Tuesday, September 7, 2010

California's rightward turn?

The LA Times writes that California's economic woes are turning voters to the right. I suspect that the real story is slightly different: that voters are turning to the Republican Party and its message because that party is offering an easy narrative about taxation and spending and public services, carefully crafted and solicitously spread to appeal to people's less pleasant angels.

At the risk of sounding redundant, I think that the greatest tragedy of this election cycle in California was the undemocratic character of the Democratic Party's gubernatorial primary. There was absolutely no debate about ideas, leaving Jerry Brown, unchallenged, able to run on the basis of his managerial abilities.

The Democratic Party has made no overarching argument about its philosophy, has offered no compelling story to link up California's past to its future. It is running on the assumption that the state's electoral arithmetic won't change. The Republican Party is intent on changing that arithmetic, and they've been given no greater gift than the acquiescence of Democrats to their core premise: that the election is about the management of the state rather than about ideas, and that the maintenance of a sound economic bottom line is more important than the welfare of Californians. And if that's the choice, I'm afraid that voters will go for the politician with more practise at shafting those people politicians are fond of calling 'ordinary Americans'. Which means students, the working class, the elderly, the sick, the unemployed, the homeless and any other marginal group.

The Democratic Party has chosen to take its members for granted, and this one at least is increasingly likely to take his vote elsewhere.

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