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October 8, 2003
Strib idiots strike again

Comparing California voters to unruly toddlers, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune spouts off again on a subject about which they know little.

Most parents have witnessed a version of the Toys "R" Us scene in which a child, caught up in the frenzy of toy overload, cries out, "Mommy, I want it, and I want it now!"

California politics, always a raucous affair, has become over the last 30 years more shrill, impatient and petulant, more of a toy-store experience.

This may be a funny metaphor but sells voters short. California didn't get rid of Gray because of shiny, cool Arnold: they got rid of Gray because Gray has repeatedly sold out Californians to his contributors, and Californians got tired of it. Or perhaps the Strib never bothered to research sweetheart deals like the Oracle contract.

Voters in the largest state knew what they didn't want -- more Gray Davis, whom they judged an unlikable, indecisive politician of the worst sort, who had made a mess of things, although they weren't sure quite how.

On the contrary, they have had ringside seats into how Gray Davis has made a mess of things, including enabling the tripling of the car tax during a recession and his refusal to address workers-comp rules that are driving businesses out of California.

The best profile of today's angry American voter may have been best described 170 years ago by the astute observer Alexis de Tocqueville. He noticed a rising class of "eager and apprehensive men of small property [who] continually and in a thousand ways feel they might lose [it]."

Which neatly and accurately describes the entire American middle class, although it's revealing that the Strib chooses such a snooty tone in its reference. In California especially, where "user fees" have replaced tax increases and Democratic legislatures continue to create expensive programs in the middle of the worst state budget deficit in history, it sure seems like there's a lot more than 1,000 ways to lose "it".

In modern terms, it's people who believe (often mistakenly) that they've made it wholly on their own and that, except for government's interference, everyone would follow their example.

It's not that the middle class feel like they made it on their own; it's that it wasn't handed to them by the government! They worked for their property. They don't take kindly to it being redistributed by an increasingly aggressive political class.

Its cyclical economy, its über-populist system of initiative and recall, and its media-driven political discourse all combine to make the state increasingly ungovernable.

All economies are cyclical, the initiative process is also sometimes referred to as "democracy", this is the first successful recall of a governor in California history, and show me a state where political discourse isn't "media-driven". Do they read these things before they publish them?

As historian David Kennedy wrote in last Sunday's New York Times, "Legislators have been reduced to diddling uselessly in Sacramento while various interest groups routinely bamboozle the electorate with proliferating ballot initiatives that are poorly written, often contradictory and nearly always bad law."

This is, of course, a veiled reference to Prop 13, the tax revolt that started in California in 1978 and is still influencing politics today. As for legislatures "diddling uselessly" -- they may be "diddling" the electorate, they may mostly be "useless", but the California legislature can and does control the vast majority of spending in California. The only part they don't control are unfunded federal mandates, which is another issue altogether. What the Legislature doesn't easily control is revenue, thanks to a two-thirds requirement for raising taxes. It's not revenue that is the problem -- it's spending. If the Legislature decides to ignore the message from the recall and continue to spend like drunken sailors, then Arnold will have a perfect platform for mid-term state elections next year.

Still, we wish Schwarzenegger well. Perhaps a rebound in the high-tech economy will do most of the work for him. Minnesotans know that celebrity hulks don't necessarily make bad governors.

Clever -- this is editorial CYA. If Schwarzenegger is successful, the Strib can chalk it up to an improving economy, although it would be nice if they would finally acknowledge that it is improving. And Minnesotans know that thin-skinned, crybaby ex-wrestlers who get elected Governor turn out to be an embarrassment. The Strib loved Jesse, which explains a lot about their editorial policy and their writing ability.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 8, 2003 9:06 PM

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