, my family or my country,” were some of the remarks included in his damage controlled non-apology.

What followed from the AOC camp was pure joy from a rhetorician point of view. She took to the house floor last Thursday with a dozen colleagues and spoke truth to Yoho’s white, male Republican privilege. What happened was a celebration of democratic discourse. Conversely, another astonishing incident took place at the front door of a federal judge’s house in New Jersey, but let’s go into that later. First, let’s talk about the person who represents Santa Cruz in Congress, one of AOC’s colleagues. I understand that Ocasio-Cortez put out a call to her colleagues to come to the house floor and speak alongside her about their issues concerning sexism and white-male privilege, and essentially to stand up for equality and against sexism. A bunch came to speak up and speak out, but our Santa Cruz representative wasn’t one of them.

Where was Jimmy?
James Varni Panetta, Jimmy, represents the 20th congressional district in the United States Congress. He is one of 435 members of the House of Representatives. Panetta’s district is geographically large, it includes Monterey, Salinas, Santa Cruz, and oh yeah, by the way it also includes Carmel-by-the-Sea, where I think he makes his home. The reason I led off with AOC was to point out how she is a leader in congress. She took casual name-calling (she says she’s been called a effing B**** before), and turned it into a teachable moment on the floor of the House. Jimmy had a chance to be present, but I guess he declined. It would’ve meant a lot to our community if he could’ve been present. Thirteen of her colleagues were there including super moderate house majority leader, Steny Hoyer, from Maryland. He said for the record he fully backs AOC in this moral dust-up with Rep. Yoho.

Where Was Jimmy Two Days Earlier?
Jimmy Panetta voted for the National Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 6395 on Tuesday, July 21st. According to, the web site that tracks congressional votes, this bill does the following:

“This was a vote to pass H.R. 6395 in the House. The federal budget process occurs in two stages: appropriations and authorizations. This is an authorization bill, which directs how federal funds should or should not be used. (It does not set overall spending limits, however, which are the subject of appropriations bills.) Authorizations are typically made for single fiscal years (October 1 through September 30 of the next year) but are often renewed in subsequent law.” What was contained in the bill? It basically funds the military, and even increases spending by over $1 billion. In this era of calls to cut police spending how about cutting military spending too? They couldn’t even excise a part of the bill that gives police department’s access to military surplus. (Remember the Santa Cruz BearCat tank?) Yes, from what it looks like it was part of the bill and Jimmy voted, Yay. Where was Ocasio Cortez, the rest of the squad and more than 40 other progressive democrats? They all voted Nay, and that includes Californians Zoe Lofgren, Ted Lieu, Jimmy Gomez, Alan Lowenthal, Nanette Barrragan, Maxine Waters, and Juan Vargas. Did Congressmember Panetta really represent Santa Cruz with his vote? I don’t think so. To see the entire vote, click here

Judge Salas and the Tragedy of Guns
A self-described “anti-feminist” lawyer, Roy Den Hollander, went after federal judge, Esther Salas, last week. He showed up at her home in North Brunswick, New Jersey and couldn’t find the judge, but shot her husband and son, killing her son. It is another low point in the terrible demons the Trump administration has unleashed. No one should have to fear for their life as a judge. Den Hollander had been working on a case before the Salas court that would permit the government to register females for the draft. Judge Salas had ruled that the case should go forward, but evidently Den Hollander did not think it was moving fast enough. Den Hollander killed himself in the Catskill Mountains shortly after killing the judge’s son.

Nix All Market-rate Real Estate Deals First
My favorite writer for the New York Times is Ginia Bellafante. She writes a column every Sunday called “Big City.” It is usually the inside story on housing or homelessness or money and the folks behind it. This week’s column, ““The Urban President Who Hates Cities” includes a quote that is relevant to the Santa Cruz market rate housing piñatas now seeking more financial air after being pushed ever so gently back on its heels because of the pandemic.

Bellafante writes: “In the Trumpian worldview–one certainly shared by other real estate developers–cities are not configured of neighborhoods and ecosystems and a broad constellation of creative aspirations and complexities; they are sales shelves from which to market luxury apartments, ultimately occupied by people who don’t deeply embed in them so much as a pass through. It is a notion largely out of step with how the world has evolved.”

And that my friends is how we progressives are going to beat back the CA. Apartment Association, California real estate lobby, and the Swenson-Rowell-Devcon-Ley developer Serf City Mafioso, which happens to view our town as their private ATM. November 3rd is neigh…saddle up and get ready to get out and vote, beginning Oct. 5th, and bring 10 of your friends.

“The $740 billion military budget is not enough for Senate Republicans. Now they want to give the Pentagon an additional $21 billion. 

Instead of making the CEOs of defense contractors richer, we should provide every working class American $2,000 a month until this crisis ends.” (July 23)

A shrine, a sacred space, a place to be has emerged around the Town Clock. It’s a memorial for George Floyd and all Black people who have been killed at the hands of the police. It is being maintained by word of mouth. Come and be part of the maintenance in keeping this space sacred, secure, and special, every Tues. and Thurs. at 630 pm. All are invited to join in. 

(Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and was on the Santa Cruz City Councilmember from 1998-2002. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 14 years. He was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college. His term ended in April of 2020.

Email Chris at



July 27


A recent Court decision would not require the UC Regents to have provided additional environmental analysis to address the Universities significantly increasing enrollments to higher levels that what were projected and analyzed in the 2005 EIR. 

The ‘Save Berkeley Neighborhoods’ group sued the UC Regents because the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) analysis for UC Berkeley projected an increase of 1,650 students by 2020.  However, by April, 2018, enrollment there had increased by 8,300 students over the 2005 levels. 

The Trial Court ruled that such a significant enrollment increase is not a “Project” that would have required the UC to do additional environmental analysis and that the ‘Save Berkeley Neighborhoods‘ group should have raised the concern in 2005.

The ‘Save Berkeley Neighborhoods’ appealed.  The Court of Appeal found that there was ample evidence to support the Berkeley group’s claims that additional environmental review should have been triggered by such substantial enrollment increases. The case was sent back to the Trial Court for further review. 

For your curiosity, here is the link to the 2005 UCSC 2005 LRDP 

That Plan projected 21,000 students by 2020, but perhaps due to civil and legal challenges, UCSC reported a total of 19,494 students enrolled in 2018/2019

This relates to the next topic, so please read on……

If you have thoughts about the impacts of UCSC increasing student enrollment without providing sufficient on-campus housing for them, you need to act now.  The UCSC 2040 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) would allow significantly more students but potentially ignore adding enough housing and infrastructure to accommodate them and the necessary staff increases. 

Read the message below and use the Action Tool Kit developed by Ms. Morgan Bostic, the recently-hired County/City Climate Change Policy Manager, to sign up to take action and stay informed. 

Demanding that UCSC not increase enrollment so substantially would not be a wise course of action, according to Congressman Jimmy PanettaAt a Special Board of Supervisor meeting last December, he cautioned Supervisors that making such demands would be counter to the State’s mandate that the UC system increase enrollment in order to offer educational opportunity to a broad segment of the population, including underprivileged students.  

Instead, it will be more productive to insist the UC system provide sufficient affordable housing on-campus or nearby, with infrastructure improvements to accommodate the increased population, thereby reducing financial and environmental stress on the community. 

Read about the positive outcome of the 2018 negotiations between UC Davis, City of Davis, and County of Yolo to address the same problems that face Santa Cruz City and County regarding UCSC.

City of Davis, Yolo County and UC Davis Agree to Memorandum of Understanding on Partnership and Growth

Their hard work to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is successful:

UC Davis Survey: City Apartment Vacancy Rate Eases Some The vacancy rate in the city of Davis has eased slightly, according to a survey released by UC Davis Feb. 5.

The Action Tool Kit is excellent.  Act now.

On Fri, Jul 24, 2020, 11:28 AM Robert Orrizzi“> wrote:


Many of us remember the overwhelming approval of Measure U on the June, 2018 Ballot. This Measure (approved by 77% of City voters) gave “City Council sole authority to implement policies intended to limit enrollment growth and to establish infrastructure requirement @ UCSC.” At the time, UCSC proposed (in their 2040 Long Range Development Plan/”LRDP”) to increase student enrollment to a staggering 28,000 from the current agreement w/ the City of 19,500 students. On top of this comes all the additional staff and employees.

I was a member of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the 2040 LRDP. CAG met several times over the past year w/ University Officials voicing our concerns. Our meetings have concluded, and UCSC is moving forward w/ their LRDP. The EIR has now been compiled. The guiding force behind development is from the Regents and the State Legislature. Local input/action is essential even though UC is exempt from local measures. Now is the time to speak up.

Out of our CAG, a Community Task force has been created. Morgan Bostic has been hired as the Advocate for City-County Task Force to Address UCSC Growth and has created a “Tool Kit” full of information regarding campus growth. Please take the time to peruse (and use) this Tool Kit. We all are aware of the already overabundance to traffic, housing shortage, etc. UCSC has on our community, so please consider getting involved now.

Tool Kit link:  act on UCSC growth TOOLKIT

Yours Truly,

If you care about the quality  of life in Santa Cruz County, you need to write the Planning Department and demand a 45-day extension to the Scoping Period Public Comment and at least one more public hearing to allow you to review critical documents and submit meaningful comment on the plan to update the County’s General Plan.  If you don’t, the County will slam the door closed next Monday at 5pm. 

The Santa Cruz County Planning Department teamed up with freshly-hired Dudek Consultants to host a virtual public hearing on July 21 to give the public a chance to weigh-in with what important issues the  Sustainable Santa Cruz County Plan and General Plan Update environmental review should include in the EIR analysis. 

Because the meeting was not noticed to the public, other than being buried in the Planning Dept menu options, ONLY TWO PEOPLE SUBMITTED ANY PUBLIC COMMENT OR ASKED QUESTIONS. 

The Planning Dept. website did not feature the July 21 public hearing information prominently.  Near the bottom of the home page, “News and Announcements” has a button that leads only to the description of updating the 1994 County General Plan, but no mention at all of the July 21 hearing or that the Public Comment period ends this coming Monday, August 3. 

Here is where you really need to look

Comments on the scope of the EIR will be accepted at the scoping meeting, in writing (see the Notice of Preparation for mailing address), or via email. Click here to email comments on the scope of the EIR for this project: Please reference the project name in the email title.

In my opinion, the Planning Dept. and Dudek are attempting to push these massive zoning and policy changes through during COVID restrictions and this  is a sham of public participation in a critical California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.   Make no mistake about it, this Plan seeks to drastically change the quality of life throughout Santa Cruz County.  

Demand a 45-day extension of this Public Scoping Period and that there be at least one more public hearing and  that is widely noticed to the public. 

An online and informal petition launched by Revolunas to remove the George Washington bust from the Watsonville City Plaza Park has over 1200 signers.  The claim is that because he owned slaves, he is the epitome of White Supremacy, and therefore the statue must go. 

The Watsonville City Parks & Recreation Commission will publicly discuss this during their August 3, 6:30pm virtual meeting. The agenda will be posted on the website by this Thursday, July 30.

Here is a good article recently reported in the Pajaronian about the issue.

Revolunas, locally-based in Watsonville,  is a women’s collective focusing on healing and community issues. 

What are your thoughts?  Write to the Watsonville City Parks & Recreation Commission staff:

Mr. Nick Calubaquib 

The Watsonville City Council is forming an Ad-Hoc Committee to examine social equity issues in Watsonville, and invite the Watsonville Community to get involved.  

“AD-HOC Committee on Policing and Social Equity, composed of City Council members, Police Chief, City Manager, City staff, and community members to facilitate community conversations that will inform the future of policing and community services in Watsonville.

The Committee’s work will include participation in regular meetings, collecting community 
 input, engaging with community organizations and stakeholders, and eventually developing 
 recommendations for the City Council’s consideration.”

Applications to serve on the Committee are due August 7.  


Last week, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education Administrator, Dr. Faris Sabbah, mandated that all private, public and charter schools in the County open this fall without any in-person instruction.  While Governor Newsom issued this mandate for Counties on the “COVID watch list” last week, our County was not included on that list. 

However, the County Office of Education felt it critical to make this restriction.  

How can this finding be made when the CDC encourages otherwise, based on scientific data and the overall negative impacts to student health and well-being when kept in lock-down? 

“Death rates [due to COVID-19] among school-aged children are much lower than among adults.  At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.  Further, the lack of in-person educational options disproportionately harms low-income and minority children and those living with disabilities.  These students are far less likely to have access to private instruction and care and far more likely to rely on key school-supported resources like food programs, special education services, counseling, and after-school programs to meet basic developmental needs” 

Please write Dr. Feris Sabbah, County Office of Education Superintendent and let him know your thoughts:  Dr. Feris Sabbah  831-466-5900 

I apologize for two errors in my last entry, and would like to correct them.  

1: I still did not get the definition of “SOU” quite right last time, regarding the report on the 908 Ocean Street project.  “SOU” is the acronym for “Small Ownership Unit”

Here is a link to the City’s Chamber of Commerce website, showcasing the City Economic Development plans for a number of projects, including 908 Ocean, where the SOU definition is correctly given but the number of them reported for this project may not be correct (only 33?)

2: A kind and astute Bratton Online reader pointed out to me that the Community Foundation is giving the County $1.5 Million for COVID issues, not the other way around, as I had mistakenly understood and reported in my last blog.  Many thanks to this kind reader for pointing out my error.  

I have learned to do more of my research and writing when I am well-rested, and not in the wee hours of the morning!  Again, my apologies and gratitude for those who take the time to contact me with questions and comments.


Cheers, Becky Steinbruner, (831) 685-2915 I welcome your discussion! 

Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes.

Email Becky at


#203 / Listen Up, Liberals!

Barton Swaim is a conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and a former speechwriter for Mark Sanford, South Carolina’s Republican, and rather erratic, former governor. Sanford is perhaps most remembered for having tried to trick his staff (presumably including Swaim) into believing that the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail when the governor was actually visiting his mistress in Argentina. Swaim has a new book out, The Speechwriter. Maybe that book discusses this incident; that could be interesting, but I am definitely not planning to buy the book.

Instead, I am planning to give you a little bit of wisdom (or let’s call it “punditry”) from Barton Swaim, thanks to one of Swaim’s fairly recent columns in The Wall Street Journal. Here is a link to the column, entitled “Joe Biden and the Slow Death of Liberalism.” Given that a paywall may greet at least some people who try to follow the link, and to read the whole column, here are just a few excerpts: 

In nominating Joe Biden, Democrats aren’t choosing a “moderate.” They’re choosing liberalism over revolution. Bernie Sanders said … “Joe and I have a very different vision for the future of this country.” That is not quite right. The idea that Mr. Biden has a “vision for the future” is preposterous. He has a vision for the past, and even that is cloudy. 

Mr. Sanders is a radical, not a liberal. The liberal worldview seeks a more equitable and open polity by means of piecemeal political reform. The radical outlook envisions a new world, not an incrementally better one. 

With Mr. Biden’s ascension and Mr. Sanders’s decision this week to suspend his campaign, Democrats are again choosing liberalism. 

The modern American liberal is the product of what’s commonly called liberal democracy—the social and political order obtaining in North America and postwar Europe. Liberal democracies value divided governmental institutions, a regulated market economy, a generous welfare state, personal autonomy and the expansion of political rights to formerly excluded classes. Conservatives and liberals alike are “liberals” in this broader sense, but American liberals believe more fervently than conservatives in the power of governmental means to achieve human betterment, and liberals tend to scorn habit and tradition as impediments to righteous goals. 

American liberalism’s last great triumphs came during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Food Stamp Act of 1964 and the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which created Medicaid and Medicare. Since then it has accomplished no original reforms, only refined or expanded old ones. 

The point here is not to disparage liberalism. It is to point out that liberalism in America achieved the last of its great aims a half-century ago. Since then, liberal successes have steadily diminished in importance. The Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972 empowered state and federal governments to alleviate pollution. In 1979 Jimmy Carter signed legislation creating the Education Department, but its function has never been clear. In 1996 Bill Clinton signed a monumental welfare-reform law, but its purpose was to curb liberalism’s excesses, not to further its aims. Then there was the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a nonradical version of a radical idea that managed to make an expensive and confusing system even more expensive and confusing. 

Whatever the merits of these laws, none compares, in sheer transformative effect, with the great reforms of the first half of the last century: the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, the Social Security Act of 1935. 

It is a measure of liberalism’s lethargy that Democratic primary voters in 2020 have fixated so exclusively on Donald Trump’s badness. Mr. Trump has inspired liberals in a way that nothing else has in many years. But soon he will be gone, and what then? 

A sizable portion of the Democratic electorate, especially its younger members, has wearied of this state of affairs. They want something more to do than tinker and emote.

There are at least a couple of ironies here. First, the idea that “liberals” should take seriously the comments and criticism of a Republican Party operative, like Swaim, does test the patience of anyone of the “liberal” persuasion. Second, as Swaim disparages liberals for their lack of anything like “vision,” he never lets us in on what the “vision” of the “conservatives” might be. I guess it is also ironic (irony #3) that Swaim is essentially making a case for the politics of Bernie Sanders, whom all true “conservatives” must surely disdain. 

Here is my own view. 

As someone who considers himself a “liberal,” usually operating under the “progressive” banner, I do think that those who profess an allegiance to the “liberal” side of the liberal/conservative spectrum ought to pay attention to what Swaim is saying. Consider the content of the comments, in other words, and not the source.

Considering the content, it is not surprising, as a supporter of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns (both times), that I agree with the gist of what Swaim is saying. We are far overdue for a “revolution” in our politics, which does not mean “violence.” Read Hannah Arendt on that. As her book, On Violence, makes clear, revolutions are accomplished not by violence, but by the assumption of “power” by those whose power has been diminished or denied: ordinary men and women, in other words, or “the 99%” as we have come to speak of our situation since Occupy.

You want another definition of the “ordinary men and women” whose decision to reassume the power they have always had is what makes a genuine revolution? Here it is:

You and Me

Listen up, liberals. Time for a (real) change!  

Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at

Email Gary at


EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down.

EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s “Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at you will find his most recent  Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog

A character in Hamilton that you may not have thought of as a character…


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