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Operation Stop Arnold

Jan
5
2005

Progressive libertarians of California, your moment is at hand. Make that moments. And if you’re a tried and true California Democrat – as opposed to being a business-oriented moderate with a fiscally conservative streak — you might want to pay careful attention to some of the strands blowing in the wind.
It’s gonna be make or break for California Democrats this year. And, from the press accounts, it seems like they know it. The party that’s been running the state – they run the legislature – is facing an opponent who is popular, savvy and ruthless. Oh, yeah, and he’s an international movie star, too.
Here’s the state of play:


Reed Hastings, a man who you have to admire simply for the courage he showed telling Silicon Valley that its stock options fight was silly and self-serving, is in danger of not being reappointed to the California Board of Education.
Originally put in the seat by Democrat Grey Davis, Hastings got re-appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger who likes to keep Silicon Valley happy. He’s got a ton of supporters there. But, now flexing their muscle in the legislature, Democrats, says The Bee’s Dan Weintraub, are looking to boot Hastings. There’s a lot of back and forth but here’s the bottom line: Hastings isn’t party loyal enough to suit Democrats who have decided schools and education is the issue on which they can beat Gov. Terminator.
The Democrats saber rattling on this one came the same day as the Rand Corp.’s report on California schools. The report says something everyone knows – the schools in this state are simply terrible – and it illuminates many of the points that Hastings and others in Silicon Valley have been complaining about for the past 10 years. It’ll be interesting to see how far objections to Hastings’ re-appointment (assuming he still thinks it’s worth the trouble) actually get with the Rand report as a backdrop. Both sides and – and oh, they will – use it as ammo. Democrats will claim fiscal irresponsibility is responsible for crummy schools, Republicans will say, “Oh yeah, who’s been running things for the past 10 years?”
That sally is only part of the Democrat’s “Stop Arnold” program. The campaign has many flanks. Picking up on the schools and education theme, California Treasurer and would-be governor Phil Angiledes staking out territory as the fiscally responsible Democrat. He and his supporters are running TV ads criticizing Schwarzenegger’s fiscal management. That comes on top of Angiledes’ warning last week while we were all off skiing that he couldn’t legally issue transportation bonds against Indian gaming revenues. He’s doing something potential rival, Controller Steve Westly, also a Democrat, can’t do: dissing Schwarzenegger. Westly’s signed on to Schwarzenegger’s fiscal program (and by the way, is a much better, much more relaxed, more spontaneous moderator, speaker and campaigner having spent time with Gov. Terminator). Angiledes is shrewdly getting a two-fer here, taking on both rivals with one program.
Then there’s the subtle but firm refusal by the Democrats to play ball on Schwarzenegger’s suggested reforms.
“I don’t see the voters in the state jumping up and down saying we need a special session to restructure government, nor do I see them doing that for redistricting,” said Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles. “A special session should deal with issues of great importance to the state of California where there is a crisis, such as health care.”
No, but you do see voters jumping up and down – and going to the polls — to get a better run, better managed California. That’s pretty much what Schwarzenegger will say as he sells his special election around the state. Gov. Terminator doesn’t have much traction when it comes to getting people in office, he lost big this year which certainly encouraged his interest in changing how legislative and Congressional districts are drawn. But when it comes to ballot initiative – with the exception of the orphaned open primary initiative that Westly also supporter — all of the referendums Schwarzenegger has endorsed passed in November. The ones he’s dismissed have failed. Voters trust his judgment. They do not trust the collective judgment of the California legislature.
So why does this involve Progressive libertarians? Well, they’re the most important movement out there and they may well be the new face of the Democratic Party. Look at who the state’s Democratic leaders are targeting: Hastings and Westly, two business-oriented Democrats who see the virtues of bi-partisan cooperation and who have worked with both business interests and with Republicans to get things done. Old-line Democrats want these guys gone. They’re collaborators.
But the Democrats should be careful what they ask for. This political movement – Progressive libertarians and their profound disgust with politics as usual – is what’s keeping Schwarzenegger going. The tactic the Dems are employing are politics as usual. They could easily backfire. And Schwarzenegger cleverly capitalizes on this disgust. It’s not hard to see how the state’s growing number of Independents will turn Republican in the future. California Democrats think they’re fighting a Republican. They’re not. They’re fighting themselves.
Stay tuned. This is going to be some kind of fun.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:33 AM | Permalink

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