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You are Getting Sleepy….

Apr
26
2006

This will come as a surprise to many of you, but we’re having a gubernatorial election in California. And two Democrats want the job – or say they do – of running against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But looking at their campaigns it’s hard not to nod off from boredom.
These guy call themselves politicians?
The two state-level office holders running for governor, Treasurer Phil Angelides and Comptroller Steve Westly are duking it out – actually, it’s more like their swatting at each other – for the Democratic nomination. The primary is just about a month away and it doesn’t seem like anyone besides a few hearty party regulars has noticed.

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Why? Because neither of these guys is saying anything. Oh, their mouths are moving, and there are plenty of TV ad spots during the news hour. But push around for some honest-to-God new thinking - and Democrats need it badly - and, well, you'll come up empty. Once again, we have a party that's going to be led by two white men, each a millionaire, each well-intentioned, each smart. But neither particularly charismatic or compelling.


Westly, who has the lead, much to the annoyance and surprise of his rival, is running as a pragmatic, moderate Democrat. Silicon Valley's man in Sacramento. Phil Angelides - a better campaigner, more at home in front of crowds - is running as the "true" Democrat, the guy who stood up to Gov. Terminator on state finances. Steve's gonna give us responsible government that does what it can to make California great and if that means the occasional compromise, fine. Phil's gonna stand up for the little guy and get those evil corporations to pay more taxes.
Yawn.
Which, when we get down to it, is the problem with the Democratic Party as a whole. Scott Olin Schmidt may think having Rep. Nancy Pelosi run the House of Representatives is a fine idea because it'll whip his party into shape. But then what? What are Democrats going to do? Hold the House for two years, give a lot of impassioned speeches about evil corporations, being pro-choice and anti-war (which most of them weren't), impeach President Bush and sit back and admire their rhetorical handiwork? More of the same! I can't wait!
Democrats have spent so much time worrying about strategy - what polls well? What doesn't? - that they've lost track of an important part of winning elections: You have to run candidates that people will like, respect and support. And that means every once in a while you have to take a risk.
I'd like to see Steve Westly or Phil Angelides standing in front of all the rallies we've seen pressing for passage of an immigration bill and talk with enthusiasm (and maybe in Spanish or Cantonese) about how important that legislation is and what - if it passes - it will mean for their potential administrations. How about some good thinking about California schools? And would someone - any one - answer the riddle of how California is going to prosper if its tax base remains the same size but it's population continues to grow?
And as much as I personally like Steve Westly (I've known him since he started at eBay) and as much as I enjoy Phil Angeledis wit and vigor on the stump (he, too, has connections to this site) I have to say that I could care less which one of them runs against Schwarzenegger. Gov. Terminator will turn on the charm, reach past the state's political pundit class (a few minutes with Jay Leno will take care of that) and get his wife - a Democrat whose uncle is actually doing something about immigration - out there to kiss a few babies and lunch with a few powerful women.
In the end, no one will have talked about some of the state's most pressing issues. California's tax base is frozen because the state's political leadership doesn’t want to touch Prop. 13. So it's schools are a mess, its ability to provide basic services is faltering. State government is hostage to the unions in many, important respects, mostly in Sacramento. And immigration - well, it's not just a federal problem.
So, yeah, we got a primary. Check back in a few weeks and if we haven't wandered off to take a nap in the spring hammock out back, we'll be happy to let you know how it turned out.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:17 AM | Permalink

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