Once upon a time, two great political parties competed for voters’ attention and support in California. Then one party lost its mind and the other lost its base.
Somehow – maybe because we all have to be a little nuts to live in this glorious state – the crazy party took over and set about turning paradise into an overregulated, overpriced theme park where you can’t get a decent place to live for less than $120,000 a year.
From time to time, it’s worth pondering the sad fate of the California Republican Party. This is not one of those times. Three Republicans aspire to the governor’s office next year. Their names will be quickly forgotten because they lack the resources, the organization and the message to galvanize voters.
Sorry to be a party pooper, but it’s true. I abandoned the GOP last year in a fit of despair. But even as political independence offers a kind of liberation, it also leaves one adrift and aloof. Independents may form the third-largest voting bloc in state, but calling them a “bloc” suggests a unity that doesn’t exist.
Which brings us to the Democrats, who are tearing each other apart without meaningful opposition.
The late single-payer health insurance debacle brought long-simmering animosities to the surface. If those callous Republicans in Congress intended to repeal Obamacare, then California would show them and the rest of the nation how progress could be served. Only when the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office delivered the $400 billion tab did a few sober legislators question the wisdom of the proposal.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon thought maybe, just maybe, the Legislature should take a bit more time devising a way to pay for the thing. Turns out, the “single-payer” in this scheme is 39 million Californians, give or take.
And what did Rendon get for his slow walk back? Death threats and a lobby full of angry nurses.
One Democratic wag described the mess unfolding as a “civil war” within the party. I can’t imagine it’s quite true, although a good case could be made. After all, what good are supermajorities if you can’t have socialized medicine, publicly financed political campaigns, high-density housing and a de-carbonized economy right this instant?
The public employee unions are chafing. They say, “Faster, please!” But why even say please? They’re bankrolling this party, after all.
Still, the likely Democratic candidates for governor are playing it safe. Do they know something their union benefactors do not? Might they understand, at some level, that the roughly one-quarter of registered voters who identify with no political party may not share the progressive enthusiasm for unlimited government?
What progressives fail to understand is progress is not inevitable. It cannot be mandated through legislation. It cannot be accelerated through regulation. It cannot be brought about from higher marginal tax rates on the despised 1 percent. In our global economy, capital can move. California doesn’t have a monopoly on lovely ocean views.
Could the hapless California GOP learn from this? Could an independent candidate break through, at long last?
An opportunity exists to tell another story, a story that just might have the virtue of being true. It’s a story of a once-great state that might be great again. Neither drought nor wildfire nor earthquake could bring this state down. Instead it was the folly of politicians, who in their arrogance brought the state to its knees because they refused to listen to anyone but the loudest and most extreme among them.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a story that can be told right now, or even next year. But it’s becoming more and more likely as Democrats tear each other to pieces in pursuit of utopian dreams.