Friday, August 8, 2014

The Substanceless Candidate

Thanks to California’s undemocratic Top Two primary system, in which 12% of voters make the big decisions in June, no serious candidates made it onto the November ballot.  That is, no serious candidates as defined by their policy platforms or ideas for improving life for the citizens of California.

Jerry Brown eschews policy discussions, and gets away with it by bedazzling the media and playing at being some kind of philosopher king, when in reality he resembles some latter-day Nero, fiddling atop the social and economic pyre that is a California defined by declining public services, appalling economic inequality, and a broken system of government.
Back in June, the main policy of Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate who took a distant second in the primary, was to avoid saying anything as unhinged as the Tim Donnelly, official representative of the GOP’s lunatic fringe.  Kashkari was successful, and put out videos of himself playing with his dogs on the beach in lieu of serious commentary on the state.
Candidates from the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and others who went to the trouble of putting together thoughtful, often novel, and sometimes quite compelling platforms, were uniformly dismissed, receiving no coverage from the media, and none of the financial support necessary for a campaign from the economic powers that be in the state.
In August, Jerry Brown’s strategy is the same, and I have little doubt that his refusal to engage with any of the big questions that bedevil our state will prove successful, and that he will be reelected in three months’ time.
More disappointing is Kashkari, who spends a lot of time talking about poverty, the poor state of our schools, and the need to do something about it.  He went so far as to play at being homeless for a few days to garner the media attention that the state GOP’s shallow pockets are incapable of buying him.
And it worked, winning Kashkari an interview with Time magazine, in which he sounded off on his usual talking points.  Some of his criticisms of Jerry Brown were spot on.  Kashkari bemoaned, “Here’s a Democratic governor with a Democratic super-majority in the state senate and the state assembly [sic].  And he’s making incremental changes.  He’s tinkering around the dges.  He should be Nixon going to China…The thing that angers me the most is if anybody in California has the power to make big changes, it’s Jerry Brown.  He’s not lifting a finger… In the face of record poverty, schools that are near the worst, and unemployment that’s near the worst, he does what’s politically expedient for him.  That’s a hell of a record”.
Now if Kashkari were serious about addressing these problems in a way that would help Californians, he would do more than launch ill-informed, illogical, and opportunistic attacks on organized labour as the source of our ills.  In the generous column inches he was given by Time, the would-be Governor had exactly nothing of substance to say about how he would buck his own party’s fundamentalism to address the economic inequality and institutional impoverishment—engineered by his party thanks to its cynical use of undemocratic supermajority rules—behind California’s ills.

It’s a pity that Brown won’t be challenged by someone—irrespective of that individual’s party—who has something intelligent and serious to say about public institutions, economic inequality, structural political reform, or our democratic and moral deficits.  To all appearances, Kashkari is every bit as cynical as Jerry Brown. 


  1. Another excellent article, and I am glad that distance from our fair state has not damped your zeal for Jerry Brown bashing. Though if I can, I have to quibble with the analogy to Nero, besides the fact that fiddles wouldn't be around for another 1500 years, Rome was rebuilt after the fire and survived for another couple hundred years. Will California be so lucky after another 4 years under this dedicated public servant? If I may I'd like to suggest some other, in no way overblown, analogies:
    1) Jerry Brown is a modern day Vlad Dracula, impaling California on a stake of lower unemployment and higher tax revenues.
    2) Jerry Brown is a modern day Neville Chamberlain, appeasing the Hitler of legitimate environmental concerns by supporting and implementing AB32. (The Brahmin has assured me Hitler references can do nothing but help your arguments)
    3) My personal favorite, because I think you need to go galaxy-size to truly capture the magnitude of his malevolence: Jerry Brown is a modern day Emperor Palpatine, destroying democratic institutions with a democratically installed voting scheme to prevent candidates who had no chance of winning from winning in order to destroy the Jedi Order and allow Sith rule for 1000 years...

    ...or something like that… just some helpful suggestions :-)

    1. I don't think the fiddling is meant to be literal, but I appreciate the suggestions, although methinks you and the Brahmin are conspiring to push me beyond the fringe... As for Emperor Palpitate or whatever he's called, that reminds me of this comic: