I've embedded the YouTube video below. But read this first, and you'll know what I mean in the headline:
- The choice in the Mayor's race is almost entirely a vote on vision — on how you want our Mayor to lead.
Brewster McCracken and Lee Leffingwell are, more or less, on the same side of most issues. If there are any substantial policy differences between the two, neither has articulated them that well. In fact, a substantive policy discussion is entirely absent from this race.
Therefore, you have to pick who it is you think has the best vision, who you think will best represent your values on a large scale, and who you think will place your interests first and foremost in the decision-making process for mayor. In other words — which person do you trust more, not who has the best policies.
The video encapsulates this perfectly: “hunker down” style of Lee vs. “bold, wise” style of Brewster. But which is actually better?
- Lee Leffingwell is kind of boring and wants to “hunker down” — but is that a bad thing right now?
The video mocks the “fix the potholes” remarks that Lee makes at some forum, contrasting the small-problems of “fixing potholes” to the much larger and more urgent problems facing the city (everyone knows them; not going to repeat them here). But the concept of “hunkering down” is one that has a certain amount of appeal in an uncertain economic time.
First of all — the economy is a huge issue. You can't ignore that. The city budget is “the everything” in these times, and the Leffingwell campaign has shown that they want to “hunker down” and be prudent stewards of the budget. That's not very exciting, it's not very sexy — but based on the backlash I got when suggesting that Austin spend the extra money on local website redesign, it is apparently something that a lot of progressives want.
Furthermore, I think many Austinites are OK with “hunkering down” so long as they feel comfortable that their needs, interests, and concerns will be made a priority. Lee certainly has communicated that level of connection and compassion well, as evidenced by his countless endorsements. If you want “responsible growth” during tough economc times, then Lee seems like your guy.
However, “hunkering down” is boring. It just is. And though there are many economic challenges facing Austin — like an array of unleased condominiums hovering over a proud ambitious city — Austin is not a conservative city. We are a progressive city. We don't want to weather the storm. We want to drive through it and come out the other side before everyone else and be the better for it.
You've also got to ask — what if the sacrifices that need to be made in these economic times are of those that are “hunkered down” with the Mayor? Will all those endorsement groups accept self-sacrifices in these tough times, or will they expect/demand that the Mayor they endorsed treat them special? And how will the Mayor govern when elected by political groups, and not by policy?
- Brewster McCracken wants to lead boldly and wisely — but who is he leading?
The YouTube video below — which was produced by the Brewster McCracken campaign — begins with President Barack Obama's first address to Congress. The video goes back to President Obama saying, “now is the time to act boldly and wisely” several times. Those remarks — and clips from speeches and remarks made by McCracken — are meant to contrast Lee's “hunker down” remarks and the song that plays throughout the video, which repeats “everybody's got to hunker down.”
First let me say — the video is clever. It is refreshing, and it is a fun, new way to look at the campaign. I think it shows that Brewster can frame this race well, it uses Lee's own words (and not some third-party attacks) against him, and it shows Brewster speaking…boldly and wisely. McCracken clearly is one that does not want to hunker down and weather the storm. McCracken is ready to go full speed ahead, and move forward with aggressive/progressive 21st Century policies for a City that prides itself not only on being weird, but on being ahead of the curve.
At the same time — Brewster McCracken is not Barack Obama. And aligning himself with the President is a calculated risk, because while it could connect him and his campaign to the “bold” vision that a majority of Austin wants for the country, it also reinforces the perception that Brewster has a huge ego. For as much as Lee is perceived as being old, stodgy, and “hunkering down” with the
Travis County Democratic Partythe groups that endorsed him, Brewster is perceived as being too bold and “hunkering down” with whatever group or business will help fulfill his particular ambition.
If the hit on Lee is that he won't ask the groups to sacrifice when it is necessary, the hit on Brewster is that he will ask the groups to sacrifice when it is not necessary. Is there truly a choice to make between those two situations that you can be 100% comfortable with?
Personally — and this is just me talking — I think the raps on both candidates have some elements of truth and some elements of campaign hyperbole. Brewster McCracken is a much more honest and trustworthy person than he is often made out to be, and Lee is much more forward-thinking and independent than he is often made out to be. But the perceptions are set and the dye is cast in the electorate…at least for now.
There are forty-three days left until May 9, when final votes will be cast for mayor. The video does a great job, as it was billed to me in the e-mail I received it, as showing “the mayor's race in 4 minutes and 38 seconds.” As I've laid out above, it hits all the general perceptions of the campaigns pretty well — both the good, and the bad.
Will anyone or anything change the dynamics of the race in the last 43 days? Or will the same frames that have been established to date just reinforce themselves until Election Day? We'll have to wait and see…but this is the state of the race now, at least for me.
Tell me why I'm wrong in the comments. I'm still thinking through this race, and I want to hear an honest discussion.
Meanwhile, here's the video from the Brewster McCracken campaign: