Friday, September 10, 2010




Ask the majority of California’s registered voters why they often don’t turn out at election time, and you’ll frequently get a stock answer: “There’s no real difference between the two big parties, so it won’t make any difference who gets elected.”

When it comes to foreign and defense policy, there’s some limited truth to that. Though it has brought a change in approach to the war in Iraq, electing Democrat Barack Obama to follow Republican ex-President George W. Bush brought little or no change to the war in Afghanistan or the way America props up some corrupt governments. Even though Obama has not been as warm as Bush to Israel, fundamental policy there also has not changed.

But there’s plenty of difference between Republicans and Democrats in bunches of other areas, and no political race in recent memory has brought these contrasts to the surface more than the tight ongoing contest between three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and her GOP challenger Carly Fiorina.

Never mind that this is the first time California has seen an all-female race for a top-of-the-ticket post. Skip over Fiorina’s claim that she could do more for California than Boxer. That’s a completely unlikely proposition under a Democratic president. Not only would Fiorina take office with zero seniority in the Senate, but it’s absurd to think Obama would do her any favors after she spent much of her campaign trashing him and his policies, almost all supported by Boxer.

Most potential voters will likely be less interested in all that than what Fiorina might support and what Boxer has backed. That’s where the differences become huge. They became extremely obvious early this month in the pair’s lone debate of the campaign.

Start with abortion, where a summertime Field Poll found about 70 percent of Californians still solidly believe in a woman’s right to choose. Boxer and Fiorina could not be farther apart.

“Carly is pro-life,” her Web site flatly says, without qualification. “Carly believes that life begins at conception. She earned an A rating from the National Right to Life Committee.”

Boxer’s Web site: “Senator Boxer is recognized as the Senate’s leader in the fight to protect a woman’s right to choose – so that reproductive decisions stay out of the hands of government and remain between a woman and her doctor.” Boxer led the Senate fight to end a Bush-imposed “global gag rule” that prohibited any international aid organization getting federal money from using even privately-raised funds to provide abortions or birth control information.

Then there’s illegal immigration. Fiorina has consistently dodged answering questions about whether illegal immigrants should ever get a path to U.S. citizenship. “First, we have to secure the border,” she said at one Sacramento town hall. Next, America needs “a temporary worker program that works.” Her Web site says much the same, with nary a word about amnesty in its immigration section.

Boxer, meanwhile, supports “comprehensive immigration reform that includes both a path to citizenship and tougher border security.” She also opposes temporary worker programs because they’ve always been “designed to create a permanent pool of low-paid workers and may actually…increase illegal immigration.”

And there’s same-sex marriage. Boxer is for, Fiorina against.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” the Republican said, adding that she supported the 2008 Proposition 8 which aimed to ban gay marriages in California.

Boxer: “I support marriage equality.” She opposed Proposition 8 and was one of only 14 senators voting against the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which allows any state the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. In short, if two California women went to Massachusetts and got hitched, California would not have to recognize that marriage as legal when they returned home.

The contrasts go on and on, through offshore oil drilling (Boxer against, Fiorina formerly for but wishy-washy since the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico), the death penalty (Fiorina unequivocally for it, Boxer saying little or nothing) and allowing children of illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition at California colleges (Fiorina against, Boxer for).

There’s little uncertainty here. On almost every major issue, no one need have much doubt about how either of these women would vote. Fiorina bills herself as a solid conservative on both fiscal and social issues; Boxer has long been one of the Senate’s leading liberals.

So let’s not pretend these two are a modern pairing of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. For any voter who cares about today’s most significant and emotional issues, this contest offers a clear choice and no excuse for not voting.

Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated soft cover edition. Email him at

No comments:

Post a Comment