The two news organizations that I turn to now are Al Jazeera America and the Los Angeles Times. Why? Because the former is really good. And the latter is good and has not yet started charging me to read it. (Although I feel certain that this is coming.) But even more, over the last six months, I’ve found myself feeling more and more estranged from the dominance of “national” politics, which is defined as whatever is going on in Washington and New York. Don’t get me wrong. I really like both New York and Washington. I have very fond memories of them both. But they are not nor would they ever be home. It isn’t quite right to say that I’m a California boy, though. I’m a left coaster as defined by American Nations. And that means that I’m not really at home down in Los Angeles. But the Times covers my section of the world. (The San Francisco Chronicle still kind of sucks online, unless you’re really into sports.)
One of my heroes is Jerry Brown. This doesn’t mean that I agree with him about everything. But as far as politics goes, there is no one better and I tend to think there is one one who is even equal. We had a great experiment here in California. You see, one of my most hated canards is that politics is easy and if we just got rid of the professional politicians, we could solve all our problems. We here in California got a chance to try that. We elected (and I am not proud of this) Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of the truly great state of California. (Really, what is with all this “great state of…”? Is Wyoming really a “great state”? I don’t think so. If it were part of California, we might call it the “great congressional district” but that’s about it!)
Look: I have lots of problems with Schwarzenegger, but I fully admit that he is a very smart and capable man. But he was a political amateur. You could see this when he spoke at the 2004 RNC. He spoke in glowing terms about Nixon. Well, as you know, I’m a big fan of Nixon. But Schwarzenegger made two mistakes. First, he mistook political rhetoric for political policy. Hey: listen to what Paul Ryan talks about! It’s all about leveling the playing field and getting rid of crony capitalism. Then look at his budget. It’s all about unleveling the playing field and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. This is the most elementary political error one can make, and it is primarily a mistake made by conservatives—especially immigrants. His second mistake was to believe that the Republican Party of George Bush the Younger was the same as the Republican Party of Richard Nixon the Only. Hell, at that time, the Republican Party was mostly pro-choice! Now the only choice that the Republican Party believes in is the choice of the rich to do whatever they want and the choice of the poor to try to make ends meet with the crumbs that the rich leave on the table.
So it was no surprise that Mr I’m Gonna Take Charge was a complete failure as governor. But who knew? Maybe no one could fix California. And then, the 73-year-old former governor Jerry Brown came into office and showed what a professional can do in the job. He did many things that I was none too happy about. But hell, what was he going to do? I’m none too happy that I can’t afford season tickets to the San Francisco Opera. Life sucks some times and when a state is billions of dollars in the red, there is going to be pain. (NOTE: this is not true of the federal government!) And he managed the situation in the best way that any man reasonably could.
Now that California’s budget problem is solved, the question is what are we going to do with the money. Brown has some very good ideas, including $1.6-billion addition to the state’s “rainy day fund.” Of course, not everyone is happy. The courts think they ought to get more money. The court system thinks it’s getting the shaft (defined as $105 million more per year), but the Brown administration has said that other parts of the government—most especially education—have suffered more and thus deserve more. Again, I don’t agree with him completely, but he does his job well—probably better than any other politician.
Bearing this in mind, consider the news from yesterday, Brown Rules Out Presidential Bid. There has been a lot of talk about him running. After all, you could cite the “California Miracle.” But he said no. What’s important is how he said it. According to the article:
That should make us all pause. Legislatively, California is a mess. It is almost impossible to raise taxes. Every two years there is up to a score of really bad ballot initiatives that the corporatocracy has gotten the people to ignorantly put there. And then we have all the other problems of Washington including a Republican Party committed to destroying the government. So if Brown thinks that California is more governable and he is the best executive of the last two generations, what does that say about the state of governance in the United States?
I absolutely do not believe in revolution. I am committed to pacifism. I think that violence always makes things worse for the people (Like me!) who just want to live their lives. But today, at least, I am very pessimistic. The only possibility for a more just society may be to destroy it and start over. Because day by day, the United States is becoming a less perfect union. And the fact that a great man like Jerry Brown would rather stay in California than deal with the country as a whole is a perfect example of this.