O-w-w! I've lived in Berkeley for an unspecified number of years (hint: my house is paid for!) but my head still hurts from thinking about California's irresponsibly lame, stupid choices in Election 2010.
Unlike the rest of sensible America, California chose to have NO change in legislators, House or Senate, going to Washington. That's right—not a single new face will arrive for the 112th United States Congress. (Although it must be said, more than a week after the election, two California House seats remain undecided.)
It's not like California doesn't face Sierra-high problems. It has had among the country's worst unemployment levels for a while, over 12 percent since September 09. (See the Sacramento Bee's interactive map that shows joblessness by county over time.)
People like to gloss over the structural problems here by saying California has the 8th largest economy in the world. But that Silicon Valley shine does fade when outstanding bills are considered—like the $70 billion in general obligation debt for starters, which does not include the astronomical looming pensions.
In addition, the state is currently borrowing $40 million per day to pay for its unemployment insurance and is already $8.6 billion in debt to the feds just for that tab. [Calif borrows $40M a day to pay unemployment, November 7, 2010]
No! They chose the same old team and rejected new faces.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman got off to a bad start when Californians learned she had a personal history of not voting, including recent elections of importance like the vote that recalled sitting Governor Gray Davis in 2003.
Her campaign ran even with the Democratic candidate, former Governor Jerry Brown, for months through the summer. But he pulled into the lead after Labor Day. When the dust settled, Brown won by over 10 points.
One knock on Whitman was that she was Arnold Schwarzenegger in a skirt—which was somewhat true and not entirely negative. He too was a successful Republican from the private sector who brought common sense ideas for reform. But he was utterly unprepared for the political warfare in Sharkramento. Whitman would have been quickly turned to kibble too, given her naiveté about politics.
Whitman made bad rookie mistakes. In the place of actual political experience, she had hired 56 political consultants as of August. Her top strategist Mike Murphy made $90K monthly. His excuses for failure: the activism and big spending of the public employee unions (what about Whitman's big spending?); and "it's a very blue state, and it's getting bluer". [Dan Walters: Meg Whitman's consultant has a plethora of excuses, Sacramento Bee, November 9, 2010] (So how come the GOP candidate for Attorney General seems to have won his state-wide race?)
Does that sound like too much money ($142M of her own fortune) and a shortage of sense? Too many cooks in the kitchen certainly damaged the message, such as her claiming to be "tough as nails" on illegal aliens in her primary race against Steve Poizner and then shamelessly switching to a squish for the Spanish-speaking audience. At one point, Whitman even made the argument that she and Jerry Brown had similar views on illegal immigration, rather than hammering her opponent for expensive social programs for lawbreakers. Apparently none of her 56 consultants clued her to the idea that campaigns are about magnifying differences and giving voters a reason to choose you.
Whitman was mercilessly grilled on the John and Ken radio show for her two-faced campaign regarding illegal immigration. The southern California radio hosts broadcast in afternoon drive time, reaching more than a million listeners, and are politically influential. That performance certainly didn't help motivate conservative voters.
Free advice to the E-bay billionaire for any future efforts: you can't run completely different campaigns in English and Spanish in the age of the internet and talk radio.
Then came the appearance of Whitman's illegal alien housekeeper, as dramatically displayed with Kleenex for effect by Gloria Allred, the well known TV chatterbox lawyer. The media event showing a tearful Nicky Diaz Santillan made Whitman look like a hypocrite, demanding tough immigration enforcement for others but keeping an illegal working in her home until she decided upon a run for governor.
Did Murphy never consider what to do about this problem while cashing his checks? It's not complicated: get it out of the way. Thus Connecticut's Democratic Senate candidate Dick Blumenthal survived the revelation that he had lied his head off for decades about his Marine Corps service because it came early on.
California's other Madame of industry, Carly Fiorina, was equally unappealing in her Senatorial campaign, even against the ghastly Democrat Barbara Boxer, who won by several points. Boxer's ads showing former Hewlett-Packard employees whose jobs had been outsourced to China under Fiorina's leadership (including anti-H-1b stalwart Kim Berry!—didn't Murphy see this coming either?) were devastating.
Self-absorbed Mayor Gavin Newsom can now bring his San Francisco values (like illegal alien sanctuary and multicultural socialism) to the capital: he won the race for Lieutenant Governor over Abel Maldonado by 50 - 39%. (Wasn't nominating Hispanics supposed to help the GOP?).
That result means the shallow, appearance-obsessed mayor will be the auto-candidate for governor next time around in 2014—despite his miserable showing as a gubernatorial campaigner in the primaries last year, where he thought social networking would beguile younger voters. His Twittering did amuse some, but not enough to build a successful candidacy.
At the time of writing, the close race for state Attorney General is leaning toward LA DA Steve Cooley (R.) and against San Francisco friend of alien sanctuary Kamala Harris. She is known in the city for protecting foreign crack dealers who claim to be juveniles and is opposed to the death penalty even for cop killers, but many Californians still voted for her.
Governor Jerry Brown (3.0) will be able to work with legislature from day #1—but to what end? He campaigned as a big proponent of the California DREAM Act, despite the cost to taxpayers of subsidizing illegal aliens in college. He claims to be against drivers licenses for illegal aliens—but he obviously expected that a nice big amnesty in Washington would solve that problem with his Mexican base, a possibility that is looking dim these days.
Brown's big crisis will be the budget. He somehow has to take a chainsaw to public employee pensions, and he has promised reform in that regard. But the unions were among his biggest supporters. Will he figure (at age 72) that this is his last hurrah in politics and he should do the right thing to save California?
Don't count on it. Jerry himself coined an early description of political flip-floppery: "Paddle to left, paddle to the right."
It's all pretty depressing.
Okay, those are fallible humans. But what about California's ballot initiatives? Sometimes the personalities of the candidates make the difference in how voters choose. But the initiatives are just the proposals, devoid of irritating human packaging.
No such luck. I was completely surprised by the failure of Proposition 19, the pot initiative. I really expected it to win, because California has many people somewhat familiar with the weed. Marijuana is a plant, after all, created by nature and is not the handiwork of some depraved chemist to addict little children. The absurdity of outlawing a plant is certainly high on the list of government overreach.
The solution to a big part of the drug crime problem is to legalize and tax marijuana—just as alcohol has been handled after Prohibition proved to be such a failure. (See my 2009 observations: Marijuana Legalization—Could It Help Stop The Mexodus?)
Still, the issue isn't going away. Backers promise they will be back in 2012 for another try.
Another bad choice by California voters: the failure of Prop 23, which would have overturned Gov. Schwarzenegger's unilateral disarmament strategy against global warming. It makes no sense to try to decrease greenhouse gases in one little state all by ourselves when the rest of the world is going gangbusters with an array of airborne whatnot.
But the Governor wants his legacy to be environmentalism. So he pushed this silly idea through. (Needless to say, like Al Gore he is a hypocrite on the issue, using his private jet for commuting between his LA home and the capital.)
Prop 23 is one more nail in the coffin of California employment—which is already on life support. The economic dysfunction of the state is astounding. People are packing up their businesses and leaving as fast as they can find a U-haul to rent. Four million jobs have been lost due to excessive regulation, according to a little-noticed state government report from 2009 (Cost of State Regulations on California small businesses, sba.ca.gov, September, 2009).
No wonder California is rated at rock bottom of the 2009 ratings for places to do business from Chief Executive Magazine.
And another bad choice: The passage of Prop 25 ended the previous requirement that two-thirds of the legislature had to vote in favor of the state's budget. This will unleash the spendaholic crazies among the Sacramento Democrats, so the sky is the limit for taxation.
In California, we have a case study of how paradise can quickly turn to rot with unwise management. The state government has become stubbornly leftist and financially irresponsible.
Democrats in the state are particularly loony compared with their more practical brethren in mid-America. (I speak as a former long-time registered Democrat). The Hollyweird crowd, who are overwhelmingly Democrat and fund liberal causes, comprise a strangely detached quasi-elite, with little respect for the opinions of normal people (as current films show). Instead, they compete to display their superior level of liberal virtue by condemning Arizona's immigration law and preaching extreme environmentalism.
Avatar director James Cameron opposed Prop 23, saying "We're going to have to live with less". But a Youtube video revealed his three houses in Malibu, Santa Barbara ranch, helicopter, motorcycles, Humvee firetruck, yacht, submarines (!), etc.
Middle class, taxpaying people have been leaving California for years, and millions of grifter illegal aliens have taken their places. Now white flight has become a tsunami—for example, there were half a million fewer whites in California in 2008 than in 2000, even though the state's overall population grew by four million over that time.
The voters have changed too. According to the Sacramento Bee (Nov 6):
"Latinos made up 22 percent of the state electorate Tuesday, exit polls showed, compared with 18 percent in 2008 and 12 percent in 2006."
The paper similarly reported that 34 percent of Californians supported the Tea Party, versus 40 percent nationwide.
Eventually, this demography will indeed be destiny. But it's only part of the problem right now. The little-noted fact is that Whitman and Fiorina did indifferently among California whites, getting just 50 percent and 52 percent respectively. My own belief, as a long-time resident of the state, is that the 1994 anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 would still pass. The Republicans are just doing something wrong.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She does not want to be forced back to her birthplace in western Pennsylvania.