Seven months ago, California had four Democrats running for Governor. Now, we only have one – who has yet to formally declare. John Garamendi’s ego dropped out to run for Congress in the wrong district (which he won anyway), Antonio Villaraigosa stepped out to focus on his day job as Mayor of Los Angeles, and Gavin Newsom appears to have withdrawn from both the Governor’s race and his day job. Unless someone jumps in (or back into) the race, June 2010 will be the coronation of Jerry Brown – a 72-year-old ex-Governor who quit the Democratic Party 11 years ago, and whose record after quietly re-joining has been a nightmare for progressives. Faced with only Republican opponents next year, Brown is moving further to the right – and will be pressured to do so down the road. Even though the Golden State, where the G.O.P. is in deep trouble, deserves a lot better than that.
As Beyond Chron has written on a number of occasions this year, California has led the progressive charge on the national level – but our state is in dire need of that kind of energy to fix Sacramento. And yet, progressives have failed to recruit a candidate of their own to be California’s next Barack Obama – leaving Jerry Brown as the only viable Democratic candidate to lead the largest state in the union.
Now, with no other Democratic alternative for Governor, progressives are left with two choices: (a) recruit a candidate to face nearly insurmountable odds to defeat Brown, or (b) organize on issues to the point that Jerry somehow feels compelled to respond. The former isn’t likely to happen, because the only Democrats with the stature to run a viable campaign are in Congress – and who would want to risk a safe seat when your party is in power in Washington? The latter is practically our only choice, and it remains to be seen how much Brown will bend in to public pressure. If 2010 is a wake-up call to California progressives that we need to focus more on state issues, it may be a good thing long-term.
CCWC is opening its Tuesday lunch twitter talks (#TT) to all candidates running for governor of California. We welcome the opportunity to get to know the candidate’s followers and to share ideas on the way forward in Sacramento. If you are running for governor and would like to lunch with CCWC, please let us know which Tuesday you are available and we will spread the word to our members, readers and followers as to the when and the where.
Then there’s our failed experiment with direct democracy, which brought about many of the constrictions under which current government now labors, such as the crazy 2/3 requirements, which allow the majority to say that the minority blocks their wishes while allowing the minority to claim that they have no power because they’re in the minority.
What do I think a Constitutional convention needs to include?
• ending the 2/3 requirements and restoring democracy to the fiscal process over the tyranny of the minority, and returning decisions for spending and taxation to elected representatives
• two-year budget cycles and performance-based budgeting to try and engender a long-term approach
• indirect democracy, where the legislature can either work out the item on the ballot with proponents and pass it through their chamber, or amend items that reach the ballot. In addition, we need a higher barrier for Constitutional amendments and changes to the process of signature gathering.
• any ballot-box budgeting must include a dedicated funding source – “paygo for initiatives”
• smaller legislative districts, either by expanding the Assembly or moving to a unicameral legislature with 150 or more members.
• elimination of the current term limits, the tighest in the nation, with more of a happy medium
• instant runoff voting for state legislative vacancies to speed the process of filling them
• local government gets the local resources they collect without them routing through Sacramento
Those are a few of the things I’d like to see addressed, and I’m sure people have additional ones. The crisis we currently have in California presents an opportunity for new thinking about government and how to manage the largest state in the union and one of the largest economies in the world. Despite the doom and gloom, California retains its vibrancy, its diversity, its abundance. Only the structure under with it governs itself has failed, and that failure has seeped into everyday life. Lifting that structure will be like lifting a heavy weight off the backs of the citizenry. We can lead a path to a better future.