Reasons for optimism in Washington, Sacramento

By Union Democrat staff November 08, 2010 04:26 am
    What if they threw a revolution and nobody came?
 Well, voters threw one across the nation, and California didn’t come.
 While anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic fever raged to the east, Golden State voters returned sitting politicians to office by the score — and most were Democrats.
      In fact not a single lawmaker in the State Senate or Assembly lost a re-election bid Tuesday. Although the verdicts in one or two of California’s 53 Congressional districts remain in doubt, the vast majority of the state’s Washington delegation will also remain as is.
 So are we in for two years of more of the same — epic budget crises, ineffectual leadership, legislative gridlock and, just to keep the constituents at bay — occasional rations of pork.
    We hope not:
    In Washington, Republicans nationwide have stormed the Congress, picking up more than 60 seats in the House and at least six in the Senate. The message is clear: Voters are unhappy with the direction Obama has taken and want a change.
    Polls also show that Americans are tired of partisanship and ready for cooperation. We hope the message is not lost on the President and Congress.
    The bitter taste left by the Democrats’ damn-the-torpedoes march toward health care adoption still lingers, as do the endless barbs and broadsides launched at Obama by his critics for even the flimsiest of reasons.
    Sacramento is more problematic, but there are a few reasons for optimism.
    For one, we’ll have a new governor. Although Tuolumne and Calaveras county voters vastly preferred Republican Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown deserves a chance. 
    Unlike Whitman and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown is one those easily-reviled “career politicians.” Not only has he been governor, but college trustee, secretary of state, mayor of Oakland and attorney general.
    To say the guy knows the ropes is a vast understatement. Young Jerry was roaming the Capitol hallways when his dad, Pat Brown, was governor in the 1950s and ‘60s.
    While Schwarzenegger largely failed in building consensus or engineering compromise in the Legislature, Brown’s knowledge of the system and its players better equips him for the job.
    During the campaign, critics complained that Brown would “tax us to death.”
    But can we really expect such profligacy from the governor who a generation ago gave up the limo and mansion and called for an “era of limits”? 
    Brown is far from a flaming liberal, having dealt with the gritty realities of managing Oakland and having served as the state’s cop for the last four years. At 72, he has no ambition for higher office. Or for being the governor who spent California into bankruptcy.
    There’s also reason to believe that all of the state’s legislative districts won’t vote in lockstep forever.
    Voters two years ago stripped lawmakers of the right to draw their own districts and created a new, nonpartisan commission to do the job. And last week voters soundly rejected a proposition that would eliminate that commission, and instead approved a measure extending its authority to Congressional districts.
    With 2010 census figures in, the commission will draw new districts in time for the 2012 election — which is also when the state’s new open primary law kicks in. The political landscape will change profoundly, we believe, and for the better.