Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Brown's Clinton Endorsement Highlights his Record of Non-Leadership

With the focus of the Presidential primaries turning to California, it was perhaps inevitable that the national media would swivel its attention at least momentarily toward the Golden State’s own political-economy and its trajectory over the past several years.  The New York Times, on the eve of Governor Jerry Brown’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, ran a story recommending that the “Success of Jerry Brown, and California, Offers Lesson to National Democrats.”
That could certainly be true, but while the New York Times suggests that this is a lesson Democrats should celebrate and emulate, a more careful reading of recent history demonstrates that it is a cautionary tale. 
The NYT praises Democrats in California as “a model of electoral success and cohesion,” arguing that it is “one of the few states in the country…where Democrats are completely in control, holding every statewide office as well as overwhelming majorities in the Assembly and the Senate.”  They praise state Democrats for pursuing legislation “on guns, tobacco, the environment, the minimum wage, and immigrant rights.” 
But that’s hardly the whole story.  Jerry Brown’s own triumph came in 2010, the year of the Tea Party surge.  Many read his election as a rebuke of the rigid, pledge-taking radicals in the Republican Party, who pursued vicious policies of austerity rather than pursuing reinvestment in a public sphere that had the capacity to uplift people whose livelihoods had been badly impacted by recession.
In reality, Brown ran on a Tea Party lite platform.  He took a pledge not to raise taxes without a referendum, tying his hands for the first years of his governorship.  During those years he pursued savage austerity, damaging social services, schools, universities, and other core institutions in the public realm, harming all those people who don’t have to resources to rely exclusively on the private sector for support.
Brown failed to tackle the state’s structural ills that keep it on autopilot towards austerity over the long term, absent courageous leadership.  And Brown made clear—trumpeting his philosophy of “creative inaction”—that he would offer no such leadership.  Instead of tackling big, structural problems, solutions to which would free up resources and allow the state to rationalize its tax structure and services, he set about micro-managing public institutions and turning them into the “villains” of the piece.
A consistent target has been the University of California.  When UC students requested tuition relief after decades of dramatically rising costs, Brown compared them—students at a public institution, asking that their institution be made genuinely public—to bankers asking for a bailout, and crudely offered them a “reality sandwich.”
Aside from his policies of austerity, his political cowardice, and his attacks on the vulnerable in a state of great resources, Brown has also put a dramatic check on the influence of his party.  When other Democrats sought to challenge Brown’s commitment to austerity by suggesting that reinvestment in the public sphere could do more to help Californians, Brown shut them down and made clear that he would veto efforts to reject his tepid and therefore damaging liberalism.
The NYT clearly does not understand that in a state like California, with its supermajority rules, majorities in the Assembly and Senate do not amount to “complete control.”  Absent supermajorities, Democrats are in no position to seriously address fundamental questions of taxation, revenue, and public priorities.  Without a supermajority, the party cannot challenge the state’s slide toward austerity with a population growing in size and in demographic complexity.
When he ran for re-election as a popular incumbent with a massive fundraising advantage in 2014, Brown had the opportunity to mount a campaign of ideas and generate coattails for the Democratic Party to allow it to seize such a supermajority.  Instead, he ignored the election altogether and let the party fight a series of disparate battles across the state.  He ran a non-campaign laced with contempt for California’s voters and the media. 
So when Jerry Brown endorses Hillary Clinton, saying “the stakes couldn’t be higher,” he is articulating a truth, but also exposing the extent to which he failed Californians for whom the stakes in 2010 were very high indeed.  Brown is no party-builder, no progressive, and no kind of leader.
His much vaunted “fiscal discipline” is just another word for disciplining the poor, the sick, the young, the weak, and anyone else on the margins of society.  In that, he represents the liberal orthodoxy of the large, right-wing of the Democratic Party that is fighting off a challenge from the left in the form of the uninspiring but much-needed candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders.  
I hope California voters and the media will take a slightly harder look at the record of Jerry Brown and the right-wing of the Democratic Party before they recommend his mismanagement of California as a model for the country.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Visit to IKEA

Samuel Johnson famously wrote, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  If Johnson had been Swedish, he probably would have written, “When a man is in IKEA he is just plain tired, for there is in IKEA all that life can afford, plus plenty of things it can’t, and also twenty thousand people milling slowly and aimlessly, clogging up the cafeteria line,” or words to that effect.  
Today, the Swede in the household thought it was high time we made a pilgrimage to the IKEA in Las Vegas that opened just a week and a half ago.  We reasoned that by now things would have calmed down--the opening involved various Nevada officials and people from the Swedish embassy in Washington, D.C.--and so made our way across town, my resolve strengthened by the fact that I brought along Daniel Headrick’s Power over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present for emergencies.  It turned out that roughly 200,000 other people had the same idea, and so my idea of a quiet, quick stroll through IKEA to the meatballs at the other end were not to be.
The giant blue building rises like some outlandish bloom from the desert floor, and as we drew near, I saw the flashing lights of so sizable a contingent of Las Vegas’ metro police that I thought perhaps President Obama had got wind of the opening and dropped by for a visit.  (I might have guessed it was the Swedish Prime Minister, but I suspect he travels with less fanfare than the average city councillor.)  
It turns out that drivers in Vegas are so bad, or the sight of an IKEA makes people take such leave of their senses, or that city planners are so shortsighted that they couldn’t plan properly, such that the police were in place to ensure shoppers were able to enter safely into the gargantuan IKEA parking lot.  A sound use of city resources, I’m sure.
Once inside of IKEA we cruised the aisles.  I’m not a shopper, and thought about filling out their customer feedback notice suggesting that they install a “fast lane” for people whose primary goal is to bypass the mobs testing beds, chairs, utensils, etc, and get to the cafeteria.  The Swede in the household, in her native environment, had other ideas, and so my progress was somewhat slowed by dish drying racks, foot rugs, and other sundry items that were only distractions from the meatballs and mashed potatoes that awaited.
My heart fell when we beheld the cafeteria line, a thrumming, endless horde of animal life.  If the photographers and videographers assembled on the Serengeti for the much-celebrated wildebeest migration had been informed of this sight--what appeared to be the entire population of the Valley crammed into a line, hankering after meatballs and gravlax and the free cup of tea you get as an IKEA family member--they would have left the herbivores to the crocodiles in the Masai Mara and arrived forthwith.  
What felt like a decade later--but was probably more like an hour and a half--we were seating in a very pleasant window-side table, admiring the views of the mountains, marveling at the bad drivers in the parking lot, and enjoying what was a pretty decent meal, even if the IKEA menu this side of the water isn’t quite up to scratch.  

It was a very pleasant lunch, and I’m no stranger to the wonders of IKEA furniture, but I think I will put off returning until the nightmares about getting trampled slowly underfoot by herds of unruly shoppers subside.  But I’d encourage fellow Las Vegans to visit the wonder that is IKEA and perhaps also learn something about the social contract in its home country, the lessons of which could be particularly useful for our own sociopathic state’s political community.  

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Week in the Woods

Grades submitted, desk marginally less messy, and the semester finished, I made one of my too-infrequent trips to northern California for a week.  The timing was perfect, because although heavy, late spring rains kept us in-doors part of a few days, the weather was beautifully cool and the foothills were in bloom.
Accustomed as Las Vegans are to sirens and helicopters, it was a pleasure for us to awake to splendid tranquility, clean and cool air, and the sounds of birds and the distant flow of a creek fed by the best rains in some years.  Even the recognition that I was being observed as I awoke--by a nervous deer peering in the window—made for a nice start to the day.
The forest was very visibly alive, and having been rejuvenated by the rains, set about working its own magic on some desert-dwellers in need of succor from heat, pollution, and a dearth of physical and social infrastructure.
Elusive pileated woodpeckers drifted between the trees, calling as they moved.  Flights of doves swept across open areas of logging land that a year ago had looked like wastelands, but are now becoming lush clearings and lively meadows.  Deer occasionally erupted from bush to dance down slopes, turning intermittently to check our progress before crackling deeper into the woods.  Frogs flopped into the creek as we passed their hideaways.
It was one of the best seasons for wildflowers I’ve seen, and some of the new meadows were carpeted by blue, purple, and yellow flowers, over which hovered bees and dragonflies and hummingbirds.  Higher up, the skies were the preserve of red-tailed hawks, vultures, and once, on a cloudy day, a skein of geese that wove in and out of low, grey skies, their calls marking their movements.
From the living room and front porch we tracked the progress of anxious squirrels, cautious deer, and energetic black phoebes.  The most regular entertainment consisted of a gang of turkeys that shuffled back around the house each evening to roost in pine and oak trees.  They provided us with much amusement as they worked their way up the hillside to lessen the angle of their ungainly flight into the trees.
Occasionally a particularly ambitious bird, dissatisfied with its first perch, would launch itself even more daringly toward the upper reaches of towering pines.  They generally arrived safely at their new destination, but occasionally overshot or overbalanced, and crashed in undignified fashion back to earth, having to begin the process again.  In the morning—like clockwork—they made their awkward descents to forage for some 14 hours.
The recent rains muddied the ground and allowed us to see who else was using the forest tracks.  Deer and turkey were the most common neighbors, but foxes, mountain lion, elk, and bear also left evidence of their passing.
One day we were lucky enough to round a corner in the forest and see a large black bear drifting casually along 50 meters ahead of us.  Although it didn’t turn, it almost imperceptibly quickened its pace, its power and grace visible beneath a rich brown coat in the sunshine cutting through the trees.  The bear swung right at a logging road junction and had gone into the thicket by the time I turned the corner.

At the end of our week we made our way back to Las Vegas, pleasantly surprised that temperatures were only in the mid-90s.  Thanks to the generosity of a friend and colleague, our plants weathered our absence in good form.  Fortified by a week in the woods, I’m back in my UNLV office.

Why Sanders Should Have Run as a Social Democrat

I spent the last week in California, which will shortly add its considerable number of voters to the Democratic primary election.  I was in a house of Sanders supporters who would nonetheless, without question, support Clinton in a general election against the Republican Party’s fascist nominee, Donald Trump.  Their thinking mirrors my own, but contemplating the California primary also make me think about some of the ways in which Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign has fallen short of my hopes.
A little over a year ago, Sanders launched a campaign to unseat Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee.  He faced not only a candidate with a formidable grassroots and financial network, but by extension most opinion-makers in the Democratic Party who had implicitly or explicitly offered Clinton their backing.  In some cases they did so out of conviction, in other cases because in what looked like an un-competitive primary it made sense to line up behind the next leader of the party and likely the country.
Sanders brought little name recognition and no national party network to the race, but has nonetheless managed to run a close second to Clinton and contribute significantly to the debate within the Democratic Party and the country at large.  But I think his campaign could have done far better had he actually acted on his promise to run as a democratic socialist, or a social democrat.
Because he was never going to win over any of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, Sanders had an opportunity to run on a platform that was simultaneously more radical--because of what it could offer people--and more conservative--because it didn’t embrace the fairy-tale of the benevolence of a free market.  
Instead, he missed an opportunity to level substantive critiques of liberalism.  The Democratic Party is a “liberal” party in the old-fashioned sense.  The majority of its leaders believe in the value and enforceability of civil and political rights (protection from racial or sexual discrimination, rights to vote, and rights associated with privacy and freedoms of speech and expression) , but have in most instances shrunk from promoting social or economic rights (for example, housing, education, a basic standard of living, healthcare, etc).
Most liberals in the Democratic Party believe, broadly, that the more people who have access to those economic and social rights, the better off society will be.  But because they believe--whatever fever-brained demagogues on the right say--that the state should play a comparatively modest role in structuring social and economic opportunities, liberals in the United States have to go about promoting people’s well-being in an ineffective manner.
Clinton and most liberals advocate a political approach that involves creating funds, programs, and the like designed to address the needs of people in particular categories--economic, racial, social, gendered, etc.  They believe that the “free” market is basically a moral instrument for governing people’s lives and opportunities, but that after people fall through the cracks in that market floor, they should be recipients of targeted funds and programs.
The drawbacks of this relationship between individuals and communities on the one hand, and the state on the other, should be apparent.  These programs and funds are provided by a broad base of taxpayers who pay generally progressive taxes (with the exception of the super rich) and whose own fortunes fluctuate over time.  A social fabric comprising a large (and for many a forgettable) array of programs and funds invites criticism and divestment from and by individuals and communities of people who are not benefiting from particular programs.  
Because state support for the various facets of people’s lives comes in the form of piecemeal programs and funds, many of the people who do not obviously benefit from those individual programs (which in most instances, for any given program, is likely to be the majority of the public) will grow unsupportive of those programs and support cuts to or the elimination of this patchwork of support mechanisms.
In parts of Europe, North America, and Asia among other places, a common alternative to this liberal philosophy of policymaking is social democracy.  Social democracy comes in a variety of forms.  Some versions have restricted themselves to constructing public funds to subsidize regulated, privately-provided services, whereas others have constructed more elaborate and robust forms of public welfare, and some have gone as far as nationalizing substantial sectors of the economy--related to healthcare, transportation and other infrastructure, key industries, etc.
What these welfare states have in common is a commitment to integrated and universal services and programs.  Take the example of the Beveridge Report, a 1942 document that laid the groundwork for the modern British welfare state.  
The report noted that welfare was not unknown in Britain, but that “each [social and economic] problem has been dealt with separately; with little or no reference to allied problems...organisation of social insurance should be treated as one part only of a comprehensive policy of social progress.”  The integrated and organized welfare system that British policymakers--scarred by a Depression (and the state’s inadequate response to economic collapse), fascism, and a botched post-war settlement after the First World War--envisioned was targeting five “Evils”: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness.  
Different welfare states have identified different versions of these evils, but they have in common a recognition that the piecemeal provision of services and funds and opportunities to segments of the national community is more vulnerable to popular whims than an integrated system.  A better-integrated and more organized welfare “system” not only provides an array of services, opportunities, and support to all members of the public--free or subsidized at the point of entry, and funded by progressive taxation.  It also creates a set of institutions that people of different backgrounds and “needs” experience in a common fashion and come to identify with in a way that is impossible with the piecemeal programs of the liberal state.
These two versions of the state--liberal and social democratic--come to function in very different ways.  The former is predicated on leaping, belatedly to the assistance of people who crash through a perpetually patchy social safety net.  The latter is based on the logic of creating a higher, stronger floor and doing as much as possible to prevent the collapse of regions, communities, or classes.
Social democracy is no panacea, and does not offer some “final” way out of politics.  In Europe it faces challenges from shifting demographics, from fascist parties, from resurgent liberals, and from the continent’s racism.  But it is a more durable, just, and logical politics that can create a more equal, prosperous, and secure society than the liberalism that has long defined politics and economics in the U.S.
Sanders should have advance some of these arguments.  And indeed, he promised that his campaign would represent a battle of ideas.  But over time, the centrality of those ideas has faded (witness that more Clinton supporters than Sanders supporters support more robust funding of the public sector), and Sanders’ campaign has come to revolve around “anti-establishment” rhetoric, and his own version of policy by patchwork.  
His criticisms of Clinton and the Democratic Party grew louder even as his alternatives became fuzzier.  He continues to rally disaffected voters, but absent a big, serious argument about social democratic policy, his campaign has absolved those voters of the responsibility of having the serious conversation about policy that Sanders promised.
In the area of foreign policy, where Hillary Clinton represents a radical, violent, and frankly insane consensus (one endorsed and expanded upon by Donald Trump), Sanders proved fatally lazy, declining to articulate the obvious relationship between social democratic philosophy at home and abroad.
Sanders’ failures in these various arenas have been deeply disappointing, not least because his failure to advance a coherent argument about the failings of liberal policy and ideology has left the Democratic Party on the verge of nominating a candidate dogged by controversy (mostly in the form of imagined scandals, but with significant and easily-preventable moral failings), with a misplaced sympathy for the powerful (whether defending Wall Street against Occupy critics or dictators against Arab Spring revolutionaries), and a spectacular record of violent and costly misjudgment in the arena of foreign policy.
I have zero doubt that Hillary Clinton would be a less dangerous president than Donald Trump, and that people would be far safer and better off with her as president.  Her tepid liberalism would represent stagnation, but not the savage assault on rights, regulations, and human life that Donald Trump threatens daily.  
But it is sad that a candidate who had and has my support, and who promised to offer something substantially different to voters, let his supporters, the public, and the country down.  I hope that Sanders outpaces Clinton in the remaining primaries and does everything he can--whether as the nominee or otherwise--to force the Democratic Party to face up to its weaknesses.  

But the project of pursuing a social democratic framework for politics and policies will have to be a project for a small but growing number of elected representatives and for voters who share the hope of creating a more fair, equal, and just society.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Clinton's Cartoonish Diplomacy is No Joke

Lord Palmerston, a mid-nineteenth century British foreign secretary and prime minister is supposed to have declared, "It is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England.  We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies.  Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow."  
Palmerston was a whiggish imperialist, keen to use the power of the state to promote Britain's informal, commercial empire around the world at the expense of people South America and East Asia.  But there is certainly more than a grain of wisdom in his articulation of what many would take to be a central feature of any rational foreign policy.  A practical example of this would be uncritically hitching oneself to another state, and letting the world know that however circumstances might change, and whatever the consequences might be, that state will have our unquestioning support.  One might assume that our "interests" would be defined less by a single state, and more by a vision for the world that involves stability, equality, and justice.
Narrow and uncritical thinking like this sounds like the height of stupidity, and yet it is precisely the type of bad diplomacy that Hillary Clinton and other neo-cons from both parties advocate, and which looks likely to become official policy should Clinton take office as President.  Clinton's foreign policy history is riddled with immorality and an ill-judged obsession with military intervention.  
But the feature of her foreign policy that best encapsulates this pernicious line of thinking, and also her understanding of power, is her insistence on putting the U.S. national security apparatus on autopilot in its support of Israel.  Israel's colonial territories are an affront to human rights, and generate enormous instability.  U.S. association with Israel not only mark us as an uncritical defender of a noxious colonial policy, but connect us to instability in the Middle East and make us a target for frustration and blowback.  
If the U.S. was actually interested in making the Middle East more stable and Israelis safer, we would recognize that this requires good faith negotiations between the parties concerned, and that good faith negotiations cannot occur when one party (which already possesses military, political, and economic power over the other) knows that any time it is not getting what it wants it can leave negotiations and count on the backing of the world's only superpower.  The idiotic unconditional support for Israel advocated by Clinton creates a disincentive for reaching a settlement, particularly when the current Israeli government is headed by a barking, racist, fundamentalist.
Addressing Palestinian grievances--material and political alike--would diminish the constituency that encourages terrible, deadly attacks on Israeli civilians.  While many commentators increasingly believe that a two-state solution is no longer possible, the alternative--a cohesive single state--becomes a more and more difficult proposition with every day of Palestinian alienation and the mounting fundamentalism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, who are seeking to corrode Israeli society.
So ironically, a Clinton policy designed to promote "moderate" elements in the Middle East actually emboldens fundamentalist Israeli colonialism while giving ever more credibility to the fundamentalist Islamic interests Clinton wants to degrade.
Clinton is not content with guaranteeing the Israeli state her total backing.  She has lashed out, repeatedly, at that state's critics.  Preying on anxieties about very real anti-Semitism that exists in the world, Clinton has lied again and again about the anti-Semitic nature of the divestment movement, which seeks to decouple the investments of public and private institutions in the U.S. from Israeli industries complicit in a self-destructive and immoral colonialism.  Clinton has likened people who criticize the behavior of the Israeli state to the Biblical pharaoh, claiming that supporters of divestment "malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people."  
Clinton's contemptible attacks on human rights advocates, and her grotesque distortions of their words and ideas--which if taken seriously would actually strengthen the legitimacy and security of the Israeli state by doing away with the behaviors that generate threats for that state--mark her as a supporter of a powerful state at the expense of powerless people, as well as an abjectly inept practitioner of the diplomacy at which she is supposedly expert.
Bernie Sanders, surprised by his own success in the primaries, turned too late to linking the ethics of his foreign and domestic policy in a way that might have won him far greater support early on in the primary process.  He nonetheless proved far braver than any other high level U.S. political figure in questioning the logic of unconditional support for the Israeli state.  
The alternative is the unhinged, bloodthirsty fascism of Donald Trump, who would pursue physical and structural violence against certain categories of American citizens.  Trump has pledged to pursue a militaristic foreign policy that would involve the widespread use of torture and the mass murder of family members of terrorists.  Trump has repeatedly lied to cover up his support for the Iraq war to appeal to swing voters.  But his past support for regime change combined with his advocacy of mass violence makes him a threat to people around the world as well as U.S. citizens.
That our alternative appears to be the neoconservative Hillary Clinton is thoroughly depressing, and a testament to how her supporters' obsession with hammering the "Bernie Bros" prevented them from using the primaries to convince their candidate that neoconservatism is a noxious, perilous, immoral, and destructive ideology that has no place in our politics.  Sadly, it is also a testament to Sanders’ own failure to develop a coherent foreign policy, in spite of the readiness with which his social democracy could transform the international as well as the domestic realm.
If Hillary Clinton wants to treat international relations and policy like some crude board game, where we divide the world into allies and enemies, and blast away at each other no matter the consequences for either the American public or the people of the other state who we are ostensibly seeing to help, the electorate should pitch in and buy her an "Axis and Allies" set to go and play with Dick Cheney.  

But if she wants to pursue a rational, moral, and coherent foreign policy, she should back away from irresponsible claims and commitments, think more expansively about the nature of U.S. "interests," and give a more holistic consideration to how to frame an international policy designed to enhance the lives of people around the world.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Politics of a UC Redding

Last week, the leader of California’s most important and valuable public institution spent a day in Redding.  University of California President Janet Napolitano spoke with community leadership and a more public audience at various venues in the largest Californian city north of Sacramento.  Thanks to the work of community organizers and advocates, Napolitano could not avoid the question of whether an additional UC campus might someday be in the works, and whether such a campus could be built in Redding.
Proponents of a UC Redding have pointed out that a campus in the North State would not only create links between a somewhat isolated and marginal region and the larger state community.  A campus would also provide an economic boost to the enervated communities north of the capital.  And given UC’s own argument that there are a shortage of places in relation to demand, a UC Redding would create “seats” while ticking a couple of these other boxes.
I have not always been a fan of Janet Napolitano’s stewardship of UC.  I think she has over-indulged the apparently legal if highly unethical behavior of some campus leadership.  I think she could have resisted the corporatization of UC by those parasitic members of the Board of Regents who focus their energies on trying to pay competitive salaries to a cadre of administrators without recognizing that their poor priorities will lead to a loss of trust and therefore of funding for the UC.  And I think Napolitano--like many Californians--underestimated myopia of Governor Jerry Brown, who has equated affordable tuition for California’s students with a Wall Street bailout.
But I think she has made a decent job of the lousy climate she inherited.  And precisely because of her own political background, Napolitano grasps that at heart, UC’s dilemma is a political one.  Her answer to UC Redding advocates demonstrated as much.  She discussed the transfer pipeline, the Blue & Gold financial aid program, and distance opportunities, all of which could take North State students to the UC without a new campus.  But she was also clear about the barrier to UC Redding advocates’ vision: “Until the University receives full state funding for the existing 10 campuses...another brick-and-mortar campus still lies in the future.”
This was a useful dose of realism for the Redding and northern California community.  The construction of a UC Redding will require not only strong and smart and consistent advocacy, but also a recognition of the cultural and political changes that are necessary for UC and the state to contemplate opening a new campus.
State funding for UC has declined steadily relative to the number of students and remit of the University for forty years.  The balance of the cost has been transferred onto the shoulders of students and their families.  It would be irresponsible for UC to open a new campus until that decline is reversed or at least arrested.  Hence Napolitano’s focus on consolidation at Merced rather than expansion in Redding.
For a UC Redding to emerge, we need to see some big changes in the political economy of our state.  Supermajority rules about revenue (with origins in Prop 13) have put our state--with its expanding and ever more complex population and demographics--on autopilot toward austerity.  My personal view is that major changes will have to wait until Jerry Brown leaves office.  Brown has described his philosophy as “creative inaction,” hardly a recipe for reinvigorating our state and its institutions.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is a likely candidate for the state’s executive leadership in two years’ time, and of all the members of the Board of Regents has proven himself most committed to defending the public, ambitious, and affordable version of UC that Brown’s father built in the 1960s.  I would hope that his candidacy--and that of other statewide leaders--would provide an opportunity to think about what it takes to reinvest in UC and regain control over its mission.
But should such a revitalization occur, and should Redding and the North State aspire to capitalize on it for the region, change needs to occur at the regional as well as the state level.  It’s no secret that northern California is deeply conservative and demonstrates its scepticism of state institutions through its voting record.  Redding would have rivals on its claim to a new UC campus, and would need strong voices in the Senate and Assembly.
Even if the region’s representatives, Ted Gaines and Brian Dahle, decided to advocate for a campus in northern California, they are unlikely to win support from colleagues in central and southern California on the basis of their political hypocrisy.  After all, other state leaders would be likely to question why a region that sends two signatories of Grover Norquist’s straitjacket, anti-tax pledge--something which has historically put the brakes on state funding for state institutions like UC--should have a claim on state resources.
In other words, some of northern California’s marginalization stems from its remote location, small population, and rural nature.  But I would argue that the more significant explanations have to do with the quality and character of its representation.  The likes of Gaines and Dahle not only vote in a way that makes a UC Redding less likely.  Their votes are also going to be remembered when it comes time for state leadership to make decisions about any hypothetical requests from UC about the location of new campuses.  Their inflexibility about matters of revenue does their constituents a disservice and could imperil Redding’s ability to claim a new campus should the opportunity arise.

The long-term nature of the quest for a UC Redding will challenge the community’s commitment, and will be a test of the depth of desire for a transformative public institution to set up shop in northern California.  As a product of the region and a beneficiary of California’s extraordinary University, I hope that when good times return to California and the UC, Redding can gain.