I'm often asked by people - both Democrats frustrated that I won't toe the party line and Republicans who are baffled that I still self-identify as a Democrat - why I don't just ditch the party label and become a Republican.
(Note that this doesn't just happen online; it happens in my real life as well.)
I'm pretty deeply attached to principles I see as fundamentally Democratic, and I've been a Democrat all my political life. But beyond that, I live in California, where our Republican Party is just - nuts.
Nuts and ineffective is, as Dean Wermer once famously said, no way to go through life, So I don't spend a lot of time trying to constructively criticize the GOP, because I'm not very interested in it.
But in reality, I ought to be - and a Republican Party that would even tempt someone like me would probably be a pretty strong party electorally. And if we had two strong parties here in California, my lame-ass but beloved Democrats couldn't get away with the nonsense they too-often peddle and would have to grow up.
So that there is a vigorous contest of ideas in California politics. Right now, Republicans are so trapped in their ideological hall of mirrors that they have become a distorted caricature of themselves. They can thump their chests and win big attaboys at the California Republican Assembly convention. But they utterly fail to reflect the impulses of the vast majority of California voters who tend to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
Republicans believe in smaller government, lower taxes, reduced regulation, economic growth, individual freedom and law and order, to name a few GOP values.
They should continue to stand and fight for all of those. But they need to build all that into a platform that begins with a realistic growth agenda. Investments in roads, bridges, dams and/or levees, water projects, schools and universities, redevelopment projects, ports - all these things and more - are wholly consistent with their philosophical world view. Their fixation on opposing everything the Democrats propose is hurting them more than it is helping them.
Republicans could become leading advocates of an economic rebound strategy that relies on Silicon Valley innovation, green jobs, high-tech research and development. They could integrate this with increased exports for a growing agricultural sector and a healthy and expanding service economy.
They don't have to continually serve the interests of the wealthiest 2% of California families - they can focus of the struggling middle class. And they need to remember that California is not Kentucky or Alaska or any other state where the so-called "tea party" is a big deal. In California, tea party ideology is a non-starter.
I pretty much agree except for the last point - note that the Tea Party/GOP candidate for Assembly in my district won in every city except Los Angeles. And I think that "tea party" ideology is far from formed at this point, so it's more than a little premature to declare it dead anywhere.
Proposition 21 restores a vehicle tax that was cut some years ago, and sets the funds aside for parks and wildlife programs.
First, I've got an immense problem with these "special fees" that pay for things that our basic taxes are supposed to pay for. Beyond that, the financial structure that we've erected in California with special fees, setasides, and voter-enacted budget restrictions.
I'd support an initiative to clear all those away and simply let the Legislature and Governor budget and if we don't like their work - fire them. We make a difficult job impossible with these kinds of restrictions (think Robocop2 and the list of rules they put on him - "Don't walk through puddles", etc.), and we give our leadership excuses for failure.
Second, this is a clear example of the cynicism of our political class and the fungibility of cash - from the "No" statement a quote from State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) - "Why would anyone vote for the park pass (Prop 21) if we've already fully funded the state parks?"
Today's news is all about Crusty (the nickname that local commentators have given Brown) or one of his aides muttering that eMeg is a "whore" in an inadvertently recorded conversation.
My reaction is a little contrarian on this, for two reasons - I think it's nice to see politicians when they are human (and they're all human) - and I really, really dislike the "cloak of perfection" we expect our candidates to wrap around themselves.
With evident frustration, Brown discussed the pressure he was under to refuse to reduce public safety pensions or lose law enforcement endorsements to Whitman. Months earlier, Whitman had agreed to exempt public safety officials from key parts of her pension reform plan.
"Do we want to put an ad out? ... That I have been warned if I crack down on pensions, I will be ... that they'll go to Whitman, and that's where they'll go because they know Whitman will give 'em, will cut them a deal, but I won't," Brown said.
So for all the folks hammering on my endorsement of him in the comments below...how do you square that circle??
Here is Brown - doing the right thing and challenging the sacred cows - and here's Meg, milking them.
Brown is a much more complex figure than he is being credited as on the right. And from my point of view - when I make my vote - it's about the bet that Brown is more likely to take on the sacred cows effectively than eMeg, who has shown both that she's likely to be ineffective, and that she's scared of them.
I went to freshman orientation at LG's high school last week, and in his opening statement, the principal mentioned that by the end of their sophomore year, 50% of the high school kids in the nation have tried marijuana. So - de facto - it's as legal as alcohol.
Let's be clear. When I was in college, I did inhale. And when I was in grad school, I has a roommate for a year who was unstoned for - maybe - a week in the whole time we lived together. He's since written a book about his life and addictions (My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life: An Anti-Memoir
); being stoned didn't appear to work out so well for him - although we've communicated recently and he seems to be doing more than OK. But I've used him as a cautionary tale for my sons, two of whom survived high school and college so far and all of whom seem to be doing just fine.
So I'm not exactly pro-chronic. But I am someone who thinks that the drug wars are wars we should withdraw from; I'd rather live with treating more addicts and fewer shot-up gang members, and the best way to deal with the various cartels in Mexico is simply to defund them. We're trying harder and harder and accomplishing less and less about drugs using the "ban them" approach. So it's time to try something different.
Proposition 19 isn't remotely a perfect law. But it's a good-enough law that's come at the right time.
It will doubtless trigger massive court battles, and a serious political conflict; at the end of it, if we're lucky and sober enough, we'll have drug policies that actually work. As a step in getting there, I encourage you to vote "YES" on Proposition 19.
When Prop 11 passed a few years ago, moving legislative districting in California out of the hands of the legislators and into a cumbersome but probably neutral bureaucratic process, a deal was made whereby the legislators stripped reapportionment of Congressional districts out of it. Because God forbid that Congressmembers are chosen by the voters, as opposed to choosing the voters.
Prop 20, sponsored by Charles Munger, undoes that deal, and adds Congressional districts in California to the districts that will be apportioned by the Citizen's Commission.
It's an obvious "YES".
On the other hand, a bunch of Democratic politicians and their minions got together and added Prop 27 to the ballot, which undoes Prop 11 and places redistricting back in the hands of legislators.
Which is a horrible idea. So please vote "NO" on 27.
I don't think fixing gerrymandering will fix all, or even many, of our political problems here in California. But it's a good start.
Remember, people shouldn't fear their government - government should fear the people.
Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone's list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots. Although she is chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, it is telling that leadership on the most pressing issue before it - climate change - was shifted to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., because the bill had become so polarized under her wing.
For some Californians, Boxer's reliably liberal voting record may be reason enough to give her another six years in office. But we believe Californians deserve more than a usually correct vote on issues they care about. They deserve a senator who is accessible, effective and willing and able to reach across party lines to achieve progress on the great issues of our times. Boxer falls short on those counts.
Boxer's campaign, playing to resentment over Fiorina's wealth, is not only an example of the personalized pettiness that has infected too much of modern politics, it is also a clear sign of desperation.
I may not agree with Fiorina on many issues; but I do respect her. And if she's too far off-base, we will replace her in six years.
With someone who isn't Barbara Boxer. Because really, that's all I'm looking for in this race.
Honestly, I wanted to break ranks on this one. I wanted to support someone who would try and break the stranglehold that public sector unions have on California politics, and with the bulk of Brown's funds coming from those unions...I'm not optimistic that he's the one.
And if eMeg had been...well, half the candidate that Chris Christie was in New Jersey (...rimshot!) I'd have been doorknocking for her.
But you know what? You need to be able to govern to be governor. And that starts with a basic ability to communicate in public. And her flat inability to shove aside this idiotic charge about her domestic help is the nail in the coffin for her.
It's not the issue - the issue is (as I just said) idiotic. But can you imagine Christie confronted with this?
"What? You're asking me why after I paid my maid three times the minimum wage, checked her paperwork, paid taxes on her - and she turns out to have defrauded me - I'm the bad guy? Next question."
Sorry, Meg, but you must be this tall to go on this ride...and you're not.
It's gonna be a symbolic vote - Boxer will crush him. But if he gets a decent percent...5 or even 4 percent, given the thinness of his self-managed campaign, it'll send a message to the Democratic powers-that-be that there's an audience for a message that isn't trimmed to suit the institutional powers that own the party.
I've got to admit that I'm constantly bemused by the California Republican Party. We're a crazy Democratic state (instead of a sane Democratic state) because the GOP is so insular and Judean People's Front-like.
Well, the progressive liberals that dominate main stream media newspaper editorial boards are at it again. This time we see it is the sage and wise lefties on the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board who are telling us that Tom Campbell is the best GOP pick for the U.S. Senate. You know what I say to these fine folks on the SacBee Ed Board who in 2008 levied their endorsement of Barack Obama for President of the United States? Butt out!
Yeah those outsiders - you know, people like me, who don't like Barbara Boxer very much and actually might vote for Campbell in spite of his flaky Middle East views (but wouldn't in a million years vote for Devore) - ought to butt out and let the GOP pick a pure, truly Republican candidate who can lose by 20 points to Boxer in November.
As a part of what I'm reacting to in the Watertown Times editorial last week (note that I'm not necessarily weeping and rending my garments over the election outcome - I don't know enough about Owens to have an opinion yet), let me toss this out. In the LA Times today, there was an op-ed which - to a large extent I agree with. the author complains about the political idiocy that's ruling California today:
The ineffective response to the current financial crisis reflects trends that have been hurting California public education for years. To win votes, political leaders mandated long prison sentences that forced us to stop building schools and start building prisons. This has made us dumber but no safer. Leaders pandered by promising tax cuts no matter what and did not worry about how to provide basic services without that money. Those tax cuts did not make us richer; they've made us poorer. To remain in office, they carved out legislative districts that ensured we would have few competitive races and leaders with no ability or incentive to compromise. Rather than strengthening the parties, it pushed both parties to the fringes and weakened them.
When the economy was good, our leaders failed to make hard choices and then faced disasters like the energy crisis. When the economy turned bad, they made no choices until the economy was worse.
In response to failures of leadership, voters came up with one cure after another that was worse than the disease -- whether it has been over-reliance on initiatives driven by special interests, or term limits that remove qualified people from office, or any of the other ways we have come up with to avoid representative democracy.
My story is not unique. It is the story of California's rise from the 1960s to the 1990s. Millions of people stayed here and succeeded because of their California education. We benefited from the foresight of an earlier generation that recognized it had a duty to pay it forward.
That was the bargain California made with us when it established the California Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960. By making California the state where every qualified and committed person can receive a low-cost and high-quality education, all of us benefit. Attracting and retaining the leaders of the future helps the state grow bigger and stronger. Economists found that for every dollar the state invests in a CSU student, it receives $4.41 in return.
So as someone who has lived the California dream, there is nothing more painful to me than to see this dream dying. It is being starved to death by a public that thinks any government service -- even public education -- is not worth paying for. And by political leaders who do not lead but instead give in to our worst, shortsighted instincts.
But there's a problem...let me give some examples.
CSU LA, one local campus of the California State University - the author was a Trustee of the statewide institution - has 119 employees who make over $100K in annual salary - plus 40% burden, I'd guess. The campus President makes $389,679.
Take a look at the job descriptions and salaries below (I've deleted the names, but all this information is available courtesy of the Sacramento Bee). And there's the rub.
I don't mind a whit supporting the cost of building out a university system that could be available to everyone in California (side issue: does everyone really have to go to college?). I think that ladder of opportunity is vital to our success as a state and as a nation.
But when the ladder-builders are getting this fat, lots of people are going to look at their demands for better ladders and wonder whether those ladders are really worth funding.
The relationship between Democratic leaders and some of their labor benefactors has turned particularly frosty: Many of the programs union members rely on for paychecks -- and the unions rely on for dues -- have been slated for deep cuts.
For example, there are pledge forms being passed around to lawmakers by a major labor union that might have attracted takers in budget battles past. The union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, wants the legislators to sign statements of support for up to $44 billion in new or higher taxes on the wealthy, oil companies, tobacco and other industries, products and people.
But so far the drive hasn't produced a single signed form, even from the Democrats who normally march into California's budget fights in lock-step with organized labor.
...so today, the labor-sponsored politicians are reading the - forgive me - tea leaves and pushing back.
"Many public employee unions, teacher unions [are] thinking that they were thrown under the bus in the last budget," said Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D- Montebello). "So now they're asking themselves: If these Democrats are not going to stand up for us, then what good is it to have them there?"
The union leaders say they are appalled that Democratic leaders are talking openly now about decimating government programs without first making a stand for bigger, broader tax hikes that could substantially offset budget cuts.
"Democrats came to Sacramento to help people," said Marty Hittleman, president of the California Federation of Teachers. "I know they did not go there to destroy government. For some reason, they are unwilling to stand up and say 'This is not what I was elected for.' "
But even some of the most liberal Democrats say some union leaders are ignoring the reality of an angry public, a sour economy and a state government approaching insolvency. Moreover, more taxes would require Republican support in the Legislature, and the minority party has made clear that there will be none.
When you hear 'reformers' explain that we need to abolish the supermajority for budget and tax approval, remember these words.
In part, this is interesting fallout from the failure of the budget propositions. Then there were differing interpretations of why they had failed: the conservatives said it was the new taxes, the liberals said it was the spending limits. I thought we'd know the truth pretty quickly, and from this article, it seems we do.