Celebrating Matt Cunningham’s Greatest Howler!




Good times, good times!

I have many favorite Matt Cunningham pieces — because God knows the man works hard for his money by putting pretty dresses on skunks, and I love watching his creative acrobatics — but what may be my absolute favorite one of all time has been on my phone’s browser tabs for a year now, because it not only was a good way for me to go to check out his site but was also guaranteed to make my smile, and sometimes laugh out loud.  Yesterday marked the first anniversary of its publication.  It was his explanation of how the talk about Disney being in political trouble was just hype, and it can’t possible be true. It was called “The Myth of the Anti Disney, Anti-Resort Backlash” — and it was dedicated to reassuring his flock that they needn’t worry, because despite appearances Anaheim voters not only hadn’t woken up, but wouldn’t wake up anytime soon.  Here’s the introduction:

Media narratives can be powerful things, which is why politicians and interests seeking to influence public debate try to craft clever narratives.  It’s why the winners of elections always try to claim a “mandate,” whether they won by a landslide or squeaked out an electoral college win while losing the popular vote by millions.

In Anaheim, it’s why the progressives who fought for the Tait-Moreno Council majority like to spin the narrative of “The People’s Council” – the contention that the results of the 2016 elections revealed a voter revolt against Disney and the Resort and claimed mandate to advance the interests of the residents over tourist-serving businesses. It’s a claim that’s been advanced repeatedly for months in news articles by members of the current council majority.

It captures the imagination of progressive activists and their media sympathizers, but did it actually happen? A sober examination of the facts shows no evidence of such a mandate; if anything, the Tait-Moreno majority was a narrow fluke on the scale of Trump’s electoral college win.

Do you know WHO ELSE has come, over the last year, to believe the narrative about how voters had come to resent Disney?

Disney, that’s who!

Disney has been on its best behavior lately, trying to give voters no reason to pass Resort Corporate Welfare Recipient Minimum Wage initiative Measure L — to the point of basically giving in to Measure L’s terms — either hoping to get its old Council majority back out of a real change of heart to reject crony capitalism and embrace reform.  (Voters don’t yet know which it is, which is why they have to remain vigilant in the upcoming and support candidates who will not show up in December throwing bundles of cash Disney’s way along with the city’s apologies for making them sad.)  I hope that they favor reform, which they can demonstrate by not trying to usher in candidates like Mitch Caldwell and Trevor O’Neil who will support pro-Disney cronyism to such a wildly extravagant extent that even Steve Faessel might slowly back away from them.)

It should be obvious that Disney would not be doing this if their own research did not show that it would do better by improving its reputation — both within its founding park’s home city and with the larger public paying increasing attention to it — by being a good citizen of Anaheim in more than a chucking-a-few-shillings-into-paupers’-hats way and actually taking a stake in the prosperity of its increasingly minority citizenry for years to come.  I and other have called for this, and predicted it, in these pages for years now — both when quoting Mayor Tom Tait and Dr. Jose Moreno and OCCORD and UNITE-HERE and based on our own analyses — and little could be more welcome than seeing it coming into focus.  Everyone (well, not Kris Murray and Lucille Kring, but almost everyone) loves Donald and Daisy Duck more than they do Uncle Scrooge.

The public caught on!  Disney adapted!  Despite Cunningham’s best efforts, decency and rationality won out.

Now it’s absolutely true that despite this, reformers could lose this next election — and backsliding could occur.  Consider how:

  • Cunningham’s commenters are PLEADING with Disney to give lots of money to by now pretty-creepy Walt-impersonator Caldwell so that he can fend off what they see as the pro-Moreno hordes.  Their voices could still be heard.  The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce ain’t entirely dead yet, except spiritually.
  • Mayor Tait has not anointed a successor among his candidates — Cynthia Ward and Ashleigh Aitken have the most obvious claims, in terms of policy affinity and campaign money, and Tait still doesn’t seem to dislike Lorri Galloway as many of the rest of us — which means that its possible that Harry Sidhu could squeak into the Mayor’s Chair with little more than a quarter of the vote.  (There’s ANOTHER good reason why voters have to elect a good Council!)
  • In District 2, new emigrant Jordan Brandman has recanted some of his former positions, although I couldn’t tell you the details except that he’ll not support Kris Murray for Supervisor so long as a Democrat runs (and one will), and benefits from some vote splitting among his opponents, whose hearts may be with Duane Roberts but whose brains are with James James Vanderbilt.
  • In District 3, Caldwell is able to be all statesmanlike while his cronies eviscerate Dr. Moreno.
  • In District 6, O’Dious O’Neil faces Tait candidate (can one still say “slate?”) Patty Gaby on the Republican side, but also less odious but still historically Disney-prone Grant Henninger on the Democratic side.  Who splits the votes how is unclear.

However, even if the reformist candidates lose because of the big money spent against them and the vote-splitting among them, it still wouldn’t mean that Cunningham was correct!  They will have won despite the Anti-Resort sentiment, which has led both Disney and its supporters to at least pretend to to have reformed.  And if the signs of Disney’s reputation inching back upwards are true, it may be able to do the hardest thing a corporation can do: tell supporters wanting to throw money at it “thanks, but no thanks.”

Just to be safe, though, we remind voters of one eternal truth as the election approaches:


This is your Post-Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that or whatever else you’d like until we come up with another Open Thread.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)