Jerry Brown leads Democratic Sweep in California –
It was a different story in California. The AP and most networks called it early for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer, and then watched nervously as the Senate Race remained tight until late, with Fiorina at one point holding a very narrow lead. But the exit polls were right and the projections held.
By the end of the night, Democrats were poised to sweep the major offices in California. Jerry Brown was up by nearly one million votes and held nearly a 13-point lead. And it gets worse from there, as the Democrats won handily down the line except in the Attorney General race.
That was the one race that many believed the Republican could win. There are several reasons for that. First, Kamala Harris was perceived as a weak candidate. She not only was very liberal, a strong opponent of the death penalty, but her office was plagued by numerous ethical problems.
Second, a lot of liberals in San Francisco were leery of her, recalling her record for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence and other problems with her crime lab. The First Amendment Coalition nailed her office last week for failure to turn over public records to Steve Cooley’s campaign.
Third, Steve Cooley was a moderate Republican, well-respected in Los Angeles county, and thus he could eat into the Democrats’ traditional areas of support both in LA County and even in San Francisco.
Indeed, at around 11 pm, he called it for himself and gave his victory speech. But Kamala Harris was not ready to concede. (I should note that both Whitman and Fiorina likewise held out, but they have clearly lost).
“We’re trending upward, and I do believe we will be victorious,” Kamala Harris said at around 11 pm.
Overnight, she has taken the lead and built it to nearly 50,000 votes with 94 percent reporting (now over 50,000 with 95 percent reporting as of 5:40 am). Still too close to call, but it looks like she may eke out a slight victory and give Democrats a complete sweep.
The propositions were a more mixed bag, and I am clearly disappointed that Proposition 19 went down, although more narrowly than it appeared earlier last night. And Proposition 26 passed, though it will likely get challenged and thrown out on a variety of statutory and constitutional grounds.
The biggest one in the long term may be Proposition 25. The sponsors of that bill were extremely clever this time, by excluding the raising of taxes from the measure. But it reduces the requirements to pass a budget down to a majority vote. They cannot raise taxes, but they can pass a budget.
And that leads me to my commentary which is to say that California is broken.
Yesterday, I closed my piece on the Tea Party avoiding California by stating, “Barring the unforeseen, California will have an opportunity to move forward with a new political vision, and that is something worth watching.”
That prompted some of the commentators on the right to object. One wrote, “That is so laughable on so many fronts. Move forward with a new political vision? Yeah right. The Democrats have controlled the State legislature for the past 14 years so what’s new about that?”
He concluded, “The public unions are jumping for joy.”
He missed the point. The public unions might be jumping for joy, but who cares? A Democrat like Jerry Brown is far more likely to gain support for pushing the kind of pension reform we need anyway. Only Nixon could go to China, only a Democrat can achieve meaningful pension reform and Jerry Brown’s plan is a good one.
But the bigger point he missed is that this is for California. In 2003, in response to a state fiscal crisis, the voters recalled the ineffectual Gray Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The actor turned politician showed from the beginning that a political neophyte was not what this state needed. He was a disaster as governor.
I am not talking ideologically, where he was a middle-of-the-roader on most issue. But he lacked the ability to be a broker. He was too bombastic and unable to forge compromise. Moreover, he had no credibility in his own party and they would not even support his budgets.
In short, he lacked the political skills to bring together disparate parties and he lacked the capital in his own party to get them to support his initiatives. The result was that during the worst economic period in recent history, California was unable to govern. It took record times to pass budgets, which did not solve the problem and failed to even balance the budget, except on paper.
So, instead of turning to another outsider, the voters elected the most inside person they could imagine. Jerry Brown has been in government for 40 years. He served 8 as Governor. He has been at the local level, the state level, and he has even run for President. He has had more political lives than a cat.
In the 1970s he was a brash young player on the scene, often partying it up, living in his station wagon, closing down the bars. He embodied the excesses of the seventies in his personal lifestyle. Now in his seventies, he is married, and while he still talks from the gut, he knows how to govern.
He has a still-strong Democratic majority. And now he has an additional tool of not needing two-thirds of the legislature to pass a budget.
The only thing he cannot do is raise taxes. But this will be his government and his legacy. And the voters can finally hold someone accountable who is accountable. There will be no shared blame and no shared credit.
The more I watch government, the more I realize that democracy cannot work well in gridlock. The voters like gridlock. They envision cooperation between the parties. But then they reward obstruction. That is what happened at the national level. The voters were angry at the ineffectiveness of the Democrats, so they made it impossible for the Democrats to accomplish anything for the next two years. That makes little sense and it rewards the obstructionists.
California is at a crossroads because if Jerry Brown, with his experience and a strong Democratic majority, cannot fix the problems in Sacramento, no one can. That is not to argue that Jerry Brown is the best candidate or some sort of a great leader, but he of all people should know how to get things done, and if he cannot, then it is time to blow up the government and start a new one.
He inherits huge problems and he cannot solve them all. But he can work on changes to the budget that do not include raising taxes. He can restructure government. He can fix the pension system. He can eliminate waste. He can restore education. He can fix the corrections system. There are many things he can now do, because of his Democratic majority and the voters who have given him one more tool to succeed.
And if he cannot do it, no one can. That is what the next two years holds. If the Democrats overreach, then they will lose. There is no longer going to be partisan gerrymandering and safe seats. While it is true that state demographic patterns will make a lot of safe districts anyway, more competitive districts mean a better government.
Now is the time. So again I close with, “Barring the unforeseen, California will have an opportunity to move forward with a new political vision, and that is something worth watching.” But this time I add that, by that I mean a political vision in which government can be governed by the victors and the voters can then hold them accountable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting