Politics

California Scheming

June 08, 2016

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California Scheming

Even with its 55 electoral votes, California has slowly been drifting off the national political radar from the days when it served as the semifinals of the heavyweight division. For example, in 1962 California vindicated liberal activism by reelecting energetic incumbent governor Pat Brown over former vice president Richard Nixon. But in 1966 Ronald Reagan surprised Brown in the first indication that voters would hold Democrats responsible for the riots and crime that had quickly followed peak liberalism.

Yet the notion that the largest state could play a role in furnishing future presidential contenders still survives. In recent decades, however, as California has become a one-party Democratic state, it hasn’t provided much of a presidential bench.

The only Republican to win a major California election in recent years, immigrant muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger, wasn’t eligible for the presidency.

And the California Democrats have been completely dominated by a coterie of remarkably elderly politicians dating from Jefferson Airplane-era Northern California who serve as living fossils to remind everyone of the Golden State’s golden age. The governor, Pat’s son Jerry Brown, is 78, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is 76, sitting senator Dianne Feinstein is 82, and state Democratic Party chairman John Burton is 83.

Senator Barbara Boxer will be retiring next year at a mere 76, and that has at last provided an opening for the Democratic Party’s golden girl, state attorney general Kamala Harris, still good-looking at age 51.

Writing just before the polls open for the California primary election, I can’t predict the future, but it’s reasonably safe to assume that Harris will maintain her Presidential Timberhood by finishing among the top two in the open primary for Boxer’s Senate seat.

“In recent decades, as California has become a one-party Democratic state, it hasn’t provided much of a presidential bench.”

(This nonpartisan “jungle primary” system was another good government reform promoted by former Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like his anti-gerrymandering redistricting commission, it seems to have mostly worked out to the benefit of the Democrats, which might offer some clues to what the presidency of another masculine celebrity newcomer to politics, Donald Trump, might turn out like.)

With the GOP presidential race wrapped up, turnout will be much heavier on the Democratic side (unless the Associated Press’ claim on Monday that Hillary has the nomination won depresses Democrats). So it’s expected that the top two vote-getters will be a couple of Democrats, Harris from San Francisco and Rep. Loretta Sanchez from less liberal Orange County.

Sanchez, who has been in the House for 20 years, where her main accomplishment has been getting her sister into the House, is one of a number of California’s undistinguished Mexican-American politicians, such as former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante, who have been given opportunities for high office by the sheer weight of Latino numbers in California. But so far no California Hispanic has emerged from the pack.

A recent study reported:

…the best chances for Latino politicians come in small towns populated by Latinos. The higher up the political food chain the job, or the less Latino the political district, the worse their odds of success…. Concern about their future has blossomed as Latinos, long the most politically important minority group in the state—even though, yes, it’s now the largest in population—have found themselves somewhat eclipsed by Asians.

Harris has been in the news since 1994 when she was the very special 29-year-old guest at the 60th birthday party of master politician Willie Brown, the longtime speaker of the state assembly, who, by the way, has been married since 1958. The ethically challenged Brown found lucrative state sinecures to appoint his mistress to.

When Californians voted for term limits in large part to get rid of Willie, he slid over to being mayor of San Francisco. Despite since being term-limited out of the mayor’s office, Brown, now 82, still pretty much runs San Francisco through his handpicked mayor Ed Lee. Evidently, term limits lead to amateur office holders, who give local deep state rascals like Brown even more power.

Brown is a political genius of sorts, but not the kind that states normally want to flaunt in Washington. Willie was always a down-home taste, fine for the gamey realities of San Francisco but not really for sharing with national company. (Granted, Brown was never as crazy crooked as some more recent San Francisco elected officials, such as Ed Jew, who tried to shake down the owners of a rival tapioca shop, and Leland Yee, the state senator and gun-control advocate who was recently jailed for gunrunning shoulder-launched missiles with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a.k.a. MILF.)

The Democrat Brown was famous for being able to stay speaker by finding Republicans here and there to vote for him. Not surprisingly, his former concubine has followed a 1990s path of running for prosecutor jobs to set herself up for higher office.