Three Rules of Thumb for Late Valley Voters

Robert Frobose
Robert Frobose

Rule #1: Choose democracy.

When America’s founding fathers put the power of last resort in the hands of the people, they knew democracy is a flawed and often clumsy form of government. They also realized that among all options, it’s the most likely to achieve the critical balance between freedom and equality that empowers the best qualities of human nature.

At this point in history, only one of our two major parties is committed to free and fair elections, women’s rights, and science, learning and law over fealty, fear, and fiat. Unless you prefer totalitarianism to democracy, do not vote for any Republican running for state or federal office.

This rule isn’t hard to justify. The Republican Party has shown repeatedly it is now the party of Trump and Trump has shown conclusively he wishes to be dictator for life. His role in the Insurrection of January 6, 2021, shows his determination to overturn free and fair elections in order to gain and maintain power.

The problem for many of us is that a great many Trump supporters are in many ways fine people. The cognitive dissonance between their good character and support for fascism can lead easily to denial and wishful thinking about their fitness for office.

The reality is that once in office, today’s Republicans have no choice other than to march to Trump’s orders. Independent Republicans, like the late “maverick” John McCain are drummed out of the party faster than Rudy Giuliani can lunge for his first predawn Bloody Mary. Just ask Liz Cheney.

Jessica Self with supporter 13 Oct 2022
Jessica Self (center) with supporters, Modesto, 12 October, 2022

Bottom Line: Salas over Valadao, Soria for State Assembly, Self over Alanis, Robertson for State Senate, Gray over Duarte, Harder over Patti, Barkley over McClintock. In doubt? Vote the Democrat.

Rule #2: Don’t underestimate the importance of the low-profile elections.

In the San Joaquin Valley, elections for school boards, irrigation districts and sheriffs often have major consequences.

A prime example is the current election for seats on the Modesto Irrigation District’s (MID) Board of Directors. Water isn’t only necessary for survival, it’s the lifeblood of the local economy. Too few voters understand the high stakes when water sales, declining aquifers and exploitation of  public resources by private entities receive far too little exposure by local media.

With the Valley’s last viable aquifer at stake, MID voters need to understand the importance of choosing Frank Damrell, Robert Frobose and John Boer over their opponents.

Damrell, Frobose and Boer are committed to keeping local water local. Their opponents are not. Selling water is the equivalent of selling your heritage for trinkets and beads. Valley voters need to understand the high stakes in low-profile elections and vote accordingly.

Nick Bavaro with Bruce Frohman, Queen Bean, Modesto
Nick Bavaro (r) with Bruce Frohman

Rule #3: Respect political courage.

At the city and county level, party affiliation is often less important than history and character.  Community engagement, and commitment to truth and transparency in government should be respected and recognized.

If they are already in office or have held office, judge local candidates by their record.  A great many Republicans would like to tiptoe away from the Party of Trump but can’t make the leap to Independent or Democratic affiliation.

A profile in courage, Modesto’s Nick Bavaro, a candidate for City Council and former Republican, has made it clear that he rejects fascism, accepts the 2020 vote as a free and fair election, yet remains a fiscal conservative committed to transparency and honesty in public service. He re-registered as “Decline to State” in 2015. Today, his public position is “no party preference.”

Frank Damrell (right)
Frank Damrell (r) October, 2022

For former Republicans like Bavaro, the choice between honor or office isn’t an issue. They choose honor. That’s why they’re not afraid to say Biden won, Trump lost, and let’s agree that democracy should be defended against fascism.

This doesn’t mean they’ve become flaming liberals. They can remain conservative while repudiating Trump’s fascism.

The point is, they are unafraid to make clear their opposition to Trumpian totalitarianism, even if it means the end of their hopes for office. They put integrity before power, truth before ambition, and honor above all.

Such people are fit to govern. We should give them a chance.



Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
Comments should be no more than 350 words. Comments may be edited for correctness, clarity, and civility.


  1. Good work Eric.

    The economy has nearly doubled in the last 40 years, but the money has been flowing to the rich and away from the middle class and poor. The American worker is as productive now as he/she was in the 1950s, yet our share of the profits from this work has fallen off dramatically starting in the ’80s. Funding for all kinds of public services has been slashed, and today the wealthiest 300,000 Americans have more money than the rest of America combined. And while it has been both republicans and democrats in Washington who have done this to us (not one party), the pathway out of this inequity cannot be more different. While our economic distribution has been reshaped into something akin to the third world, republicans see the way out by establishing a third world government without democracy.

    As justified in their anger as they are, republicans have put their faith in nutjobs like Trump and Kari Lake who see an opportunity to capitalize on the ignorance and desperation of ordinary Americans. It is a very dangerous host/parasite relationship that is in no way symbiotic, and reveals more about the stupidity of Americans than it does the quality of this country.

    A vast majority of Americans are generally liberal. We need to vote these radical nutjobs down and then set to work weeding-out the worst of them like common terrorists. Time to clean house.

    • Not much to disagree with in your comments JT. American workers have labored harder than ever over the decades since the 50s, especially since so many women joined the labor force, yet their share of the nation’s resources has diminished steadily. Yes, both parties abandoned middleclass Americans, but Democrats have at least defended voting rights, equal opportunity, and the rule of law. As you say, our hope for the future depends on turning back those who would overthrow government by the people in favor tyrannical fascism.

      • Eric, for democracy in Turlock we need Gil Esquer

        Gil Esquer has done much to make the City of Turlock a better place to live. As Council member, Gil worked long and hard to develop the West Main Street project; this streamlined traffic flow and provided safe sidewalks for the West Main Street neighborhood. The project also greatly helped the downtown businesses, moving cars safely to shop in downtown Turlock.

        The Columbia pool project is happening because of Gil. He helped initiate the project and has supported it all the way. The soon to be renovated Columbia pool will be used by children from all over Turlock.

        Gil was instrumental in the ACE commuter train station being located near the Roger K. Fall Transit Center. There will be plenty of parking at the Transit Center and fairgrounds, while easily accessible by bus. Gil Esquer was the one who helped develop the plan and supported it until it was finalized at this location.

        We need Gil’s enthusiasm for the needs of local citizens, his practical approach to problems and his follow through work ethic. Your vote only counts when you vote, please mark your ballot for Gil Esquer for Turlock mayor and mail or deliver your ballot by November 8! Thank you Eric for promoting democracy.

  2. Excellent article well written very same ideas I had when I voted. I did not spend three years in US Army to turn our Democracy over to a blond Mussolini

    Newsom halts $1 billion in funding for housing California’s homeless
    11/04/2022. Headline

    Gov. Gavin Newsom


    California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday he halted $1 billion in state funds for housing homeless people, arguing local officials’ plans for spending the money are inadequate.

    Newsom has budgeted billions of dollars toward assisting local governments with housing homeless people. In the latest round of funding, the state was due to allocate a combined total of $1 billion to California counties, along with the 13 largest cities in the state and homeless services organizations.

    The funding was conditioned upon each local government developing a state-approved plan to reduce the number of homeless people and to increase permanent housing. Current plans will not tackle the homelessness crisis fast enough, Newsom says.

    “Californians demand accountability and results, not settling for the status quo,” Newsom said in a statement. “As a state, we are failing to meet the urgency of this moment. Collectively, these plans set a goal to reduce street homelessness 2% statewide by 2024. At this pace, it would take decades to significantly curb homelessness in California – this approach is simply unacceptable. Everyone has to do better – cities, counties, and the state included. We are all in this together.” [Please read the rest of the article for yourselves]

    Personally, and on behalf of those in Stanislaus County, and elsewhere in CA, this current news is mind boggling, and horrendously sad.

    What is wrong with Stanislaus County and the cities, like Modesto, that they can NOT come up with economically viable solutions. I think they can, they just do NOT want to. Meaning, solutions that Valley Citizens have recommended are distasteful to their palates. NOT only officials and unelected naysayers, BUT those of philanthropists and other NIMBY types who get their own ways, riding roughshod over the rest of us tax paying and non-taxpaying citizens, including the thousands of houseless who should NOT have ever been without permanent homes, and certainly NOT still so.

    The rentier economy and class, need to be replaced. Zoning and regulations need to change. There is no place for ANY that cause HARDSHIP and HUMANITARIAN CRISIS…


  4. Well, when it comes to politics, we don’t agree. you claim that Trump and his voters are fascists. While we claim Joe Biden and gang are socialists and communists. Regardless of what label you put on your opposing side, let’s review the results. Economy prior to Joe Biden: low unemployment, low interest rates, low inflation, low taxes, energy independent. Now with Biden- High gas prices , highest inflation in 40 years, Recession and higher taxes. Joe Biden’s admin has increased the deficit by $10 Trillion in 2 years… and his FBI are lawless thugs, while his minions get away with murder and mayhem. Do I like Trump- not really. I would prefer Someone less abrasive, but given the choice of Hillary vs Trump- Murderer vs. Tweeter , well. I prefer to lean towards protecting the innocent. Who will run in 2024- obviously it will likely be Newsome vs. _______…..Biden won’t remember who we are by then. Regardless of who it is. Isn’t it about time for term limits for all- both sides of the aisle.

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