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Operation Stop Arnold: A Better Road Map

Jan
13
2005

Okay, so my favorite Ambivalent Lawyer Josh Benson over there at Berkeley’s Boalt Law School has written in to give me a hard time about the stuff I’ve written about Gov. Schwarzenegger.
He makes some good points and he pretty much represents the criticism I’ve seen and heard elsewhere so I’ll give him the floor for a few minutes. I don’t really disagree with anything Benson is saying. But Democrats – national and here in California – are focused on process not on politics. I’ve been trying to write about how Republicans are deftly – national and here – using politics to implement the policies they believe are necessary. Just ’cause you notice it don’t mean you like it. I shouldn’t need to say that’s the way things are supposed to work but, uh, we live in difficult times.


Here’s Benson:
I’m glad you’re on top of this progressive libertarian wave and the “moment at hand” for Democrats, but I worry you’re giving Arnold Schwarzenegger too much of a free pass these days. The last 4 months saw, in my opinion, a hard turn to the corporate right that he’s covered up with sweet sugary talk and “the people v. the special interests” rhetoric.
Indeed, I think the moment is at hand for Arnold. He can seek historic bipartisan compromises or try to jam through a far-right agenda. A lot of the proposals mentioned in the State of the State speech could go either way – he was vague enough (and retains enough power through the initiative process) that I wouldn’t be surprised at either.
And the devil really is in the details. Let’s make sure us commentators keep our eye on that. (Can I call myself that? It’s possibly the only term as bad as “lawyer.”) To wit:
Bad far-right GOP idea: A hard budget cap limiting spending to the increase in inflation and population. Colorado tried this about a decade ago and it, uh, sort of destroyed the state. Such a cap would basically eliminate the ability of government to come up with innovative policy solutions that cost money.
Better bipartisan idea: Two-year budgeting, experimenting with zero-sum, loosening the spending mandates, dedicated revenue streams, etc.
Bad far-right idea: Cutting teacher salaries if their students screw up a standardized test.
Better bipartisan idea: Tying (much-needed and well-deserved) teacher salary INCREASES to a comprehensive measurement of teacher quality. It’s about time we paid teachers as professionals – and if and only if we do, we can expect them to perform as such.
Bad far-right idea: One-shot political redistricting.
Better bipartisan idea: Redistricting AND a loosening of term limits — let’s stop flooding Sacramento with amateurs every six years. Legislators need experience to be effective.
Anyhow, I think the opportunity for these sorts of compromises is ripe. But it’s not Democrats who are going to stand in the way. It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger if he insists on constantly deferring to the corporate special interests financing him.
Let’s pray he’s willing to compromise too.

Benson was the guy I made fun for a post he had up at The New Republic. His boss, Peter Beinart has weighed in – this time sensibly – on the Schwarzenegger redistricting plan and plan. The Washingtonian’s Kevin Drum weighed in on this briefly last week saying what “good” Democrats up and down the state are saying: They can’t accept Schwarzenegger’s redistricting because it’s a power grab. Now, courtesy of Beinart – talk about echo chamber, jeez – he’s sort of changed his mind.
Redistricting is a power grab. For sure. But it’s not clear that Republicans will come out flat-out winners. They’re just get a little bit more and the Democrats a little bit less. But you know that line about victors and spoils? This is a good example.
But here’s the political writing on the wall: The redistricting measure is gonna win if it go to a special election and isn’t adopted by the Legislature. Reporter Jill Stewart (who should have a better, more professional web presence) has the email to prove it, according to Mickey Kaus (who should put better, more straight-forward links on his site).

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