The last word I would use to describe my friend Elan Carr, an Iraq war veteran and criminal gang prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, is “dreamer.” For the many years I’ve known him, Carr has struck me as Mr. Reality— a straight shooter who sees things as they are, unencumbered by illusions or wishful thinking.
So, how do you explain his decision to run for Congress as a Republican in the 33rd District, one of the most Democratic and liberal districts in the nation?
Before we get to that, let me just say that my intent here is not to endorse a candidate, one way or the other. I’m more interested in the story of why any Republican candidate, friend or otherwise, would choose to dive head first into such a liberal lion’s den.
Remember, this is the district that’s been represented for nearly four decades by Mr. Democrat himself, the beloved and retiring Henry Waxman, a blue-blood liberal if there ever was one.
When voters go to the booths on June 3, they will choose from a formidable array of liberal candidates, from prominent Democrats Wendy Greuel and California Sen. Ted Lieu, to radio host and Los Angeles Times favorite Matt Miller, to spiritual star and author Marianne Williamson. Now those are the kinds of candidates you’d expect to win the day in a district that runs from the Westside and Malibu down the coast through the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
You certainly wouldn’t expect a Republican war veteran to upset this liberal apple cart — so why would a realist like Carr take on this crazy challenge?
From what I’ve gathered during several conversations over the past few weeks, Carr, who speaks fluent Hebrew and whose family belongs to several Westside synagogues, doesn’t believe the odds are so bad. First, there’s the math. With all those prominent Democratic candidates splitting the liberal vote, he sees a good chance of getting into the runoff under the Republican ticket.
Beyond the math, though, there’s Carr himself. He says he’s into issues, not labels. Listen to him talk about immigration, for example, and you might as well be talking to a liberal. He’s a law-and-order guy who believes in enforcing borders, but he also believes that “undocumented residents” (read: illegal immigrants) who contribute to this country should have a path to citizenship.
While reflecting on the complex issue of an immigration policy that he says is “broken and needs to be fixed,” he uses words like “humane” and “sensible.”
That seems to be his favorite question: What makes the most sense?
He also thinks Obamacare is broken and needs to be fixed, but, unlike many Republicans, he doesn’t advocate repealing the program. He prefers reforming it so that it works for all Americans and allows everyone to choose his or her own doctors.
His obsession is with jobs and education, two classic staples of bipartisanship. In his television commercial, even as he talks about the importance of public safety, he connects that issue to improving education and providing more quality jobs.
His slogan is motherhood and apple pie: “Doing what’s right.”
The real question is: Will enough voters buy into his common-sense pitch?
Specifically, will enough liberal voters, disillusioned with Washington, take a chance on a “no-label” Republican trying to do what’s right?
Carr thinks so, which, presumably, makes him a dreamer and a realist. He’s also confident that his established pro-Israel credentials will win him many Jewish votes and sees that issue as a potential tiebreaker in a future runoff.
Before any talk of runoffs, though, he needs to do well enough in the June 3 primary. Just as Moses split the Red Sea to help his people enter the Promised Land, Carr will need to split the deep blue sea of the 33rd District if he hopes to have any chance of winning a seat in the U.S. Congress.
So far, he’s been saying all the right things. Of course, he’s hardly the first candidate to promise bipartisanship and promote ideas like “unifying around doing what’s right.” In fact, I can remember an African-American candidate a few years ago promising pretty much the same thing to get into the White House.
This is the reality of politics. It’s different from the ethics of personal relationships, where the ideal is to under-promise and over-deliver. In the public battlefield of electoral politics, you can’t help but over-promise; and if you win, too often, sadly, you can’t help but under-deliver.
Carr hopes to break that pattern. He realizes that to have any chance of entering his promised land, he has no choice but to make bold promises. But if he wins, he wants to be known as the candidate that over-promised and over-delivered. That’s the reality he’s been dreaming about.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at email@example.com.