Sat, Jun

Making Sense of the Election, and Other Things


GELFAND’S WORLD - That red wave or, as I preferred to call it, the red tide, failed to appear on Election night.

The Republicans were predicting at least a two-seat majority in the U.S. Senate and a turnover of perhaps 30 seats in the House. Right now, if Arizona holds for Senator Kelly, control over the Senate will be a rerun of 2020, including a runoff election for the senate seat from Georgia. A victory in Georgia would give the Democrats a 50-50 tie and therefore, with the Vice President's vote, a ruling majority. In other words, the Senate will be almost unchanged from 2021-2022, with the exception that the senator from Pennsylvania will replace the senator from Nevada. 

Over in the House, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Democrats hold their already narrow majority. But we can imagine, if a bit optimistically, that the Republicans will only have narrow control. They will presumably do all they can to impede Biden's agenda, to throw mud at Biden and his son, and to undo everything accomplished by the January 6 committee. The Democratic president and whatever Democratic leadership still exists will be crazy not to start their 2024 campaign by running against the do-nothing House and their clown car membership. 

And beginning with the 2023 session, the Democrats will be advised to make Republican hypocrisy a centerpiece in their electioneering. Abortion is bad, unless it is a Republican candidate who wrote the check. Treason is bad, unless it is Trump supporters doing it. 

But let's make no bones about it -- this was a defeat for the Democrats. But considering the level of inflation in food prices and gasoline, it wasn't nearly as bad a defeat as it could have been. It seems that the voters balanced out the Democratic negatives with the long term Republican Party negatives. 

At a different level, we have this column by Liz Peek, on the Fox site, arguing that Ron DeSantis is now the leader of the Republican Party. What we can predict is that there will be continuing sparring between DeSantis and Donald Trump over the 2024 presidential nomination. If Trump were a normal person, we could imagine Trump losing a primary here and there and then graciously conceding and offering his support to the new candidate. I think we all understand why this will never happen. Democrats will be cheering on the splintering in the Republican Party. 

Everyone is wondering and waiting for a declaration by Joe Biden that he will not be running for reelection in 2024. Maybe he is serious about hanging on well into his 80s, but given a span of a year or so, it could be that some new, younger Democrat will go to the top of the pack. Such a new face would have a decent chance against DeSantis and an even better chance against a damaged and savage Donald Trump. 

Los Angeles City government is undergoing a transformation 

The news at the local level is particularly interesting. It's true that there are still unreported votes and the next data release won't be until Friday according to the county Registrar Recorder. But as of now, it's hard to find a former City Council member still standing. That includes councilman Koretz, who couldn't hold on against a no-name opponent in the race for Controller. Mitch O'Farrell is behind in his race for reelection, although not nearly so much as he was in the primary, and Gil Cedillo was defeated in the primary. We can expect four or five brand new Council members when the new session starts, plus the replacement for Nury Martinez to be elected in April and perhaps at some point a replacement election for Kevin de Leon. 

As of right now, these are the leaders 

District 5: Yaroslavsky (not Zev -- a new one) 

District 11: Park 

District 13: Soto-Martinez 

District 15: McOsker 

Adding the newly elected replacement for Gil Cedillo, the appointed replacement for Jose Huizar, and expected special election replacements for Nury Martinez and possibly Kevin de Leon, we have the makings for either a pretty strong reform caucus or another generation of get-along-to-go-along people. My advice to them is that they should remember why the voters rose up against incumbents. If you see corruption, speak up about it and vote against it. 

A remarkable new opera 

The Los Angeles Opera has been doing a brand new opera called Omar. It's based on the true story of a learned and devout Muslim from Senegal who was captured by slavers, survived the middle passage, and found himself on the auction block in Charleston, South Carolina. He is threatened and abused by his new master, but manages to run away to Fayetteville (in North Carolina) where he has been advised to seak a person who is described as a "good master." The story continues as his faith allows him to endure and make a life out of his new situation. 

The music is lush where it needs to be lush, rhythmic when it needs to be rhythmic, and eastern in different ways when such is indicated. You can recognize hints of Gershwin, Wagner, and Africa in the various sections. There is gospel performed by a particularly adept chorus. 

This viewer found the opening act a little depressing (who wouldn't) considering that it involves a good and strong character taken prisoner and forced to learn to act and talk like a slave. The second act is a revelation of beautiful singing and orchestral accompaniment. We should mention the scenary and costumes, which are adorned with writing in Arabic, apparently including texts from the Muslim holy book -- the words appearing one by one along the walls and scenary, as if written by a celestial hand. The designer has used trees made of rope and what looked like giant scarves to build a dreamy setting in some places while showing slavery at other points. 

The opera develops and concludes on a hopeful note, in that Omar the slave gets to write his life story. The opera is intended to depict the true story of the life of Omar Ibn Said, who wrote his life story in Arabic and which you can read in English translation.  

James McCorkle as Omar and Jacqueline Echols as Julie sang well and were big hits with the audience. Composer Michael Abels combined elements of African music, Gershwin, Wagner, and others, as mentioned above, into a score that won a standing ovation. Rhiannon Giddens was both librettist and co-composer with Abel. 

Los Angeles Opera has been doing something interesting this season by featuring a large number of American born singers, including quite a few who have come out of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists Program. This opera was different from most others in that the majority of the players were African Americans playing the African and African-American slaves of the early 1800s. 

The connection to modern reality 

It was jarring to watch this opera on the night following election day in the United States. The right wing, particularly that element which caters to white supremacy, has been doing its best to deny the realities of American history, including our refusal to recognize the ugly realities both of slavery and of the laws that were written to support and defend it. At a moment when frank defenders of the ultra-right wing won seats in congress, this opera exposed some of the reality, from the parents being sold away from their child to the forced indoctrination in the religion of the whites, to the brutal reality described by the character Julie (Jacqueline Echols), where she described the difference between having a good master (you wait to die) vs having a bad master (you desire to die). At the cultural and political level, this was a dousing in intellectual cold water tempered by the beautiful music and legitimate hope embodied by the title character.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]) 

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