Thursday, November 10, 2005

#209 - Ahnold's Boat Forgot to Float

Poor Ahnold. What's a seemingly disgraced soon-to-be-ex-Governor to do? Every single one of his reasons for having an expensive special election have been shot down before his eyes and, worse yet, no one seems to care very much.

I mean no one.

Interestingly enough, even the political pundits of the MSM seem to have dropped California's election results like a bad breakfast burrito. There's been maybe two days of political commentary and, suddenly, it's all disappeared. There has been an almost eerie silence from Sacramento since the election. Seems the entire executive and legislative branches have chosen to leave town rather than discuss what's just happened.

This could be because what's really just happened is: nothing.

As far as the Democrats are concerned, the election was a walk. Oh, sure, they outspent the Governor by nearly a two to one margin, but then they always outspend their opponents. That's what soft money is for. You have to make people think it's scary to vote against them. But the Democrats probably knew something that Ahnold didn't: the Republicans just weren't engaged in this campaign.

Take a look at the list of initiatives. Begin with the "Big Four;" those initiatives personally sponsored and backed by the Governor himself. The issues of teacher tenure, labor union money, forcing a balanced budget, and even redistricting are four of the most complicated (and, therefore, most boring) issues currently infesting state government. Each one is so deeply entrenched in the law books that no single initiative - even a well designed one - will solve the problem. As for the others, well, how many times have we tried to reform prescription drug policies, utility price controls, and even (shudder) teenage abortion laws?

Apparently, one too many times to suit most Republicans. Take the issue of teenagers requiring parental consent before getting an abortion. While it may sound noble to require parents to be informed that their children are asking for an abortion, what's the reality here? What savvy parent who truly cares about their daughter would be completely unaware that their child was having sex, got pregnant, and is now seeking an "easy" way out? The ones who actually communicate with their children and stay actively involved in their lives probably (I'm sure there are exceptions) don't have to deal with that. So it's the kids who feel a need to "play" the system and stay just under the parental radar that this law would have captured, and they are the most likely ones to get the abortions, legal or otherwise. Another near-useless law.

Teacher tenure? Pshaw. Nothing we've tried in the last thirty years has ever had any effect - positive or negative - on producing quality teachers who in turn produce quality students. The pressures our kids face are societal, not legal. It's in the family that a kid either excels or disintegrates. School is merely the most visible component of a child's life, because that's where we "test" the kids. If the test scores are bad (and they almost always are), then the kids must be failing. And if the kids are failing, the schools certainly are. Unless you talk to the teachers, who for years have claimed that moneyovercrowded classrooms, moneylack of materials, and moneycorrupt administrators are to blame, along with every Republican who ever registered to vote. Either way, Proposition 74 would have had little effect. I voted yes, but (as I said before) unenthusiastically.

Any initiative to reign in the organized labor unions must be met with utter contempt by the voting public. As I mentioned in my previous post, the unions have become the very things they fought against over a hundred years ago. They have become the corrupt bureaucracies that use heavy-handed scare tactics to control their memberships, and are not above the use of occasional violence or threats to enforce their image of victimization. They are the very definition of the Entitlement Mentality. Efforts to correct their corruption through legal means are always doomed to fail. Why should Republicans get passionate about something they know won't go away without a highly organized national effort?

I'm not as old as some people think, so when I say I cannot remember the last time Sacramento passed a budget on time, you'll have to take my word for it. Maybe they have, and I was busy that year. Still, the more deeply divided the legislature becomes over basic issues, the longer this process is going to take. At some point, some genius will figure out that we have to start passing budgets five years in advance in order to have them approved on time. Until that happens, you can legislate the process all you want. They'll still never get it done when they're supposed to. The Governor will always have to resort to unusual means to get money to the places he needs it, and the opposing party will always be hacked off about it. Another no-win situation.

And on, and on, and on.

So, here's the lessons Ahnold should have learned this year:

1. If you want to have a special election, make sure you've earned it first.

2. Ballot initiatives need to capture the attention and interest of the minor players. "Voters," I think you call them. Without their interest, you have no chance.

3. If you absolutely must raise an issue that's never been successfully challenged before, make sure your vision is worthy of deep analysis and discussion by all sides. Don't assume your constituents "get it" just because they elected you in the first place. And, finally,

4. Never let the President come to your state during the election to raise money for himself. Looking like a beggar at the table is bad politics.

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