Weekend Open Thread: Vile Red-Baiting of Jay Chen — and of David Dodson?!

This is an essay on red-baiting in two parts. Read both — because Part 2 may blow your mind!

At left, Jay Chen in normal form and (inset) being jokingly red-baited by then-Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi; at right, David Dodson on a day off and (inset) being smeared in a Republican Party mailer.

1. The Vile Red-Baiting of Naval Reserve Lieutenant Jay Chen

Navy Lieutenant and Intelligence specialist Jay Chen is being red-baited by his North Korean-born opponent in the CA-45 Congressional race. Michelle Steel. The Los Angeles Times, among others, is having none of it — recently endorsing Chen.

Wait. Wait a minute! I know what you’re thinking. Is it fair for me to bring up that Steel is of North, rather than South, Korean ancestry — given that she fled (actually her parents fled and took her with them) to Japan?

Well, I’d say it’s about exactly as fair as the red-baiting that her own campaign is doing towards Chen, who has spent a good part of his military career protecting United States interests in, among other places, East Asia.

Admittedly, it’s not Steel’s fault that she was born into a brutal dictatorship! But nor is it Chen’s fault that his parents fled Mainland China to Taiwan after the communist revolution in China — bringing with them the language that we know as Mandarin Chinese.

Here’s why she’s making it an issue. Chen, as a school board member, voted to have his district accept funds from a program sponsored in part by mainland Chinese interests that would promote student learning of Mandarin.

Why did he do so? Because each of the Two Chinas has an interest in American students learning Mandarin — one of the most-spoken languages in the world. It’s good for trade, it’s good for diplomacy, and frankly it’s good for intelligence analysis as well!

But here’s what the above justification leaves out. Mandarin is not simply the language of Mainland China; it’s also the language of Taiwan — and Chen has been serving in areas with enormous numbers of children of the Taiwanese diaspora, such as himself. It’s learning about their own culture, helping them communicate with their own parents and grandparents! There is absolutely nothing sinister about it. It is, frankly, an obvious good thing — just like Spanish language education being available to students from Latin America.

And that brings up back to Steel’s own ancestry. If the government of South Korea — the most populous nation of Korean speakers, just as Mainland China is of Mandarin speakers — wanted to promote Korean language education in especially areas rich in students whose families emigrated from Korea, Steel would probably favor it, right? (So would I; so, I’m confident, would Chen.)

But by Steel’s (or at least her campaign strategists’) reasoning, if Steel were a school board member — presume for a moment that she was capable of the job — Chen would be justified in accusing her of promoting the interests of the Communist North Korea dictatorship that is seeking the capability to drop nuclear bombs on California!

The biggest difference between Michelle Steel and Jay Chen as candidates is that Chen would never do that sort of thing — while Steel wouldn’t even blink if anyone bothered to tell her that she was doing it.

And this is why the LA Times went off on Steel this week. (Well, there’s also the charge that his campaign is being bankrolled by a Communist Chinese donor — when that donor is Chen’s own highly capitalist entrepreneurial brother!)

When someone lies this much and this hard and this odiously, you and your friends have to know about it. It usually means that they’ve got nothing to run on. So spread the word. Here’s a statement from Chen’s campaign that’s easy to copy and mail:

“Have you, at long last, no shame?” was a question asked of red-baiting Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. Would Steel even understand the concept?

Chen’s campaign also had this statement on the mailers”

“In the span of only a few days, Michele Steel – who has never worn a military uniform – preyed upon generational trauma in the Vietnamese community, pushed a patently untrue narrative that a Taiwanese-American is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, and attempted to defile a decorated Navy Veteran’s reputation and allegiance to the United States.”

Does Steel really understand, at some level, that that’s morally wrong?

Donald Trump mentor Roy Cohn, left, with apparent Michelle Steel mentor Joe McCarthy, right.

ADDING: And people are fighting back! Check out this video!

2. The Perplexing Red-Baiting of Board of Equalization candidate David Dodson

This one is weird. So very weird. I’m not even sure what’s going on here, but I am looking into it.

Someone has placed a graphic about David Dodson in a mailer going out to San Diego Republicans that is completely bizarre. Here’s (one side of) the full mailer for context:

First this purports to be a “Official Republican voter guide” put out by SanDiegoRepublicans.org. But is it really? I’d say so. John Hemmerling is the sole Republican running for Sheriff in San Diego, who lost the San Diego Union-Tribune’s endorsement after he made transphobic comments so extreme that he abruptly retired from his job as a prosecutor. So: we can check that box. Jordan Marks? Republican endorsed. McAlister: apparently Republican, but not sure. Reichert: definitely Republican. No on Prop 1 (reproductive rights amendment)? Yep. OK, so this looks like the real deal. So what are those two red squares (get it?) at the lower right?

The first one is attacking State Assemblymember Georgette Gomez, a Democrat, using a “Socialist Check List.” Well, yes, of course the Republicans are saying that! And who’s that next to her?

Why — that’s David Dodson! They, uh, decided to make Board of Equalization one of the main races they covered — next to Assembly, County offices, the abortion proposition — which given its generally low profile (and, uh, the absence of a Republican in the race) seems strange to me. Let’s take a closer look:

The “surprised and amused” photo may have been taken at the moment that Dodson heard that someone was calling him, rather than Mike Schaefer, a “career politician”!

OK, this is weird: Dodson is the candidate running AGAINST the endorsed candidate of the California Democratic Party — disbarred slumlord, former fugitive from justice, convicted spousal abuser (and so much more) Michael Schaefer — so why is the San Diego Republican Party supporting the incumbent Democrat? It’s a puzzle….

Those six charges against him are even more bizarre:

First, let’s consider the red-baiting (though it’s very mild by Michelle Steel’s standards.) “Endorsed by Socialists” means almost nothing: you could say the same thing of Joe Biden — and of many Republicans as well. (All it takes is two “socialists” endorsing to make it true, after all!) The bright red background is probably more effective as subliminal red-baiting, but this is still pretty weird.

“Increasing Property Taxes” is not something that Dodson — even has the power to do. So this seems like empty scare language — unless they mean enforcing the law against improper use of loopholes, in which case … is that some sort of problem?

“Unions over People” is pretty interesting, and maybe a little “red-baity,” though. Let’s look at the comparison between the two Democrats in the “Blue Voter Guide” regarding their endorsements:

Which of these candidates is “Endorsed by Unions?”

Well, yes, Dodson has the support of the OC Labor Federation (good going, folks!) and the California Labor Federation — newly under the control of former Democratic elected Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who knows both candidates well. But Schaefer’s labor backing is a higher proportion of his list: although it comes down essentially to two people: California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks, a labor leader, and our own Ada Briceño, who controls both the Democratic Party of Orange County and Unite Here Local 11! (The San Diego County Democratic Party is required by Rusty Hicks and his posse not to endorse against an CDP-endorsed incumbent, so Hicks gets credit there too.)

So, “Unions over People” seems like a wash — unless we accept that Schaefer’s union support does essentially come down to only two people, in which case ok. But Labor support doesn’t actually mean non-People support.

“Getting rid of Prop 13” is a laugh. Like pretty much everyone else involved in property tax policy, Dodson is set on protecting the principles of Prop 13 — which is why he opposed Prop 19, which massively increased the assessments on inherited family homes two years ago. It’s Schaefer who didn’t get off his posterior to help explain to the voting public what was at issue. Now you can make a case — as Vern did — that Prop 19 was going after the wealthy, but I’ve spoken to Dodson about this and he thinks that it was mostly hurting the middle-class, which often has a massive amount of its family wealth in the parents’ or grandparents’ house.

Part of Schaefer’s job is to help research and explain property tax policy to voters — and when this big bite out of Prop 13 protections came up, he didn’t lift a finger to do so. The problem is that each member of the Board of Equalization is supposed to hire tax policy experts who are supposed to justify their substantial salaries by coordinating lots of research into tax policy changes. Schaefer has been the sole one lollygagging. Instead of policy advisors, he hired as his top aides the former Chair of the San Diego Democratic Party — who helped him get the CDP endorsement just prior to his being toppled by charged that “conveniently” didn’t come out until just after the endorsement vote — and his campaign strategist. Dodson did as much as Schaefer to “protect Prop 13” because you can’t do less than zero!

“Equality over Equity.” That’s a pretty useless slogan. If it means “everyone is treated the same way” — well, which is that?

But the final one is where my eyes popped out of my head cartoon style, on springs.

“Career Politician.” Mike Schaefer was the youngest-ever member of the San Diego City Council, more than half a century ago. He has run for District Attorney up north on a platform of busting people who were dodging warrants at the same time as he was dodging a warrant in Nevada! Dodson, on the other hand, has run for office exactly one time — for this same office, four years ago, when Schaefer edged him and Tustin Republican John Kelly to make the runoff — and this is his second race for public office ever!

So who’s the “career politician”?

This is the sort of “Big Lie” that bespeaks dripping contempt for the voters, taking a sociopathic pleasure in cramming their faces down into bowls of bullshit. I find it hard to believe that the San Diego Republican Party came up with this on their own … but if not, who did? Obviously Schaefer is the one who benefits most from this — well, maybe not “most,” as his top aides get paid more than he does, but you get the idea — but still: how did this crap get into this mailer?

I’ll be investigating this over the next week. (Campaign finance filings, impertinent questions — you know the drill.) But let’s imagine for a moment that endorsed-Democratic Schaefer’s team did give money to the San Diego Republican Party in exchange for this nasty little hatchet job going out to who-knows-how-many of the ten million people in this district. IF that turns out to be true, I have two questions:

  1. Would California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks have a problem with that?
  2. Would Democratic Party of Orange County Chair Ada Briceño have a problem with that?

(Wait, I thought of a third question: would Betty Yee and other CDP higher-ups, and other leaders in DPOC, have a problem with endorsed Democrats buying grievously false and red-baiting ads in Republican mailers?)

I’m going to see what I can find about how these attack ads got into glossy print — and then, depending what I find, I’ll invite people to ask our Democratic leaders these questions themselves.

This is your Weekend Open Thread; talk about this or whatever else you’d like — recognizing that anything involving James Mai is on hold until Thanksgiving unless we have a post on him — within reasonable bounds of discretion.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr 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.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)