The Optimist – Here’s My Hope

Okay, stay with me here.  13 years ago California was mired in a lot of seemingly intractable budget and government issues for numerous reasons (because everything is complex).  But it was mainly one pretty simple and stupid reason (because there’s no end to the stupid) and that is the passage of 1978’s Proposition 13.  Proposition 13 was proposed as a backlash to growing taxation in a state that was growing by leaps and bounds and very prosperous.  Anti-tax sentiment got it on the ballot and 65% of the state (shockingly) voted themselves a tax cut.  Prop. 13 cut all property taxes in the state fairly radically, and limited their growth. It also crippled the state government by making it necessary to have 2/3 super majority to pass any tax increase.

Upshot was that California was hurt in many ways by an inability to raise taxes as necessary.  Budget problems ensued as essential services like education, health, fire, police, etc. had to be curtailed.  Californians paid less taxes and got less everything.  And were still (shockingly) unhappy.

California’s issues reached a head in 2003 as energy prices in the state surged because of manipulation of supply by entities like the notorious Enron.  A man by the name of Darrell Issa  (perhaps you’ve heard of him) got it into his head that with a populace this angry, maybe he could lead a recall of the recently re-elected Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and become governor himself. (No, he had never run against Davis, I don’t think he even ran for the GOP nomination, he just heard about this recall law and crawled out from under a rock with this dangerous knowledge, a boatload of ambition and a fortune to spend.)  Issa spent $1 million of his own money towards the recall.

Davis, sadly, was a milquetoast of a governor, with few allies.  He wasn’t the problem in the state, either with the budgets or the energy issues.  Nor could he as one man fix the problems. Fair or not, Issa proposed using the recall statute that was legally only supposed to be usable if the governor had committed some crime, to remove Davis.  Fair or not people were angry and took that anger out on Gray Davis.  Signing a petition is easy, governing is hard.

Two elections were scheduled on the same day.  One would be a yes or no to recall the governor and the second was for the new governor should the answer to the first election be “yes”.  If that sounds crazy, it was.  It get s crazier because the slate of people who got on the clown car to replace Davis was lengthy and stupid.  135 candidates qualified for the ballot.  It was a circus befitting California.

Some of the questionable personages who decided they should be governor were pornographer Larry Flynt, billboard personality Angeylne, diminutive actor Gary Coleman, soft-core porn actress Mary Carey and heavily muscled action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger – one of the most well known people in the world at the time.  There were also many traditional politicians and business people of varying degrees of seriousness. The race came down to Schwarzenegger and Arianna Huffington.  Two immigrants with much thicker accents than you’d expect for people who had lived in America for 30 plus years, but that’s just me.  Oh and that Darrel Issa guy was left crying as Schwarzenegger muscled by him and into the governorship.

Of course the state voted to recall the mild mannered milquetoast in the Governor’s Mansion!  Especially since they could trade in a human mannequin like Davis for the dynamic Arnold Schwarzenegger.  So they did that.  They elected the Austrian born movie star and former Mr. Universe.

And nothing changed.

Eventually the energy problems were revealed as quite nefarious manipulations of the market and some people went to jail and companies like Enron went out of business.

But all the other problems that were caused by Prop. 13 and the limits on tax raising couldn’t change just because a cigar chomping bigger than life personality was now in Sacramento.  Schwarzenegger muddled through almost 8 years of the continuing degradation of the once great state of California, going through some marital issues and a paternity scandal with one of the his long time housekeepers.  Something that would never have happened to Gray Davis, for better or worse.

Then Jerry Brown happened.  The once and former governor returned and won a third term as governor 28 years after his second term ended.  But more importantly the state got tired of Republicans in general and put majorities of Democrats in charge throughout the state. Every statewide office was held by a Democrat, the Assembly and Senate were majority Democrat.  Republicans were marginalized.

And things got better.

Then the voters gave Democrats the super majorities Brown needed to really get things done.  And things got even better.  The Republican Party of California is now so moribund that they might as well be the Libertarians or the Natural Law Party.

A long story to say that under the best case scenario, America is like California in 2003. It’s perceived that we’re in some deep shit, so deep we elected a Hail Mary Pass of a celebrity to fix it.  Trump shows every sign of being even less interested in actual governing than Schwarzenegger, has worse people around him and is truly loathed by half the country. Where Schwarzenegger got eye rolls from the people who didn’t vote for him, he was actually a very moderate, bi-partisan politician.  Trump has a tendency towards triumphalism and poking his enemies in the eye. Instead of muddling through for a bit, Trump  will make things worse.

If the country follows America they will then turn to the Democrats en masse they way they did in California in 2011.  And things will get better.  Intractable issues will be dealt with.  But we had to go into the toilet with a celebrity first.

Or we could turn to Angelyne.



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