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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

California Crossroads

California voters have put the state at a crossroads. Using Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" as an analogy. One is a road deeply trodden black from elections past, the other grassy and wanting for wear.

One road will echo the path of Washington the past eighteen months, the other provide the people with protection from reckless spending, higher taxes and continuing failed economic policies that have pushed our state, and nation, down the road of insolvency.

With our gerrymandered districts for State Senate and Assembly there is little chance the composite of the California Legislature will change. It will remain firmly in control of Democratic majorities, who will need just a few defectors from the GOP side to pass any budgets. Not needed will be any defections to pass mountains of legislation that impact businesses, daily life and continue the intrusion of the state into our lives.

Our government is set up with a system of checks and balances, you learned about them in high school, or should have. Unfortunately too many voters, most voters, do not appreciate their role in the checks and balances between the Legislature and the Executive. Having one party with a significant control over the Legislature and the Executive removes safeguards for extreme legislation.

In the primary election yesterday Meg Whitman secured the Republican nomination in a brutal campaign with mostly Steve Poizner. Whitman trounced Poizner but in the campaign he took more than an ounce of flesh. In a critical election, once again the California Republican Party shows no discipline, no cohesion and assists the Democrats with a close primary fight that wounds the winner financially and politically. Whitman having secured the nomination of the minority party must now unite not only the Republican Party but also enough Independent and Conservative Democrats (are there any in California) to upset her opponent. If Poizner truly cared about this election he would start today in congratulating Whitman on the race and work hard for her campaign for November--without his supporters the race is lost.

Whitman's opponent is no surprise. Spending perhaps $100,000 through the primary former Governor Jerry Brown secured the nomination in a landslide. Making no news, merely sitting back and letting the two Republican candidates pound the politics out of each other, Brown's campaign just ran their DVRs and recorded what a fellow Republican said about Brown's opponent. The Democrats kept any serious candidates out of the race allowing no spears to chink Brown's armor.

Jerry Brown is an open book. He will campaign as close to the center as he can get. He need not appeal to the Democratic base because he is the base: he defines liberalism in California as shown by his years in the Governor's mansion, Mayor of Oakland and more recently as Attorney General. His sole campaign strategy will be to appeal to Independents and the right-wing of the Democratic Party. Sound familiar to November 2008? Like then Senator Obama, Brown can leave his principles and ideology off the campaign trail and pick them back up when, if, elected.

Quickly looking down ticket it is a landslide for Democrats: Lt. Governor will pit Abel Maldonado (R) against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome (D). Maldonado has angered many in the GOP with his vote to raise taxes last year; Newsome is Jerry Jr. with his liberal agenda and willingness to ignore the California Constitution for his own political gain and popularity.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) will face unknown Damon Dunn and unless she is caught doing something illegal will cruise to victory, though depending on the illegal act California voters will probably ignore and transgressions and re-elect her anyway.

Similarly Treasurer Bill Lockyer (D) will face Mimi Walters in a race that should mirror the Secretary of State race.

Perhaps showing some competitiveness will be the race for Attorney General between Kamala Harris (D) and Steve Cooley (R). Cooley has a record that can appeal to the middle, but enough to defeat rising star Harris? He may not contain the GOP base, which would be a shame for that base if they do not support him, if not he goes down.

Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, at a minimum four of the five seats can, and probably will, go Democrat. Facing the "checks" and "balances" of a Democratic Senate and Democratic Assembly.

So the question Californians need to ask is this: Can our state afford having every statewide office plus the Legislature in the control of one party? If you answer "no" then you need to support Meg Whitman for Governor, not just with your vote but with your voice, your money and your relationships. If you answer "yes" then just sit back and wait.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Excerpt from "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

Will California take the one less traveled by?



Bob Schilling said...

It would seem that California Republicans, like their brothers and sisters across the US, have successfully driven moderate conservatives out of their party. Meg Whitman, who could be a formidable candidate, has been pulled much farther to the right than she wanted to go, and her primary statements are going to hurt her in the general election.

Hispanics make up more than 35% of California's population. Many of that group find the Arizona immigration law abhorrent. Statements in support of that law, along with her "no amnesty" pledge will certainly be used against Ms. Whitman in the upcoming election. My guess is that both Meg and Carly have gone so far right that Jerry Brown (who, by the way, speaks fluent Spanish) and even Barbara Boxer may find themselves victors in the upcoming election. Republicans could have had a real shot at both offices, if they had put forward candidates with a moderately conservative platform. It appears to me that they have failed to do so.

I have more hope about gerrymandering. With little fanfare and no press coverage, the Citizens' Commission we voters set up in 2008 is going forward with its work, and we will see the results in 2012. I don't know if it will work, but it just might. And if the open primary works as its advocates claim, we may see some noticeable change.

As for the voters, I think they made some good choices this time. Republicans DID choose the best candidates, except possibly for Tom Campbell, who would have given Boxer a better run IMHO. And they were smart enough to vote down the PG&E utility scam and the Mercury Insurance Benefit Bill. They voted for an open primary, and against a questionable measure for publicly financed Secretary of State elections.

Don't despair. Jerry is saying we've got to live within our means. Barbara is at least muting her more left-wing positions. With the middle open, both of them will run for it. And who knows? Maybe Meg will rebrand herself successfully, snatch the moderates away from Jerry, and win the most uncoveted Governorship in America.

Dennis C Smith said...


As always thanks for your comments. Overall the voters did do much better than usual, although the Open Primary is one I am firmly against. This recent election being an example of where with the Dem nomination in hand significant numbers of registered Democrats could jump to other candidates and push Poizner or even another Dem over the top.

Regarding positions on the election trail v. policies, your last paragraph is what they want us to believe. Jerry has mellowed and Babs sees the error of her positions the past decade plus suddenly. Not buying it.

More locally I am hopeful that all those who voted against Richardson in the Democratic primary (33%?) were voting against her and will continue to vote against her and support Star Parker.