Decades of liberal centrism have wedged this year's mayoral crop into a narrow political bandwidth in which -- surprise, surprise! -- the strongest rhetoric the challengers to Mayor Frank Jordan can muster is that we need a change.
Willie Brown is coasting on his lead, expending more energy on avoiding gaffes typified by his Treasure Island casino idiocy than on saying something interesting. Angela Alioto, once a big backer of the screwball scheme to municipalize Pacific Gas and Electric, has blitzed to the center, too. Instead of hyping the transformation of PG&E into SFG&E (which would graft the inefficiencies of socialism onto the brutality of oligopoly), Alioto obsesses on reclaiming the PG&E franchise fees. Even Roberta Achtenberg's oratory about reinventing government and her threats to oust the unpopular chief of police have failed to test the boundaries of the current political consensus.
It wasn't that way in campaign '91. Mayor Art Agnos successfully painted Jordan as a knuckle-dragging mossback, offering the voters a real choice in which they rejected the liberal. One measure of the timidity and centrism of this year's campaign is that the challengers have been so soft on Jordan that he hasn't had to move a political inch to join them in the center. (Perhaps Jordan could boost his ratings in the polls by encouraging more vociferous attacks.)
The result of all this moderation has been a campaign for milquetoasts, but that will change on Oct. 16, when the boys and girls of Might magazine and the webslingers behind the World Sports & Events Now site debut the most stimulating and slanderous mayoral forum of the campaign: Electomatic.
Electomatic (http://www.electomatic.com) heaves a stinking dead cat into the political temple. It fuses scrupulous research, high innuendo, and pure fabrication into a pugnacious home page about the mayoral campaign, and while it might not be the most accurate chronicle of the fall political season, it certainly is the truest.
Electomatic's wisdom informs the Willie Brown page with this fictive campaign bio:
"Highlights of Brown's legislative acumen include: The 1975 Consenting Adults Act, which made it a law that only consenting adults were permitted to witness pre-teen sex acts; the 1977 Morons' Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination against nuclear physicists based on mental disabilities; and the Tee Time Act of 1980, which prohibited vomiting on the first tee of municipal golf courses."
Putting words into Brown's mouth, Electomatic has him proposing a tax of $2,000 on the family members of people who commit suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge. "It's just not fair that we have the most popular and scenic suicide site in the world, and don't get shit for it," the candidate is "quoted."
Also revealed for the first time are the names that Frank rejected for his homeless program before he settled on Matrix: "Starflux," "Galacticus X," "Cylon Rex," "Nekron 4," "Defcon 5" -- and, my personal favorite, "Get off my street you filthy pigdogs! Please!"
The leading candidates have their own Q&A columns on Electomatic, too. Alioto dispenses love advice. (Q: "I'm dating this guy who is charming, apparently wealthy, and generous, but my friends says he's a no-good con man who's taking me ... for all I'm worth. ... Any thoughts?" Angela: "I, too, had the pants charmed off of me by a guy who turned out to be NG. Between you and me, all you have to do to protect your reputation is deny, deny, DENY.") Frank offers decorating tips. ("Sometimes my wife Wendy and I just love to waste away our days, thinking about color schemes and light combinations.") And in "Ask Roberta!" the robotic former HUD bureaucrat comes off as a ... robotic former HUD bureaucrat. (Q: "What do you think of the results of Mayor Jordan's Matrix program?" Roberta: "Listen, how am I supposed to keep up with all the nitty-gritty about your little Matrix thingy when I've been in Washington, D.C., dealing with major housing issues, like finding homes for the victims of the L.A. earthquake? Sometimes I wonder about the priorities in this city!")
For voters unable to sleep, Electomatic has posted a genuine position paper from each candidate and created links to the candidates' own home pages.
What's in it for Electomatic's producers and programmers? The Mighty ones were paid for constructing jests that stretch the fabric of Times vs. Sullivan; the World Sports & Events folks get an opportunity to showcase their skills at programming and demonstrate the commercial viability of event-oriented Web sites. You get to laugh your ass off in front of your computer.
The most stunning stuff Electomatic has to offer can't be revealed before the launch date. Let's just say that the Might scalawags have engaged in highly unorthodox campaign volunteering and financing.
To prove that they have at least as good a sense of humor as the voters, all the candidates have tentatively agreed to visit the Might/Electomatic party at Club 181 at Eddy and Taylor on Oct. 18 between 8:45 and 10 p.m. Let's hope that the candidates attend and accept a few drinks, if only to medicate the lumps they've taken.