Abel Maldonado, the former Lieutenant Governor and California State Senator who took substantial perks from the energy lobby while an assemblyman, and was sued by the IRS for tax dodging and claiming improper reductions, is running for Governor. He is supposed to represent the kinder, gentler, more in-touch, and coincidentally Latino face of the state Republican Party which has been dominated by fulminating economic fundamentalists who do their best to make non-white Californians (a majority in the state) feel like so much unwanted flotsam while ruthlessly dismantling our public sector--public schools, Community Colleges, the Universities, state parks, public libraries, and social welfare programs.
Maldonado’s ‘moderate’ credentials stem primarily from his willingness to support modest tax deals to enable the state to pass a budget in 2009. But now that he has his eye on higher office, the opportunist appears to be hewing to the more traditional party line. His opening salvo--a year and a half out from the election--targeted Governor Jerry Brown’s prison realignment program, an easily mischaracterised target for law-and-order Republicans.
According to the LA Times, Maldonado’s strategy is to caricature the program as an ‘early release’ agenda. The same paper wrote that Maldonado freely admitted that he had no plan of his own but “said it would likely include expansion and construction of new lockups”.
This gives the lie to Maldonado’s claim to embody the rationality that his party so eagerly repudiates. Like previous standard-bearers of his party’s right wing, and like the pack of morally stunted fanatics who make up the GOP caucus in Sacramento, Maldonado favours an expansion of the prison industrial complex which is bankrupting our state. The expansion of this complex--which eschews preventive measures which in other places have shown to be both more effective and less costly--can only occur at a cost to the other large item in our state’s budget: education.
In the past decade, early childhood education, K-12 schools, Community Colleges, the California State University, and the University of California have all been hit hard by budget cuts. This has occurred because the numerically marginalised Republican Party--empowered by Prop 13 and associated initiatives which generated an enormous democratic deficit--used its control of the state via the supermajority rules to starve the institutions which serve the majority of the public to serve their ideological fanaticism and the greed of their corporate handlers.
Unless Maldonado outflanks Jerry Brown on the left by arguing for more taxes (in which case, we'll take him!), he is going to find himself in the difficult and morally spurious position of arguing that we take further money from higher education and other public services to expand the prison system that has over time become part of the problem rather than the solution. Maldonado will not, of course, admit that this is the choice that voters will face in backing his candidacy. And his lies will find precedent in the dishonesty of his GOP compatriots, including the likes of Jim Nielsen who had the audacity (or stupidity) to blame Democrats for the decline of public education in the state.
I predict that Maldonado will become the Romney of the California GOP. His party won’t like him but they’ll stomach him because Tim Donnelly is a sociopath who will win 20% of the vote in a general election. He will go into unbelievable contortions to sell his toxic policies to the public. And he will lose. So he could save us a lot of trouble if, by acknowledging the impossible road that his hypocrisy and political dishonesty lays down for him on the way to 2014, he decides to abandon his ambitions and leaves the thankless task of representing California’s Republican Party to others.