California: Democrat vs. Democrat

Jerry BrownCalifornia: Where the Democratic Governor Triangulates Against Democrats

Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of the budget passed by the Democratic majority in the legislature, (as Draconian in terms of gutting public resources as any in the nation), has tipped his hand: Jerry’s triangulating. He’s aligning himself with the Republican minority in forging a path forward out of California’s deep crisis. “We need four Republican votes and in the next several days, I’m going to do everything I can,” Brown said. “I’ll move heaven and earth to get those votes.”

No, Jerry, to get those GOP votes you’ll have to lay off more teachers, gut higher education, shred the pensions of public workers, and impose on the state a far-right Republican agenda more akin to what we’d expect from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker than from Governor Moonbeam.

The Governor is willfully pretending that he’s unaware of the fact that the Republican legislative minority is not a serious negotiating partner. They’ve already messed up Brown’s governorship by stringing him along, month after month, play-acting as if they might cough up the four votes, (not to extend existing taxes, but to allow Californians to vote on whether or not we want to extend existing taxes).

Hey Jerry! Meg Whitman spent $160 million and we defeated her and put you in charge. And now you’re pathetically on your hands and knees begging FOUR right-wing white Republican men to allow the state to function?

What the Republican minority in Sacramento is demanding is that California follow the path of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Michigan, and New Jersey: a class war against public institutions and public employees. Now apparently Brown has signaled that he’s willing to triangulate against his own party to enable this backward agenda.

With or without the Republican votes the public sector is getting fleeced once again. The “starve-the-beast” strategy of Golden State Republicans is working marvelously. Somewhere, (probably a plush townhouse in Georgetown), Grover Norquist is giving high fives all around. California is the sweetest deal the Republicans got going: even when they lose, they win!

Living in Sacramento it’s hard to turn your head away from the budget spectacle, like seeing a car accident on Highway 99 (or 50 or 80 or 5). The Republican legislative minority bludgeons the Democratic majority. It’s always the same. The Democrats dawdle their time away passing bullshit laws while the state burns. It was horrible to behold back when Arnold “who’s-your-daddy?” Schwarzenegger was governor. But the whole kabuki dance just got a lot more pathetic when you see Jerry Brown, a Democrat, triangulating as the Republicans’ Enabler in Chief.

Staring in the face budget shortfalls brought to us by the Great Wall Street Toxic Waste Dump of 2008, the Democratic legislative majority and the Democratic governor tell us there’s “no choice” but to make “tough” decisions.” And whenever we hear the term “tough decisions” in California (as with the nation) it means only one thing: Democratic constituencies tied to the public sector take it on the chin.

So California’s system of higher education is going to get whacked with a bigger cut than anything Schwarzenegger dished out. It turns out that in addition to the $500 million cut in the California State University system, there’s now going to be at least an additional $150 million cut on top of that one; with probably more savage cuts to follow if Brown continues to “move heaven and earth” to kiss the Republican minority’s ass.

At least if Meg Whitman were governor now we could mount a serious opposition. The labor unions in this state could mobilize a vigorous defense of the public institutions. But with the “liberal” Brown in office, Democrats and their working-class constituents are crouching in a holding position. “He’s our guy,” they say, “we gotta stand behind him,” we don’t want to end up with a Scott Walker wannabe. So go ahead organized labor, cut more checks for the Dems, open up those Independent Expenditure accounts — meanwhile, FOUR Republican white men run the state into the ground. The two-thirds rule (where all legislation that touches revenue enhancement needs a super-majority) is all the more galling when we have a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor.

California has a reputation for being a place where there’s a lot of whackos. It’s true and the Republican Party out here reflects that stereotype. They’re all blind ideologues and anti-tax zealots dedicated to class warfare and slash-and-burn politics. They don’t negotiate, they obstruct. They gum up the works of the parliament just like we’ve seen far-right parties do in other contexts throughout history. You meet one demand and they got fifty-three more. There’s your “heaven and earth” Jerry.

And the hapless Jerry Brown thinks he can reason with these people. He’s going to have to govern their way or he’ll never get those votes. And if he’s going to govern their way then we might as well have elected “Money Bags” Whitman because at least we’d have an enemy to mobilize against.

The Republican minority won’t give Jerry his FOUR votes, (two from the Senate and two from the Assembly), that’s all he needs — FOUR Republican votes then the revenue enhancement measure could be put to a vote of all Californians. Negotiating behind closed doors, just like during the Arnold Era, they demand multi-year structural reforms to the entire state government to serve their narrow corporate and class interests – deregulation (especially environmental regs), privatization (especially of schools and higher ed), tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations — we’ve heard it all before.

No one questions why holding the state’s budget hostage to attain maximal political goals that have nothing to do with the budget is a legitimate exercise. (The Washington Republicans have taken a page from the California GOP’s book and are now holding the federal government hostage through controlling the debt-ceiling vote.)

Joe PalermoAt the local level we’re getting creamed. The City of Sacramento, for instance, (which has one of the highest crime rates in California), is currently laying off police officers, dismantling its CSI unit,and passing on investigating burglaries and parole violations at a time when burglaries and parole violations are skyrocketing. Meantime, Sacramento County and neighboring counties have laid off about one-fourth of their Sheriff’s departments, and for several years now the local boards of supervisors have been slashing every single program that assisted low-income children and adults who have mental or physical disabilities, closing community centers, swimming pools, and county parks, and laying off hundreds of other personnel. Even the DA’s office is laying off prosecutors. Schools are shutting down, teachers are being handed their pink slips, cops and firefighters (the vaunted “first responders” of the 9/11 attacks), and especially their unions, are being vilified and attacked.

And now we can add to this kind of class warfare a Democratic governor willing to “move heaven and earth” to help this slide into oblivion along.

Joseph Palermo
Joseph Palermo’s Blog

Published by the LA Progressive on June 18, 2011
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Joseph Palermo

Joseph Palermo is Professor of History, California State University, Sacramento. Professor Palermo's most recent book is The Eighties (Pearson 2012). He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (Columbia, 2001); and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism (Pearson, 2008). Before earning a Master's degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master's degree in History from San Jose State University. His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Professor Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 (Scholarly Resources Press, 2003); and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon (CQ Press, 2004).