If you are reading this newsletter, there is a strong chance that you follow Culver City politics in some detail. If so, you may have noticed a proliferation of organizations with similar names. In each case, a right-wing group has appropriated the name of a liberal one. When members of the Club formed Protect Culver City Renters to campaign for rent control and renter protections, alt-right provocateur Ron Bassilian launched “Protect Culver City,” funded by landlords and other housing profiteers. A perennial candidate (and member of this Club) has been operating under the name “Culver City Kennedy Democrats;” whose activities have thus far consisted of handing out anti-Biden flyers at the 2021 Fiesta la Ballona and holding a yard sale. One of the funders of the failed petition to recall former Mayor Alex Fisch and current Mayor Daniel Lee distributed a flier a few weeks ago under the organizational name “Culver City Coalition,” attempting to rally support for CC Police having license to acquire and use military equipment without constraint. He used the name “Culver City Coalition,” hijacking the brand of the long-established Culver City Community Coalition.
Why do these men steal our names? I have four theories. All can be true at once, and additional explanations are possible.
First, trolling. It is difficult to overestimate the joy conservatives get in “owning the libs.” Amanda Marcotte has written a book and an ongoing series of columns on this phenomenon. Calling our party the “Democrat” party or Mayor Lee “Dan” instead of “Daniel” is an expression of dominance, no matter how trivial or juvenile. Being annoying is a kind of power over others.
Second, draining words of their meaning through indiscriminate use. If a man passing out “Let’s Go Brandon” flyers is a Democrat, then being a Democrat covers almost the entire spectrum of American politics. If a word can describe anything it means nothing. If the police have “progressive” in their mission statement, it is harder to use “progressive” to signify the left. Taking the names of our organizations similarly saps their power.
Confusion is the third desired product of this appropriation. Members of both Protect Culver City Renters and Protect Culver City have mistakenly identified themselves with the opposite group on the record, and the CC Observer has repeatedly switched the names. One can easily imagine the effect on less attentive community members. Google will mix up both in search results. This makes it possible for Protect CC to get an unearned glow from the work of PCCR or for a progressive group like PCCR to be tainted by the nasty rhetoric of their soundalike. The petty and ugly work of the soundalikes can create the illusion that “both sides do it.” Was that the Culver City Community Coalition or the Culver City Coalition who left that weird flier on your door? Annoyance and confusion can create cynicism, which serves the status quo. The more people who check out of politics because it seems ugly, petty, or confusing, the better conservatives will do. The party that wants to lower people’s expectations of politics and government benefits when people disengage.
Finally, Culver City conservatives take our names to hide who they really are. They demand the right to call themselves “Democrats” and “progressives” because they cannot win as Republicans and reactionaries, although that accurately describes their platforms and records. I encourage you to read the platform of the California Democratic Party. It is a clear statement of our goals and values. We are here to advance them through elections, legislation, communication, and direct action. It is commonplace to denounce divisiveness, but when that ballot comes, you can’t check every box. As the song says: which side are you on? If you are here to help promote the platform of the California Democratic Party and candidates who support it, I look forward to working with you.