At a time of resolutions and promises of enlightenment, here are some vows our political class and citizenry should consider:
1. Delay the horse race. Every four years, political reporters promise not to obsess over meaningless polls months – even years – ahead of the presidential winnowing process. They vow instead a serious discussion about issues and ideas. Yet here we are still a year away from the Iowa caucuses and wasting oxygen over survey results suggesting Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are the 2016 Republican frontrunners, though at this point few Americans are focused on the matter of President Barack Obama’s successor.
The resolution for the political chattering class: No polls until the first day of 2016.
2. Forget about cutting federal spending. Every four years, the GOP field is infested with empty promises of balancing the federal budget and reducing the nation’s debt. Why such cynicism? Because, during the tenure of the last Republican president, an inherited budget surplus became a $400 billion annual deficit, which then narrowed to $200 billion before ballooning back to $400 billion by the time George W. Bush left office.
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The resolution for Republican presidential hopefuls: Make 2015 the rare year when candidates admit there isn’t the will or the way to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.
3. But that’s not an excuse to grow government. Fair is fair, so here’s an admonition for the non-Hillary Democrats looking at the White House: America isn’t looking for another eight years of Obama’s mixed-bag results of progressivism – in particular, expansion along the lines of Obamacare. Clinton, a cautious and wind-gauging politician by nature, presumably gets this; Elizabeth Warren and other liberals seeking a left-flank maneuver around the Democratic frontrunner may not.
The resolution for Clinton’s challenger: Forget the New Deal, Fair Deal and even the Square Deal; just promise a more centrist approach to governing.
4. In California, the (Democratic) future is now. With Gov. Jerry Brown’s inaugural next week, we flip the hourglass and watch the sands run out on his time in the Horseshoe. With Brown and one if not both of California’s senators entering lame-duck status, when will the next generation of Democratic leaders – the ones patiently waiting out Brown, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein – start to push the Golden State’s majority party in a different direction?
The resolution for next-gen Democrats: A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, especially if it challenges the status quo on taxes, marijuana legalization and the rich-poor divide.
5. Republicans should repel the urge to rebel. What to do as California’s decidedly minority party? GOP lawmakers struggling for relevancy in Sacramento could engage in internal squabbles and ideological purity tests that are a big reason for their state of decline.
The resolution for the elephant herd: Make 2015 an extension of 2014 and what worked for Republicans – carefully targeting opportunity, showcasing new blood and continue with the arduous task of rebranding.
6. Brace yourself for surprises. 2015 marks 75 years since the only tropical storm to make landfall in the Golden State in the 20th century (it happened in Long Beach); 50 years since the Watts riots; 40 years since Patty Hearst’s capture; 30 years since a listeriosis outbreak in Los Angeles County (tainted cheese) claimed dozens of lives; 20 years since record rainfalls and floods; and a decade since a mudslide took out a portion of the seaside town of La Conchita, near Santa Barbara.
The resolution for all Californians: Expect the unexpected from both mankind and Mother Nature.
Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson. Whalen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.