The political press corps has known Bob Stern as the straight-arrow president of Los Angeles' Center for Governmental Studies who helped Jerry Brown create the Fair Political Practices Commission in 1974. Since the center closed its L.A. offices in 2011, Stern seems to have developed a devious side -- or was it there all along? I ask, because in his "The November Election" course at UCLA extension, Stern managed to set up a scenario wherein a substantial majority -- he thinks two-thirds of the class of westside liberals, his wife, Joan, says three-quarters -- raised their hands when asked if they could vote for Donald Trump in November.
How did Stern do it? Before he set up his scenario, Stern had asked the 125 political junkies in his class to raise their hands if they were going to vote for Trump, Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein. While a couple of students said they were undecided, no one raised a hand for Trump, Johnson or Stein. Everyone else supported Clinton -- no surprise in West L.A., where it is universally acknowledged that no thinking person would ever vote for The Donald.
Stern laid out this hypothetical situation: What if Trump won the Democratic Party nomination? (It's not a far-fetched question. Trump was a registered Democrat from 2001 to 2009 and had donated more to Democratic campaign coffers than GOP committees before he flirted with running for president in 2012.)
A Democratic Trump would have said all the objectionable things -- such as that Mexican immigrants often are criminals, drug dealers and rapists -- that Trump, the Republican, said during the GOP primary. Trump (D) likewise would have refused to release his tax returns. But Trump (D) differed from Trump (R) in one defining way -- he embraced the Democratic platform. Trump (D) also promised to make Merrick Garland his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court and Barack Obama his second. And, Obama announced he would accept Trump's nomination.
With no Trump in the Stern's hypothetical GOP field, Republicans nominate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who in 2013 spearheaded a doomed-to-fail tea party stunt to "defund Obamacare" by shutting down the federal government. In this matchup, at least Trump would be closer on the issues to L.A. liberals than Cruz.
One last condition: Each member of the class would have to vote because he or she would be given the power to decide the actual outcome of the election.
The exercise served as a kind of Stanford Prison Experiment for liberals. Stern tried out his experiment on friends and associates before he presented it to his class. Two professors now say they want to kill themselves.
Friend and former Los Angeles Times City Editor Bill Boyarsky told Stern that rather than choose, he would go to the dean and ask to be released from the course. But "if a damned journalist kept pushing me and wouldn't get off the phone till I answered," he would vote for Cruz, a Harvard Law School graduate who at least has "been exposed to the precepts of our democracy."
Unlike Boyarsky, most of Stern's charges chose Trump (D). You went with Trump, Stern told students, despite all his outrageous statements and lack of qualifications, because of the Supreme Court, party loyalty and dislike of the opposition. "People keep asking, 'How can anybody vote for Trump?'" Stern added. "I say, 'You just did.'"