THE WATCHTOWER: THE SAME OLD STORY
BY PETER DANIELS | MAY 10, 2020
Still, they were the most remarkable occurrence in a campaign phase that has been characterized by stale promises, bland characters and a general lack of new ideas. From the protagonists to their manifestos, these elections show the candidates running certainly care about the environment: they keep recycling both themselves and their proposals.
All of the Lieutenant Governor- and Secretary of State-hopefuls are well-known figures in the political landscape of San Andreas. The Democratic Party has deployed Senator Charles Moreno, currently representing the fifth Senate district in Pershing Square, as their candidate for Lieutenant Governor and Isaac Disraeli, the current State Clerk, will run for Secretary of State. On the Republican side, Frank Underhill, incumbent Senator for the first Senate district, will attempt to become the second-highest ranking member of the executive branch while Paris Newman, current Press Secretary for the Cuevas administration, will be the candidate for Secretary of State.
While none of them are total strangers to State-level politics like Governor Jerry Richardson was before he miraculously landed his current job, they all have one thing in common: when it comes to politics, they have more weaknesses than strengths.
Senator Moreno is a tenured legislator who had already served two terms before cancer struck his wife, forcing him to momentarily retire to assist her. While his return to the political scene was welcomed by the Democratic Party and he has certainly put in some work while in the Senate, he isn't as nearly as popular nor as productive as the late Senator Eugene Park, who would've probably been elected much more easily hadn't his life been cut short by a sniper attack that still is under investigation by the LSPD. Despite his recent attempts at showing an aggressive personality in the Senate and on political adverts, Moreno played the role of the negotiator for too long to be taken seriously.
Isaac Disraeli started out as the Republican State Auditor, appointed by the Cuevas administration, only to resign early in his term by citing a lack of trust in Cuevas herself, jumping ship to Democrats and finally being appointed as State Clerk by Governor Richardson, all in the span of few months. As noted by former Democratic Party chairwoman Alexis Franklin in her recent op-ed, Disraeli might be more dangerous for the Democratic Party as its member than as its opponent, and is all but assured that Moreno can trust him not to defect again once he's elected Secretary of State.
Frank Underhill is one of the symbols of the Republican Party in San Andreas. Even more tenured than Moreno, Underhill has represented the first district for years, but in the last sessions he has been more busy pretending to be a neutral peacemaker while acting as Speaker to actually work on and introduce legislation and currently ranks as one of the least active members of the Senate. Despite presenting himself as the quintessential Republican, a lot of his policies are fairly centrist when not outright left-leaning. And the latest developments regarding his alleged misuse of State funds along with his partner, Secretary Cuevas, put him in a tight spot should he be elected.
Lastly there's Paris Newman, an established businesswoman and press secretary for the Cuevas administration. While her proficiency in the field of business can't be put into discussion, her capacity in the government role Cuevas appointed her to is highly questionable. While the Cuevas administration came under fire for the slew of resignations and scandals that took place under her watch, the office of the press secretary stayed silent, and silent she stayed while both her direct superior in the State government and her running mate were being indicted on some serious charges. But being uncommunicative while the world around you is on fire can hardly be a quality for those who try to establish themselves as "courageous leaders".
Both candidates' manifestos have one thing in common: they don't have many novelties in them. Both Moreno and Underhill promise to do their best to legalize marijuana, a staple of every self-respecting political campaign in San Andreas and a proposal that regularly ends up being defeated. But it gets worse: since Moreno is the current majority leader and Underhill the minority leader, it's unclear why either of them think they need to become Lieutenant Governor to legalize cannabis, instead of just introducing a bill with that purpose and have their parties vote on that.
Moreno suggests the creation of a State board of public safety, aimed at supervising emergency management agencies with law enforcement and fire/rescue duties, across the State. While this might look revolutionary in a moment where a city police department can refuse to release a statement concerning the death of a State Senator that took place under their watch, it actually is an old idea both major parties have advanced in the past. It was one the major selling points of Frank Vaughn in his campaign for Democratic mayor of Los Santos (though in that case it would have been at municipal level) and a similar proposal was put forward by Republican legislator Barrett Johnson later on. They both failed to achieve it, and with Governor Richardson seemingly being interested in preserving his popularity among the higher echelon of law enforcement organizations who look down upon the idea of civilian oversight, it's highly doubtful such a scheme could go through.
On the other side, Underhill once again tries to pass off as the last bastion of hope for those citizens who support the 2nd amendment, something that has already done countless times throughout his political career. While his vocal support for the right to bear arms is undeniable, his legislative history tells a different story: Underhill has never really challenged the status quo of firearms regulations until called to serve on the Senate Select Committee on Firearms Licensing, whose establishment he was not involved in.
It doesn't stop here. Manifestos are rife with projects announced time and again only to fail, be disbanded or outright being vetoed by some higher power. Moreno's include affordable housing and a Small Businesses Fund, both of which have been suggested by Democratic administrations multiple times and have always been met with little to no success. Likewise, his suggestion to give more power and protections to the unions is almost a photocopy of Vaughn's policies on the same matter.
Underhill attempts to win votes over by promising his time in office to be more transparent than its predecessor's. Aside from the fact that for it to be more opaque than Governor Reynolds' would be an achievement in itself, Underhill is the same Underhill who voted against the Lobbying Activities Regulation Act, a bill which would've reduced the amount of soft money in State politics and the usage of lobbyists, increasing accountability among politicians statewide. And although has erased his vote on the bill from his Senate office page and had a sudden change of heart when the late Senator Park picked up the battle for campaign finance reform, he is currently in a judicial storm that might severely undermine his ability to present himself as the man who will fix the issue of corruption. And in fact there's already a petition asking Governor Richardson to remove him from the Lieutenant Governor ballot (although whether that's permitted is questionable, since Underhill, like every other citizen, is innocent until proven guilty, at least from a judicial point of view).
MISSING THE POINT
What's more jarring, however, is not the fact the proposals of the current elections are pretty much the same as the last election, and the one before that, and the one before, showing how the same people apply a new layer of paint to some old ideas, shrug their own previous positions off and reinvent themselves as brand new politicos who never were involved in creating the current state of things.
And it's not even the unnecessary amount of negative campaigning, which seemingly turns the election into a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils instead of the person more capable to fill a specific position. Negative campaigning that gets even more questionable when such advertisements attempt to attack candidates on a personal level rather than on their political history or positions.
No, what's more jarring is that both parties have turned the election for the Lieutenant Governor into the political arena's main attraction when it's barely a sideshow. In San Andreas' Constitution, the post of Lieutenant Governor is a mostly ceremonial position tasked with ensuring the smooth operation of the Senate, representing the State Government and little else.
So whoever wins, be it Moreno or Underhill, won't be able to carry out any of their proposed policies by themselves: they'll still have to rely on the support of the Governor for executive decisions and on that of the Senate for legislation they wish to advance. And while for Moreno and Disraeli might be easier to achieve their proposals, since both the governorship and the Senate are in Democrats' hands, Underhill's victory would most likely turn into a major blowback for him and Newman, especially in regards to their most radical policies, as they'd have to wrangle with executive and legislative branches where the final say is held by their political opponents.
In short, there's very few things they can implement directly, and none of them justify all this circus, especially given the recent and more pressing events that saw the State Government involved. But then again, even that is nothing new: turning a minor election into a major affair has always been a constant feature of politics in San Andreas.
Even the indictments are nothing new in the political landscape, though most of them were not as predictable as the recent ones. Multiple politicians in recent years have attracted the attention of local, State and federal authorities. From the allegations of corruption leveled at mayoral candidate Bill Bloomberg to the arrest of Los Santos mayor Frank Vaughn and the more recent refusal of former State Treasurer Martin Aguero to answer a Senate subpoena, the history of San Andreas is rich in episodes where politics and law stood on opposite sides of the courts.
And every election, in the end, feels like it's still the same old story.
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