The focus of the up-coming November elections is justifiably zoomed in on the re-election or rejection of President Barack Obama. Regardless of how anyone interprets the current polls, Obama clearly is in for a major struggle to retain office from Mitt Romney. This election comes on the heels of significant gains made in the House (+ 63 seats) and Senate (+6 seats) by traditional and Tea Party-influenced Republicans in 2010, as well as the unsuccessful recall of Wisconsin’s Republican reformist Governor Scott Walker this past June. The next Presidential and Congressional results will no doubt deliver a message from voters to elected leaders of either maintaining the left-wing course being navigated by the USS Obama, or take yet another hard turn starboard. Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate sent a clear message that the Republican ticket’s primary campaign focus will be on fiscal discipline and resuscitating the domestic economy. Obama, on the other hand is in a classic “Catch 22” position in sticking with the Democrat’s Vice-Presidential version of Dan Quayle, the wildly caustic and intellectually-challenged Joe Biden. Together, Obama and Biden will likely continue to launch attack ads rather than highlight their accomplishments of the past four years, which are minimal at best.
And what are we to make of The Golden State? Unlike the rest of the nation, California maintained it’s liberal slate in 2010 by re-electing dim-bulb Senator Barbara Boxer and did not have one Congressional seat change party hands; Democrats held their 33-20 majority in the House, inclusive of the polarizing figure in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In addition, the electorate handed the Governor’s mansion back to 1970’s relic Jerry Brown, who easily defeated the inept campaign of Meg Whitman.
In spite of the 2010 campaign results, there are signs of fracture in the Democrats vice-grip on California state politics and policy. The examples are many. In June, the cities of San Diego and San Jose passed public employee pension reform measures by landslide margins. Despite claims made by Brown that he and his majority-party colleagues would balance the state’s chronically mis-managed budget, Sacramento still borders on insolvency. As a desperate means of swiping more tax-dollars from a populace still moving at a snail’s pace recovery from the economic decline of the past four years, Brown has a ballot measure (Proposition 30) that seeks to raise the state sales tax by from 7.25% to 7.5%, as well as create higher taxes on residents earning in excess of $250,000 annually. However, just weeks ago, news broke that the California Department of Parks and Recreation had been hiding a surplus of over $53 million, sparking a state-wide audit which revealed a total of $415 million in various fund discrepancies. Thereafter, news leaked that Sacramento legislators had given raises of $4.6 million to their staff members. The list of egregious spending and fiscal non-chalance are numerous, with most of the more glaring mis-deeds occurring during 2012 and leading up to November.
So how will California voters react to these events? A presidential election always brings out more voters. How informed and educated will the voters be on the California initiatives that will impact them more monetarily than their national counterparts? The 2010 re-districting would on the surface appear to make a few House seats at risk of changing hands, but the national election results will have less impact on the lives of Californians than those of the state. If Proposition 30 , and to a lesser degree Proposition 32 (which would prohibit unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes) fail, it will prove conclusively that pension reform passed by San Diego and San Jose are not just swatches of local voter revolt against long-term fiscal irresponsibility. Rejecting Propositions 30 and 32 will further erode the air of invincibility long held by Sacramento Democrats and may actually make them sweat over the thought of losing their seats in elections beyond 2012.
For California voters there should be one thought when heading to the polls in November, and that thought is best described by Winston Churchill:
“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.”