Mark Patrosso re-registering. (Photo courtesy Mark Patrosso)
By Lisa Morehouse
We don’t need to tell you the American electorate is polarized these days. You just have to tune in to any call-in show or even make an injudicious casual remark at Thanksgiving dinner to realize how personal our political identities are and how emotional discussing the issues and values surrounding them can be. So we decided it would be interesting to ask one Republican and one Democrat why they did what is unthinkable to so many: switch parties. Two portraits of political discontent…
The first thing you should know about Mark Patrosso is that he was very involved in the Republican Party for a very long time. At just 9-years-old, he watched the entire 1964 Republican Convention when Barry Goldwater was nominated — even though his parents weren’t interested in politics.
If anything, Patrosso should have been a Democratic kid. He spent his childhood in East Detroit, a working-class Democratic suburb of the Motor City. In junior high, he says other kids probably thought he was a little weird when he volunteered to fill a display case with information on presidential candidate Richard Nixon. “I remember going into the local Nixon headquarters, picking up buttons, reading profiles,” Patrosso recalls.
Patrosso was just crazy for politics. “I probably actually read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in junior high and high school, or referred back just to understand what they really meant,” he says. “I’m not sure that my peers even cared.” Continue reading →
Outside the courthouse in the city of Riverside housing speculators sit in lawn chairs — protected from the mid-day sun by little blue awnings — and place their bids in the daily home foreclosure auction.
The same scene plays out every week day in San Bernardino, Chino, Fontana and other Inland Empire cities. Behind each auction is someone who reached out for the American Dream but couldn’t hold on.
On a road trip to take the political pulse of this growing region, The California Report’s Scott Shafer talked with homeowners losing their grasp and investors scooping up properties at a discount — who say they are re-energizing the area’s economy and helping it recover from the crushing effects of the recession.
But it will take a long time for the Inland Empire to bounce back from the mortgage meltdown. The region boomed in the last decade, then suffered the second highest home foreclosure rate in the country. It still struggles with 13 percent unemployment, higher than the state average.
The recession has left many in the Inland Empire feeling politically irrelevant and overlooked, in spite of the fact that the region is home to 4 million people, larger than many states.
In his reporting, Shafer found people working to create a stronger political voice for the region. And this election year could be key.
Though the Inland Empire has long been a Republican stronghold, many of the new arrivals from coastal cities are more likely to be Democrats. That means that several congressional elections here are now hotly contested. And with both parties campaigning hard, the Inland Empire could get what it’s been craving: attention from politicians.
We’re six months out and the 2012 presidential race is gearing up. President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are moving into general election mode. And the Super PACs that support them — and can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money — are charging into the race.
The cash is flowing. The ads are flying. But what will voters take from it all?
The Obama campaign announced it would spend $25 million on ads just in the month of May. The first salvo is a strictly positive ad, touting the president’s hard work to dig the country out of the recession he inherited.
Meanwhile Americans For Prosperity, the conservative Super PAC, has unleashed its own anti-Obama ads, complete with allegations that American tax dollars meant for green job stimulus have been spent overseas.