This is a dispatch from purgatory--the purgatory to which we've all been condemned until this business about the identity of our next president is cleared up. I'd never realized until quite late on election night just how nervous purgatory can make a person. This particular purgatory is finite, endless though it may seem; you know that something either better or worse awaits on January 20. Unless you voted for Ralph Nader, however, exactly what awaits is a matter of some moment. (If you voted for Nader, the fate of mere people and nations--indeed, the effect of your vote on mere people and nations--is as naught next to the eternal verities that Nader proclaimed and that won 2.6 percent of voters' support on election day.)
Alan Cranston was always an organizer--one of the best of the post-World War II generation. Soon after the war ended, he founded and built the United World Federalists, an expression of postwar one-worldism that valiantly battled the Cold War zeitgeist. After he left the U.S. Senate eight years ago, he founded and built the Global Security Institute, a group dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, in which cause he enlisted such notables as Jimmy Carter and, improbably enough, onetime cold warrior Paul Nitze. When Cranston died on the final day of last year, he'd been planning an initiative campaign for nuclear abolition.
Even by the fast-forward standards of California politics,
where term limits bump off the entire state legislature every eight years,
Antonio Villaraigosa has had a meteoric career. In the early 1990s, he was an
organizer for the teachers' union, a county supervisor's delegate on the L.A.
transit board, and president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern
California--none of these particularly promising starting points for a career in
politics. By 1998, astonishingly, he had become speaker of the California
Assembly--and today, he is the great progressive hope in the upcoming election
for mayor of Los Angeles.
The old order still governs here; the future will not be rushed. Considering all the changes Los Angeles has gone through in just the past decade--white flight and immigrant influx, the displacement of the business elite, the rebirth of the union movement, the rise of a labor-Latino alliance--the idea that a new urban progressive coalition could officially take power this year might have been one transformation too many, one bridge too far (or, at least, too quick). Yet it almost happened--indeed, might have happened if the old order hadn't waged a disgraceful campaign to keep its hold on power.