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Ronnie’s Revenge

Aug
2
2003

Some of the most interesting and thought provoking stories about the Davis recall continue to come from outside the state. David Broder makes some interesting points in a column he wrote for the Washington Post last week.
In addition to talking frankly about how the state’s (and cities’) ballot initiative process has been corrupted by big money politics, Broder also talks about California’s bizarre tax system. He places much of the blame for Davis’ surge in unpopularity on the state’s budgeting and issues and issues the usual warning about how whatever happens in California is too bizarre to even contemplate and probably means the end of civilization as we know it…
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But Broder and a lot of other commentators seem to keep gliding by an important point. Davis’ popularity first fell when the lights went out. During the state’s energy crisis, the Bush White House didn’t lift a finger to help the state. Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed the state’s pleas for help saying that the state’s environmentalists — Republican code word for lunatic tree hugger — were blocking construction of power plants to serve the state’s businesses. It wasn’t until the Republican governors of the surrounding states all warned the White House of the danger — they, too, could run out of juice — that the Bush folks took the state’s power woes seriously.
There’s a bit of historical context that’s missing, too. although NYTimes columnist, Paul Krugman, gets close. California’s government is the living, voting example of the model first celebrated, here then nationally, by Ronald Reagan: Government is off people’s backs. It’s also, for the most part, out of their lives. Californians have little contact with their local or state government and when they do, it’s because something doesn’t work (schools), something that shouldn’t be built (a monster house), or something that cost too much (electricity). It’s confrontational because, among other reasons, few cities and states have the money or the staff to do what government should do: look ahead, plan, and yes, even spend money to prevent things from happening. The average tax payer walks away with a bad taste in his or her mouth thinking, ‘I pay money for this?’ Their disenchantment and cynicism grows with every distasteful encounter. Some of that thinking is at the heart of the mess — a clown show of passive-aggressive frustration — that now characterizes state and city politics.
This isn’t a giant right-wing conspiracy, as many in the Davis camp would have you believe. The Bush folks are piling on, no question. They’re playing, as they do in other arenas, hard ball, big boy politics. Davis and the Democratic Party should have seen coming. They didn’t. And they’re really not sure what to do next.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 3:19 PM | Permalink

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