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Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category



It’s Official: Gandalf Fails to Cover the Spread

Monday, December 15th, 2014

goodfellasJerry Brown won’t be sworn in for another three weeks, but he’s already managed the first massive failure of his fourth and final term as California’s governor: blowing his bid to cover the 20-point spread set by Calbuzz as the betting line for his re-election.

Outgoing Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Friday issued her final canvass, the “full, true and correct statement” of election results, which shows these final, final, final vote totals in Brown’s trouncing of Republican bum-of-the-month Neel Kashkari:

Brown    4,388,368     (59.970201%)
Kashkari 2,929,213    (40.029799%)

In other words, Governor Gandalf fell .029799 percent short – or about 2,180 votes – of the one and only real challenge he faced in the re-elect.

Bookmakers corner: No doubt mindful of the hundreds of millions of dollars in wagers at stake, Bowen threw a bone to fellow Democrat Brown in her report, rounding up his total to 60 percent; if this generous bit of legerdemain were to stand, Brown would have covered the spread, and each bet placed on either side of the 20-point line would have been a “push,” i.e. a tie.

moneywadNot so fast, sez Calbuzz Las Vegas Bureau Chief and Sporting Life Consultant Vinny “The Vig” Capelli d’Angelo:

“Yo, dipstick” he explained, “I dunno where youse went to school, but da good sisters at Our Lady of Eternal Sleeping Fishes dint raise no dummies – 59.970201 ain’t 60, at least in dis life, if you unnerstan where I’m comin’ from, which you betta.”

Mr. Capelli d’Angelo added that those who took Brown and gave the points have until Wednesday to settle their accounts, in order to maintain full high roller suite benefits, which include kneecap insurance.

Fun with numbers. Two more takeways:

- Neel “Xerxes” Kashkari came thisss close to matching the 2010 vote percentage of eMeg Whitman, who captured 40.9 percent against Brown four years ago (when small party candidates were still listed on the ballot). Plus he got a lot more for his money: each vote cost him $2.38 for the $7 million he spent; eMeg’s miserable failure came at a cost of $38.76 per vote for the $160 million she spent.

- Don’t miss this excellent piece by the consistently excellent John Myers, who notes that the Nov. 4 election generated fewer total votes than any general election for governor since 1978, when an obscure Democratic governor named Brown won re-election over legendary Republican Evelle J. Younger (among the last of a now-extinct breed formerly known as “moderates,” who, while we’re on the subject, also performed the rare, neat trick of receiving four public pensions while still working):

As we pointed out just after the election, the real legacy of the tepid turnout is the amazingly new low threshold for getting an initiative or referendum on the 2016 and 2018 ballot — a threshold that by law is set by the total number of votes cast for governor.

boxershadesAs Boxer World turns: One of Politico’s sizable stable of super flyweight political writers last week provoked a tempest of fatuous speculative pieces in California by reporting the shocking news that Senator Barbara Boxer either will or will not run for re-election in 2016.

Groaning with Beltway-beholds-Left Coast clichés (“California Quake”? Really?), it was a breathless stenographic exercise in listing the name of every ambitious hack in the state, wrapped around a single thin reed of “news”:

Sources close to Boxer, 74, say the outspoken liberal senator will decide over the holidays whether to seek reelection in 2016 and will announce her plans shortly after the new year.

We just checked, and it seems not a single person in the history of the world has ever announced they would run for another term after deciding “over the holidays whether to seek reelection.” In any case, we’re inclined to agree with those who predict the 74-year old Babs will call it quits, as she faces the indignities of life back in the minority.

Still, what passes for evidence in the Politico story beyond “sources say” is pretty thin gruel indeed (groaning cliché? –ed.):

–“Few of her friends believe she will run for a fifth term.” This just in: Politico’s comprehensive scientific survey of Boxer’s mega-thousand friends reveals that less than 10% (or is “few” 8%? or 5%? or? ) believe she will run for another term.

–“Boxer has stopped raising money.” Yes, just imagine how extraordinarily difficult it would be for a four-term U.S. Senator from California to scrape together in only two years the table stakes needed to seek another term against, oh say, Neel Kashkari.

“…and is not taking steps to assemble a campaign.” We now take you to this intimate scene in the Boxer family kitchen: “Goddammit, Stewart, where did you put Rose’s number? How am I supposed to assemble a campaign without it?”

Not to mention Politico’s unfortunate claim that “Democrat Eric Garcetti, the 43-year-old Los Angeles mayor, has had preliminary conversations about a possible campaign with Bill Carrick, a veteran political strategist in the state,” an assertion that Calbuzz can report is utter baloney. We name no names.

acePrince Gavin vs. The Empress of Sacramento: In the not unlikely event that Babs does decide to kick back in Rancho Mirage, the better to churn out more of her stomach-churning page-turning fiction, of course, the early big spin-off story will be: who goes for the seat, Prince Gavin or Queen Kamala?

When Lite Gov. Newsom and AG Harris sit down with mutual consultant Ace Smith to divide up the world, we’re betting Gavin’s the one who’ll be panting to make the leap, given that she, unlike him, has, you know, an actual job.

It is worth noting, however, that Gavin won bragging rights over Kamala last month, by outpolling her in their respective re-election victories by 4,402 votes statewide – 4,107,051 to 4,102,649. This key finding has absolutely no significance for what either of the lean and hungry duo may or may not do in 2016, 2018 or beyond, sources said.

RodotaThe real Dr. Death: In a recent gushy lionization of Smith in the pages of the Hearst Chronicle, young whipper-snapper reporter Carla Marinucci, for about the 816th time, referred to him as  “Dr. Death”.

For the record, the nickname “Dr. Death” in California politics was first given, and thus eternally belongs to, Joe Rodota, the low-key Republican consultant who practically invented systematic data and document-driven opposition research back in pre-internet days; although Joe earned the moniker among insiders even before compiling an impressive storeroom of oppo files on Dianne Feinstein on behalf of Pete Wilson in the 1990 governor’s race, it was during that campaign that the sobriquet went pubic.

As one glance at her youthful person will confirm, of course, Ms. Marinucci was still in grade school at the time, and thus may be excused for not remembering this crucial bit of history.

Rotten-AppleRotten Apples: Finally, we note that while House Speaker in Exile Nancy Pelosi, Delegation Dean Zoe Lofgren and other leaders of the Democrats in Congress hung together against the continuing appropriations resolution that — with last-minute amendments — began to gut Dodd-Frank banking reforms and further weakened McCain-Feingold campaign contribution limits, 10 California Democrats voted with the Republicans. And, of course, with President Obama, who was willing to swallow the poison amendments to avoid even the slim possibility that the government would not be funded.

The notion that somehow this stupid vote would keep the GOP majority in Congress from coming back next year with even worse proposals makes little sense politically. They would not have shut down the government now, but they managed to confirmed yet again that they can slap Obama around with impunity, so be sure they’ll be back with much worse anyway next year.

The Democrat sell-outs from California: U.S. Reps. Ami Bera, Julia Brownley, Jim Costa, Susan Davis, Sam Farr, John Garamendi, George Miller, Scott Peters, Raul Ruiz and Brad Sherman. The next time the government bails out Wall Street, we can thank this pack of weenies.

Legacy Stuff: Mega-Kudos to DiFi for Torture Report

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Dianne-FeinsteinDianne Feinstein’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s use of torture is a stand-up, gutsy move likely to endure as the most important act of her long career in Congress.

As a political matter, the easy part for Feinstein was to defy a torrent of inflammatory attacks and threats from conservatives accusing her of treason and worse; as a personal matter, the harder part was to stand up to howls of protest from the national security establishment and other Beltway elites, two groups of whom she long has counted herself a member.

And, oh yeah, she did the right thing for the country, too.

“Releasing this report is an important step to restoring our values and showing the world that we are a just society,” Feinstein said on the Senate floor, calling the CIA’s post 9/11 interrogation program, “a stain on our values and our history.”

Under enormous pressure, Feinstein could have punted, mumbled about bipartisanship and played it safe by letting Republicans water down the report or bury it for good after she loses her committee chairmanship when the new Senate convenes. Such an option was most likely a non-starter for someone of her self-regard, but that she ultimately did not choose it may well stand as the greatest legacy of the 81-year old Senator’s years in Washington.

Four takeaways about Difi and the report:

CIA Torture ReportMiddle of the road: yellow stripes and dead armadillos: Feinstein’s entire career has been an earnest search for the elusive political middle. This time, she found there isn’t one.

Having carried the water of the spook establishment elite for years, Feinstein in the end was left hanging out politically, supported only by predictable congressional liberals, Republican John McCain (the only member of Congress to actually endure torture) and kinda-sorta by the cowardly, feckless White House,

Throughout the compilation of the report, the ever-cautious Ms. Feinstein was torn between her allegiance to and admiration for those who do the nation’s difficult intelligence business and the belief by her and other Democrats on the panel that there must be a public accounting of the C.I.A. conduct to prevent future occurrences.

As recently as Friday, Ms. Feinstein appeared to be having new reservations about releasing the report after being warned by Secretary of State John Kerry, her former Senate colleague, of possible violence overseas and risks to American hostages.

An A+ paper: From start to finish, and throughout the tedious process to produce and surface it, the report has Feinstein’s hardest working-Convent girl-in-the-class imprint all over it.

Five years. Six million documents, 6,000 pages. A 500-page summary, ferhevvinsake. Not to mention reams of grisly and graphic detail, not surprising from a politician (and the daughter of a surgeon) who’s never left the gruesome to the imagination, from her countless mentions of feeling the bullet holes in Harvey Milk’s wrists to the “brain matter spattered on the canned goods,” a phrase she used for years in describing a long-ago grocery store robbery she said helped make her pro-death penalty.

Spy_vs_Spy_Bust_by_DaveIgoFor Feinstein, the specter of losing control of such a singular project, by caving in to pressure not to release the report before she loses control of the Intelligence Committee, surely pushed all her control freak buttons.

How dare you?! No one will ever know for sure, of course, but Feinstein may not have pushed quite so hard for the release of the report if the CIA’s spooks hadn’t decided to spy on her and her staff members.

Beyond her stated claims, speculation has swirled over why Feinstein so surprisingly — and so publicly –— assailed the leading U.S. spy agency, after serving as benefactor for so long…

Some veteran DiFi watchers (we name no names) believe she may have reacted with such outrage for the simple reason that the CIA’s alleged computer incursion touched her personally.

“It’s all about Dianne,” went a familiar refrain during her City Hall years, often accompanied by the rolling of eyes.

69feinWhat goes around comes around: Several years before she won elected office in 1969, Feinstein first came to public attention in San Francisco by conducting her own private investigation of conditions in the women’s county jail.

Then a young and bright Pat Brown appointee to California’s women’s parole board, Feinstein wrote up her findings about inhumane conditions in the local lock-up in a series of articles that the old Hearst Examiner splashed across its front page for several days.

It’s a bit of history worth recalling, at least for those who like their political narratives neat and tidy, as she caps her career half a century later by exposing far more barbarous conditions in a far more evil system of government jails that, thanks to her best efforts, are secret no longer.

How Obama’s Immigration Orders Jam the GOP

Monday, November 24th, 2014

bachmannPerhaps the most idiotic response to President Obama’s historic executive orders halting the deportation of up to five million undocumented immigrants, but surely the most telling, came via numbskull congress creature Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who predicted the newly protected immigrants would become “illiterate” Democratic voters.

“The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer — millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language,” the Washington Post quoted Bachmann. “Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote.”

Not only is this racist and just plain stupid – Obama’s executive orders can’t, unfortunately, create a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants – it also revealed exactly what Republican elders never wanted spoken: the real reason the GOP opposes citizenizing immigrants.

Beyond all the posturing, the bottom line is they’re afraid all those tired and poor Latinos yearning to be free will become Democratic voters. Gee, wonder why they would do that.

boehnercryingWhat Reform? Another ignorant response, masquerading as deep concern for Democracy, is the assertion that by executing his orders Obama has killed any chance for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. What chance?

House Speaker John Boehner could have called for a vote on the compromise, bipartisan, comprehensive bill that passed the Senate. It would have passed the House on a bipartisan vote. But Boehner was and is deathly afraid of the Bachmanns in his House who are dead set against even a pathway to legality (forget citizenship) for undocumented immigrants because – please make a note here – large numbers of Republican members of Congress have no interest in ever voting for immigration reform.

Why? Because they have no Latinos in their districts, or so few that they don’t matter. Yes, Republicans who care about winning governorships, Senate races and the presidency understand that the GOP has a problem with Latino voters. But Congress members in gerrymandered seats don’t give a rat’s backside about whether Latinos vote for them and, in fact, are incentivized to kowtow to nativistic, xenophobic and racist voters to want to round ‘em all up and send ‘em home.

California is different. Calbuzz has frequently argued that the Republican label is deadly for statewide candidates as long as the California GOP opposes a pathway to citizenship – an issue supported by vast majorities of California, and nearly all Latino, voters. But we’re grateful to Josh Richman and David Early of the Bay Area News Group for recounting anew how it was 20 years ago this month that then-Gov. Pete Wilson pushed through Proposition 187 – attempting to gut immigrant rights until it was thrown out by the courts – and severed all future potential ties between the GOP and Latino voters in California.

abetterlife2California Dreamin’ So we suspect that Obama’s executive orders will be widely welcomed in California, where, the LA Times reported:

According to a recent report by USC, roughly half of the estimated 2.6 million California residents who are in the country without permission have been in the state at least 10 years. A study by the Pew Research Center found that California has the second-highest proportion of K-12 students with at least one parent who lacks legal status, after Nevada.

“It’s likely those U.S.-born children are going to be the key to whatever protections are offered,” said demographer Jeff Passel, who co-wrote the Pew report. “Because California has such a high percentage of those children, it’s probably going to have a higher percentage of unauthorized immigrants who would qualify for relief.”

Most California voters, we suspect, will find irrelevant the Republican screeching about Obama “abrogating the Constitution” or whatever inane argument is being conveniently whipped up to object to the president acting when Congress is gridlocked.

And if they bother to look a bit deeper, they’ll find that the Constitutional Argument is just a case of phony situational ethics. As Dhrumil Mehta reported at FiveThirtyEight, “For decades, executive orders have been a fairly common tool for U.S. presidents.”

In fact, Obama has issued the fewest number of executive orders per year of any president since Grover Cleveland and fewer than Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush — none of whom were accused by their Republican colleagues in Congress of subverting the Constitution.

Lincoln-in-Top-Hat-1A New Civil War? Of further note is the argument that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco made – that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves was, in fact, an executive order. Most Republicans would defend it today; not all of them, probably.

The Republican Party has a problem here: those concerned with statewide and national politics don’t want to further alienate Latino voters who are becoming an increasingly powerful force in large-scale elections. But in the US House of Representatives, where members are elected in individual (drawn-to-order) districts, anti-immigrant rhetoric and blood lust is at a fever pitch.

It’s fairly clear that the voices of reason in the GOP are being drowned out by the screaming Neatherthals.

Bottom Line: Barack Obama has delivered the Latino vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Op Ed: How Big Plastic is Threatening California

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

plasticbagsBy Steve Maviglio
Special to Calbuzz

Tell me if you have you seen this movie before: a corporate special interest, frustrated with the Legislature, dreams up a ballot measure designed to protect its profits. An army of high-priced consultants tells the naive corporate backers they can win — notwithstanding public polls showing just the opposite.

The corporation, often from another state, shells out a few million bucks hiring signature gatherers and qualifies for the ballot. They plow ahead. Then, battered by editorial boards, and then by voters, they go down in flames $30 million or so poorer and with a sullied corporate reputation.

In 2008, that’s just what happened to Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro when they attempted to gut AB 32, the state’s popular greenhouse gas law, with Proposition 23. Ditto with PG&E’s Prop 16 to pre-empt local power producers, two attempts by Mercury Insurance to reform rates (Prop 17 and Prop 33), and T. Boone Picken’s Texas sized energy flop, Prop 10 , in 2008. And on and on.

You’d think they’d learn. But no.

Wasting no time Within days of its signature by Gov. Jerry Brown the state’s pioneering single-use plastic bag ban drew the ire of South Carolina-based plastic bag company HilexPoly (now Novolex) that’s owned by a Chicago-based equity firm, Wind Point Partners. Aided by bag makers from far flung places like China and Texas, Hilex Poly (under the guise of the ill-named American Progressive Bag Alliance), has dumped nearly $1.8 million into an effort to force a referendum is on the plastic bag ban.

signaturesSignature gatherers are on the streets, fetching $1.50 per signature, to try to overturn the law by putting it on the green-friendly November 2016 ballot. Their deadline for gathering the 504,760 signatures is December 29th.

The consultant egging them on is Tony Russo, Lest you forget, Russo’s last appearance in California was secretly trying to funnel $15 million in Koch Brothers money into an anti-Prop 30 effort, only to be busted by the FPPC, leaving his clients to pay a $1 million settlement.

If Russo succeeds into convincing Hilex Poly to turn in their signatures, California’s bag ban will be on hold from its scheduled effective date of July 1, 2015 until the November 2016 election.

Local bans, however, will continue to move forward (some 129 already are on the books in the state). Sacramento, San Diego, and dozens of other cities are itching to enact local bans if the state ban is frozen — a nightmare for retailers having to adapt to various versions of bag bans.

Polls are unambiguous Meanwhile, two polls show solid backing of the ban. The first, by USC/Dornsife reported a 2-1 margin of support (including 49% saying they “strongly” back it). The ban’s only weakness came from a small number of Nanny State-hating Republicans.

GOP pollster David Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, the Republican half of the USC polling team, said “If this becomes an ideological thing, that’s not enough to persuade voters in a Democratic-leaning state where voters aren’t necessarily opposed to more government if they agree with …what it’s trying to do.”

plastic-bags_fenceAdded USC’s pundit-in-chief Dan Schnur, “It’s an uphill fight for the ban’s opponents.”

Democratic pollster Drew Lieberman of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research came to the same conclusion. “At this point, it doesn’t look like there’s much to say to change people’s minds. I think this is something that people like, they adjust to pretty quickly, and would have a tough time going back.”

Pollster Dave Metz of Oakland’s FM3 Research has piled on with a new poll he did for the referendum’s opponents. He found that 60% of Californians would support the law if it were on the ballot today, “a solid majority that both grows and becomes more committed after voters hear an exchange of pro and con arguments.”

Moreover, both the Metz and USC polls found that support was more intense in communities with bag bans already in place. Which means that the plasticteers move to freeze a statewide ban for nearly two years may backfire: As more communities enact bans, their attempt to overturn it becomes increasingly more difficult.

Waste, fraud and abuse Meanwhile, taking a cue from the Berkeley vs. Big Soda campaign, bag ban supporters already are circling their wagons. The state’s leading grocers and major environmental groups (including Californians Against Waste, NRDC, Environment California, and the Sierra Club) have formed a bipartisan campaign team and have rounded up more than 100 local officials opposing the referendum. Their “California vs. Big Plastic” campaign is expected to be well funded; this won’t be a David vs. Goliath battle by any means.

stevemaviglioThe state’s major news outlets already are jumping into the fray, skewering HilexPoly and the plastic companies aiding its effort. The Sacramento Bee compared HilexPoly’s referendum attempt to a chicken that has had its head cut off but keeps running around, The Los Angeles Times noted “Listening to the plastic-bag industry oppose bans on their product is eerily similar to what carmakers said decades ago in opposition to seat belts and air bags.” Even national Fox News seemed a little baffled about the effort, noting the plastic bag litter is indeed a big pollution problem.

 Steven Maviglio, former press secretary for Gov. Gray Davis, is co-campaign manager of California vs. Big Plastic

Election Post-Mortem: We’ve Seen This Movie Before

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

chickenlittle-e1322754718668-230x300In the wake of Tuesday’s election, wherein the Republican Party took control of the U.S. Senate, captured governorships in key battleground states, increased their majority in the House and generally stole the Democrats’ lunch, Calbuzz has a word of advice for partisan and media hysterics alike: Take a deep breath – this is what happens every six years into a president’s term.

As Charlie Cook wrote presciently back in January, in five out of six second-term mid-term elections since World War II, the incumbent president’s party has lost an average of 29 seats in the House and six in the Senate. The only post-war exception was in 1998, when backlash against the GOP impeachment of President Bill Clinton led to a five-seat gain for Democrats in the House and no change in the Senate.

Breathe. It’s been happening since 1874, when Ulysses S. Grant lost 93 seats in the House and one in the Senate. Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman all suffered from what analyst Kevin Phillips labeled the “six-year itch.”

reaganthumbdownWhen we ponder their legacies, we don’t think of the 48 seats in the House and 13 in the Senate that Dwight Eisenhower lost in 1958, the five House seats and eight Senate seats that (the now sainted) Ronald Reagan lost in 1986 or even the 30 seats in the House and six in the Senate that George W. Bush lost in 2006.

NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann argued this wasn’t a typical six-year itch. Rather:

…what we saw was collapse of the Democratic coalition that helped elect President Obama in 2008 and 2012. If Democrats were going to hold off a Republican tsunami, they needed their base voters to come out to the polls and pull the lever for the president’s party. That didn’t happen where Democrats needed it to.

Especially with young voters. Nationally, Democratic base groups — young voters, single women, African-Americans and Latinos — posted numbers that looked more like the Democrats’ 2010 midterm “shellacking” than Obama’s 2012 re-election victory. Most strikingly, voters 18-29 nationwide were only 13% of the electorate in 2014 (compared with 22% for GOP-leaning seniors.) In the 2010 midterms, young voters made up 12% of the voting public. In contrast, during Obama’s re-election victory in 2012, 19% of the electorate was under 30.

Yet Todd and others belittled Obama when he made the point at his press conference Wednesday that the anemic composition of the electorate helped explain what had happened.

sulky-McConnellAhistorical hysterical wild cats: There’s no denying that when the president’s approval rating is in the low 40s  — as it’s been almost all along; there has been no “plummet” –  when voters are fed up with a government that seems perpetually gridlocked and when you’ve got a chief executive who acts too cool for school and is a communications bungler, as well, his party has a problem.

Stupidly, Democrats lost further ground by choosing to run away from the president who, for all his failings, could have helped them turn out younger voters, blacks, Latinos and women.

But now to suggest that the historical (and even ahistorical) thumping the Democrats took on Tuesday gives the Republicans a mandate begs the question: To do what?

Moreover, even if the GOP comes forth with a program it wants to accomplish beyond approving the Keystone pipeline, cutting corporate tax rates and unraveling the Affordable Health Care Act, it’s hard to see how Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader to Be Mitch McConnell, will be able to herd the wild cats in their caucuses.

“The culture of the Senate, the requirement of unanimous consent to begin action, the existence of the filibuster, and the different world views of many senators compared with their House counterparts makes coordination between the bodies so, so difficult. Remember that Speaker Newt Gingrich was far more unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole than he was with President Clinton under similar circumstances in 1995-96,” wrote Norm Ornstein in the Atlantic.

“For McConnell,” said Mark Pomerieau in Epoch Times, “the cards might already be stacked against him as the Washington Post reported this weekend that the influential Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated he would not pledge support to Mr. McConnell.  Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele stated in an interview appearance on cable television Tuesday that Senator Cruz is closer to members of the House, which may cause problems for McConnell because as Majority Leader in one house of a bicameral legislature, McConnell will have to build relationships with key members of the GOP House.

“In fact, it was Senator Cruz who orchestrated the government shutdown during the fall of 2013 gaining the support of members of both the House and Senate despite calls from Republican leadership in both houses not to steer the ship off the cliff.  Cruz wields a lot of influence as he demonstrated a year ago pulling the strings from behind the scenes and meeting in secret closed door meetings with members of the House and Senate.”

Locker room castration: Nor is there much evidence, as the nearly useless Tom Brokaw suggested on NBC Tuesday night, that the Tea Party has been sent back to the locker room.

“There are plenty of relatively moderate House Republicans, just as there are relatively moderate Republicans in the Senate. The GOP moderates haven’t driven the political conversation in the House, and there’s no reason to believe the new class of 2014 will have any interest in being less assertive,” noted Peter Weber in The Week.

“Cruz refused to say if he’ll support McConnell’s bid to be majority leader. And the Republican freshman class of 2014 appears to be closer to Cruz’s vision of the GOP’s mission than McConnell’s get-stuff-done aspirations. There’s no way Obama will sign a repeal of his health care law, but that’s Cruz’s stated first priority. Here’s how Cruz welcomed former hog-castrator Joni Ernst of Iowa to the Senate:

[Tweet] Washington, get ready to squeal! Congratulations @joniernst! #MakeDCListen

ted_cruz_ap_328“Ernst, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton of Arkansas — will they follow McConnell’s lead, or dance with the fired-up Republican base that brung them? After five years of saying no to Obama — a strategy McConnell championed — can Republicans suddenly start saying yes? Political parties don’t have the same levers of power and persuasion they did even 10 years ago. Mitch McConnell’s party won the Senate, but his biggest battle may well be with his own caucus,” Weber wrote.

Alligators on acid: What compounds the problem for McConnell and Boehner is that they and their caucuses are progenitors of the Death of Compromise, a phenomenon Calbuzz has written about for years. This is an era – now in full bloom in Washington – in which compromise is viewed as capitulation. When Eisenhower lost seats in Congress, he had Sam Rayburn there willing and eager to cut deals; Reagan had Tip O’Neill. Compromise was – and is – how you get things done in a constitutional democracy. Unless, like Cruz et. al., you don’t believe in it.

Which they don’t. As Red State author Leon H. Wolf said Wednesday in an article titled “Dear Republicans: No One Elected You to Work with Democrats”: “Not only should Republicans not work closely with Democrats, they should instead keep them as far away as possible, preferably across a large moat filled with sharp stakes, acid, and alligators. That way, our side will be safer from friendly fire when we launch the flaming tar at the remaining Democrats in office.”

Like Cruz’s ideological godfather, Rush Limbaugh, said Wednesday on the radio: There’s only one reason why Republicans got elected — to stop Obama. “Republicans did not get elected to govern,” said Rushbloat.

Do nothing — that is their ultimate goal.

bluecaliforniaCalifornia remains true blue: While Republicans across the nation crowed and claimed an alleged “mandate,” California Democrats once more triumphed by sweeping all eight constitutional offices, starting with Jerry Brown’s capture of an unprecedented fourth term as governor, as they stopped the GOP wave at the Sierra. In the most favorable political atmosphere imaginable – a very small and very conservative turnout of voters bristling with rage against the other party’s president – Republicans won a few extra House and legislative seats, but still haven’t won a statewide post since 2006, an impressive streak of political failure.

Former Sen. Jim Brulte visits the Capitol Bureau.But Mr. Beef won some bragging rights: Jim Brulte, the big, burly boss of California Republicans, denied Democrats a two-thirds majority in the state Senate by winning two toss-up seats in Orange County and the Central Valley, and has a chance of doing the same for the Assembly when all the votes are tallied in some still too-close-to-call districts. Brulte vowed to return the GOP to relevance by rebuilding from the ground up when he took over as state party chair last year; while legislative super majorities these days are more symbolic than substantive, he also can claim partial credit for ousting at least two Democratic House incumbents, if nail-biting numbers hold up in final returns.

MethuselahSculptureDemocrats are really, really old: “When I had hair, Methuselah was walking the streets,” Brown cracked at an appearance in Torrance a few days before the election. Perhaps unintentionally, his self-deprecating joke highlighted the irrefutable fact that many longtime Democratic stars are getting awfully close to their sell-by dates. Dianne Feinstein (81) and Barbara Boxer (74) both lost powerful committee chairs in being pushed back to minority status amid the Republican’s recapture of the Senate, and must be mulling retirement; from Brown (76) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (74) to party chair John Burton (81) and a host of geezer Congress members (hello Lois Capps, 76) it’s time to let a new generation – AG Kamala Harris, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Treasurer John Chiang, for starters —  have a crack at top-level jobs.

Neel Kashkari, bargain hunter. Four years ago, Meg Whitman spent $150 million for the honor of losing to Jerry Brown by 13 points; this time, vanquished Republican wannabe Kashkari achieved virtually the same result by forking out less than five percent of that amount. Neel made a lot of rookie mistakes, but deserves credit for trying to wrest control of the state party from the grip of grumpy old white men and evangelical right-wingers obsessed with what other people do with their private parts. “I’m just getting warmed up,” Kashkari said in his concession speech, and we expect to see him back in the campaign mix two or four years from now.

jail-cellThe lock ‘em up era may be ending: The most profound and lasting impact of this election may be the low-profile passage of Proposition 47, which is likely to change dramatically how the criminal justice system operates. Beginning with Jerry Brown’s very first term, Californians consistently voted for ever-tougher law-and-order sentencing measures of the Three Strikes genre, one big reason why the U.S. has the second highest incarceration rate in the world and the state’s massive prison system is illegally overcrowded. With Prop. 47, state voters ignored the pleas of the cop community and downgraded a host of low-rent drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, a breathtaking change of pubic opinion with implications that just began to sink in.

The CTA rules: The campaign for state Superintendent of Public Education pitted two different kinds of Democrats against each other: incumbent Tom Torlakson has close ties to traditional labor liberals and the California Teachers Association, with its longtime control of work rules that favor seniority and make it all but impossible to dump bad tenured teachers; challenger Marshall Tuck is allied with charter school advocates and Arne Duncan-style reformers favored by Silicon Valley Democrats and more moderate, if plutocratic, members of the party. The race was billed as a tightly contested faceoff between competing philosophies, but in the end Torlakson won easily, proving anew that the CTA is the most powerful special interest in California. All hail Gale Kaufman.

Gandalf wandJerry fails to cover the spread: OK, it was a fourth term, which is historic, and he ran better than anyone else in his party and, sure, he’s saving his millions of campaign contributions for potential ballot fights in his final term and, of course, he’s notoriously frugal, but jaysus, you’d think Gandalf would want to beat his former Chief of Staff Gray Davis’s 1998 20-point (58-38%) margin over Attorney General Dan Lungren! Brown did get 59%, but that was just 18 points over Kashkari’s 41%. And he could have done it easily: Propositions 1 & 2, for which he did campaign, got 67% and 69%.

All you bettors who took Neel and the points, you win. Your Calbuzz secret decoder rings are in the mail.