America is about to enter some difficult times. The recent election of corporate-sponsored Tea Party Republicans will have a deleterious effect on the middle class, the poor, our overall economy, and the quality of life throughout the country. Will America slide further into the status of a banana republic as Nicholas Kristof posits in today’s Times, or is there a glimmer of hope?
Throughout the last half of the twentieth century, California has been a bellwether for trends in American society, both positive and negative. The conservative revolution gained traction when Ronald Reagan was elected governor in 1966. Proposition 13 was enacted in 1978. It eviscerated California’s education system, and is the model that the conservatives and the current Tea Party crowd is following in their quest to eliminate needed government services. The Golden State led the effort to promote clean air by enforcing automobile emission standards which were subsequently adopted by several states and the federal government. And despite the fact that a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana recently failed, residents have been able to legally use weed for palliative care for over a decade. California’s Silicon Valley was the birthplace of our nation’s economic boom before corporations moved most of their semiconductor manufacturing operations offshore. What starts in California eventually takes root across the nation.
Now, maybe – just maybe – the recent election results in California may indicate how things will play out in the national scene over the next decade. Democrat Jerry Brown will return to the governor’s office after 28 years despite the $163 million self-funded campaign of his corporatist opponent. Barbara Boxer’s re-election to the Senate will retain one of the few voices of reason in that otherwise dysfunctional body. There’s nothing wrong with electing career politicians if they have a proven track record of serving their constituents. And both houses of the California legislature are in Democratic hands. (Generally, one-party rule us unhealthy, but when the opposition party is hostile to government, do they really deserve to be in government?) In this month’s election, Californians also passed a constitutional amendment which removed the unworkable requirement that budgets must be passed with a two-thirds majority, ensuring that a small minority of legislators can’t block progress.
It is said that California is like a granola bar. Once you remove the fruits and nuts, all you have left is the flakes. And there’s still plenty wrong in parts of the Golden State. Now that his party is in the majority, Southern California representative Darrell Issa will commence a series of witch hunts in the House of Representatives, investigating every Democrat who breathes, and we will be revisiting the folly of the Clinton impeachment as Issa and his fellow birthers divert the president’s attention from the serious business of governing. Nevertheless, California is on the right track. Let’s hope that history repeats itself and the country follows California’s lead before the Tea Party drives us off a cliff.