Thursday, November 30, 2006

The GOP Still Not Catching On

Republicans in California still don’t look like they are getting it through their heads what will make them more popular. The new session doesn’t even start until next week, but each week it looks like the GOP caucus in each house is moving further right than they already were.

In the Assembly two weeks ago, Republicans voted down Plescia as Minority Leader because he was seen a too conciliatory. Indeed, he was pragmatic and understood that the only way to remain relevant in what appears to be a nearly permanent minority position is to bargain with the majority party. As a result, there was significant give-and-take in the budgeting process, a budget was passed on time, the legislature was seen as being the most productive in decades, and the big winner was the Governor.

To replace Plescia, Republicans tapped Mike Villines of Clovis—a hard-line Republican most recently known for his fierce opposition to the budget and bonds. The GOP would have been hard pressed to find a party leader less bipartisan than Mr. Villines, who will almost certainly try to use his position to attack the wildly popular Republican (perhaps the ONLY wildly popular Republican left in the USA) Governor’s position on a number of issues that GOP leadership might see as un-Republican.

In the Senate, incumbent Minority Leader Dick Ackerman isn’t sitting too comfortably on his thrown. Reportedly, he hasn’t been able to secure enough votes to guarantee his reelection to the post, although he has more votes than Jim Battin, his main challenger. This could potentially lead to a compromise candidate—which might not be too bad.

Unfortunately, in order to be reelected, Ackerman has promised to take a harder stance on budget issues. That is, he wants to oppose the Governor’s pragmatic and centrist attempts to form a budget that serves the needs of Californians while simultaneously reducing wasteful spending. In the process, it appears he will be throwing away his good working relationship with Democratic leader Don Perata.

The problem with all this is that the GOP hasn’t figured out why nobody in California likes them and how the Governator became so popular (even though EVERYBODY hated him a year ago). It wasn’t bad spending, poor Republican turnout, or just Bush’s coattails that have led to the Blue Wave. Governor Schwarzenegger has mastered the technique of giving voters what they want.

An old professor of mine once explained that all voters want three things and that anybody who can figure out how to give all three will win every election: 1. Lower taxes, 2. More government services, 3. a balanced budget. While we all know it is impossible to give all of these all of the time, Governor Schwarzenegger has done extremely well by keeping taxes down (he hasn’t raised taxes), keeping services high (and proposing new popular public services regarding the environment and healthcare), and paying down the state’s debt.

The GOP could easily catch on to his strategy and ride it to further victories, but have chosen to fall into irrelevancy instead.


patr said...

Not all voters want more government services. Libertarians and limited-government conservatives definitely don't, as a matter of principle. The common perception is that we don't want to give money to the government, but the more important reason is that we don't want to give power to it. There are few things more dangerous than an empowered government. Dismantling the state to its bare minimum should be the ultimate goal.

This is why I have opposed Arnold both times (voted McClintock in the recall, Libertarian this November). He is familiar with Milton Friedman and other libertarians. Yet, he uses his charm and sway to push bland moderation instead of enlightening the public about real alternatives. In some alternate universe, he could be a dream candidate for the libertarian movement. But in our world, I think he's just more of the same.

CaliforniaGrown said...

Ok. Perhaps not ALL voters want more gov't services, lower taxes, and a balanced budget. Still, the point is that nearly all rational voters under normal circumstances will vote for those three items.

Even in the case of voting for the Libertarian against Arnold, you were supporting 2 of the 3 issues and opposing Angelides.

And frankly, straight Libertarianism would be so unpopular as to be impossible to implement. Arnold is about as close as we can get at this point: He is a libertarian on most economic issues and most social issues. However, we live in a state where increased government subsidized programs and services are expected and wanted by a majority of residents (and legislators). Philosophically, there is certainly a problem with this. However it is a necessity in practice.

Shane said...

This comment is based more on an earlier post you wrote:

Why are you so obsessed with Barbara Boxer? You keep painting her as this extremely vulnerable wild-eyed leftist when in reality she received more votes in 2004 than any other Senator running that year any where in the United States!

She's also not even that left - unless you consider believing the theory of global warming might be something other than a leftist plot to destroy America. I don't think she's even come out in favor of gay marriage.

"Babs" Boxer, as you keep referring to her, may seem like some out-of-touch Marin liberal but remember - she's been in politics longer than our ages put together. You don't stay in office that long without some modicum of intelligence.