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Five Thoughts on Antonio's Gate

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had the most embarrassing moment of the Democratic National Convention.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mayor Villaraigosa found himself in the middle of a hot dispute at the Democratic National Convention. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 11pm on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    This site posted an item about how Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was ready for his close-up as chair of the Democratic National Convention. It turns out, he wasn't.

    The LA mayor had the most embarrassing moment of the convention, when he approved changes to the party platform after a voice vote that clearly showed less than necessary support for said changes.

    So what does this mortifying moment mean for the ambitious mayor, and for California? Here are five thoughts:

    5. The scene will haunt him forever. The vision of Villaraigosa listening to a voice vote that was divided -- and then approving it anyway (albeit after a couple of false starts) -- will be used by every political opponent, and joke writer, for the rest of his political career. It's a deadly scene for a politician to be shown literally ignoring the voice of the people.

    4. The mayor may have scored some insider political points. Villaraigosa, in pushing through the changes, took one for the Democratic team. He pushed through changes -- re-inserting God and a statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel -- into the platform that the Obama campaign needed for political reasons. Yes, the mayor looked like a fool doing it, but he also earned some credit for being the guy willing to look bad for the needs of the party.

    3. Party platforms still have power. This episode -- and the criticism of the Republican platform -- shows that ideas still have meaning and value. This is telling. California elections, like American elections, are framed as a choice between individuals. But we really choose among parties. California's political parties should do more to emphasize their platforms -- and they would be wise to include big proposals for fixing the state governing system.

    2. Maybe LA mayors aren't meant to rise to higher office. Villaraigosa has expressed interest in the governorship. But no LA mayor has been elected governor, and Villaraigosa's performance won't help him. Potential competitors like Attorney General Kamala Harris got better reviews.

    1. What is it about two-thirds votes tripping up Californians? The platform changes the mayor pushed through required a two-thirds vote. But the voice vote was split. The mayor declared two-thirds anyway.

    California, the state Villaraigosa dreams of governing, has had all kinds of problems with supermajorities. Perhaps the mayor could make light of this fiasco and spin it to his advantage -- by poking fun at himself, but also using it to make a full-scale assault against the 2/3 vote requirements (for taxes, for fees, for changing school funding, and for a host of other fiscal rules) that make the state so hard to govern.

    It's just the kind of argument that California gubernatorial candidates should be making -- particularly if they want to have more power to govern the state once they win office.

    So, Villaraigosa still has time to turn this convention lemon into lemonade.

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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