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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Walker’



Know Nothings and the Death of Political Compromise

Monday, February 28th, 2011

President Ronald Reagan often compared leaders of the Soviet Union to the movie producers against whom he once bargained as president of the Screen Actors Guild. That early experience, Reagan told serial biographer Lou Cannon, was where he “learned to negotiate.”

“The purpose of a negotiation,” Reagan added, “is to get an agreement.”

What a quaint notion.

The conversation, related by Cannon during a forum sponsored by UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project last week, illuminates a fundamental difference in the Manichaeistic politics of millennial conservative leaders, who endlessly exalted the former president during recent celebrations of his centennial, and the real-life record of Reagan himself.

From his days as California’s governor, when he backed what was then the largest tax increase in state history as part of a bipartisan budget agreement, to the world-changing agreements on nuclear arms reduction he forged with Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan managed to maintain his commitment to his  conservative principles while finding ways to cut acceptable deals with Democrats in the Legislature and the Congress.

His approach contrasts with the current crop of ideologues, from Washington to Wisconsin and Sacramento, who sneer at the concept of compromise and dismiss the idea of negotiation, the twin foundations of governance that have long made representative democracy work.

“While Reagan tried to stuff everything he heard or read into the view of the world he had brought with him to Washington, he appreciated the value of compromise and negotiation,” Cannon wrote in “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” his seminal biography.

“And on nearly all issues, Reagan was simultaneously an ideologue and a pragmatist. He complained to aides that true believers on the Republican right…preferred to ‘go off the cliff with all flags flying,’ rather than take half a loaf and come back for more, as Reagan believed liberals had been doing since the days of the New Deal.”

The Wisconsin con: Compare this attitude to that of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who’s become an instant hero to the mossback crowd with his political jihad against the right of public employees to engage in collective bargaining. In a taped conversation with a person he believed to be his right-wing patron David Koch (who was actually an alternative newspaper editor who punked the governor and his staff), Walker offered a candid look at his crude and autocratic theory idea of governing.

At one point, for example, he expressed contempt for the moderate Democratic leader of the Wisconsin senate, who has reached out to Walker in an attempt to settle the partisan deadlock over unions, saying the senator is “pretty reasonable, but he’s not one of us…He’s just trying to get something done. . . .He’s just a pragmatist.” Perish the thought.

“I don’t budge,” Walker then told the liberal journalist posing as Koch; he added, in what he believed was a private conversation, that while he might publicly pretend to be open to compromise discussions with Democrats, he would do so only as a way to con them: “I’m not negotiating,” he said.

A Capitol caucus of sheep: These rabid sentiments echo in Sacramento, where 30 Republican legislators last week announced a so-called “Taxpayers Caucus.” At a time when even Republican-tilted business organizations in the state back Jerry Brown’s deficit plan to allow voters to decide whether to extend $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees, membership in this Know Nothing caucus requires a blood oath to obstruct all bids to put the measure on the ballot.

It is instructive that the leader of this cadre is right-wing senator Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark.

Running in one of the few competitive districts in the state, Strickland in 2008 defeated Hannah Beth Jackson, an extremely liberal former Assembly member, by exactly 857 votes out of more 415,000 cast; rather than moderating his personal ideology to reflect the broad range of views held by his constituents, however, Landslide Tony chooses to grovel at the feet of Grover Norquist, the Washington-based anti-government extremist who threatens with retribution any Republican who votes to put Brown’s tax plan before voters.

While Strickland and his reckless brethren try to gussy up their stance as a matter of conservative principle, it rests instead on a set of intellectually dishonest and purely partisan canards and deceits.

Decrying Brown’s budget plan, GOP legislators refuse to put forth one of their own, placing partisan gamesmanship ahead of governance in the full knowledge that attaching numbers and detail to their worn-out rhetoric would prove the absurdity of their call for an all-cuts budget.

Rejecting reality, the poseurs pretend that the $85 billion budget is filled with vast amounts of wasteful discretionary spending, knowing that the state’s money overwhelmingly goes to K-12 schools, higher education and health programs, expenditures that enjoy widespread public support and which they lack the courage to openly and specifically oppose.

Putting ideology over rational debate, they fear California’s voters, mindful that an election testing the popularity of their no-taxes-ever policies may  reveal the emptiness of their politics. Chronicler John Diaz offers a trenchant summary of their puerility:

The governor, who relishes intellectual interchange, confronted Republicans last week in a highly unusual appearance before a budget conference committee. As is often the case with Brown, he mixed humor and in-your-face persuasion in searching for common ground with his adversaries.

“Pledges are interesting, they make good theater,” Brown told legislators. “But the fact is we have to have a plan, we need a solution, and for those who say they don’t want to vote, then why are you here?”

Good question: Why are they here, collecting their nearly six-figure salaries plus per diem, if they consider the state’s predicament the other party’s problem and none of their concern?

The great exception, again: In a recent national poll, the Pew Research Center reported results that at first glance seem to give an edge to kneejerk hardliners. By 49-42%, the findings showed, Americans favor “political leaders who stick to their position without compromise” over those “who make compromises with someone they disagree with.”

But in this matter, as in many others, California goes its own way, as gauged by a Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll taken during last fall’s campaign for governor. As we reported then, the survey:

…offers a glimmer of hope for California, finding that voters by a 2-1 margin say they’d prefer a governor “who can work effectively with others across party lines” to one who “is single-minded and will fight for what he or she thinks is correct.”

Democrats, moderates and liberals are most in favor of a governor who works with the opposition, but even Republicans and conservatives would rather have a governor who can work effectively across party lines.

The problem in Sacramento, however, has not been finding a governor who will work across party lines; the problem is finding enough legislators who will work with the governor.

How Brown is like Reagan: At a time when Brown is offering to compromise with Republicans on big issues they purport to care about, from pension reform to business regulation and a state spending cap, it defies common sense for the GOP to turn away from Reagan-style negotiated agreements. Cannon again:

Reagan did not fit the neat ideological stereotype that was presented in alternative forms by movement conservatives and liberal activists…

“He liked to see the people around him work towards an acceptable compromise, said White House cabinet secretary Craig Fuller. “Both words are important. Acceptable in a sense that it met his criteria, narrow as they might be. Compromise in that nobody got exactly what they wanted, but nobody lost.”

Like Reagan, Brown is at heart a traditionalist, embracing the old-school belief that politics is the art of the possible, fueled by negotiations in the service of finding agreement. That is why Brown keeps expecting Republicans to want to negotiate for things they want in exchange for things he wants. But the vast majority of the GOP minority doesn’t want to negotiate, because they don’t want an agreement.

Brown’s focused and patient efforts to craft a budget deal belie the  decades-old rap on him as too heedless and flaky for the painstakingly hard work of governing. He can only hope, however, that amid all the posing, grandstanding and strutting in the Republican caucus, there are at least a couple of grown-ups with the backbone to stand up and help him do the job.

Recommended reading:

Timesman Frank Rich offers a national perspective on the rejection of compromise and negotiation.

Dana Milbank of the Washpost looks more deeply at the Khaddafi-like views of Scott Walker. 

Dan Morain has an excellent take on the goofball Taxpayers Caucus.

Steve Harmon exposes the urban legend of Republicans being politically destroyed for backing tax increases.

Starbuck vs. The Empress; Oligarchs On Wisconsin

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

There are any number of garden-variety, Beltway sages and seers ready and willing (if not able) to opine  on the 2012 presidential campaign — but  only Calbuzz offers prognostication on what concerns our readers most: the 2018 Democratic nomination race for  governor.

Sticking to their previous prognosis that a second-term Governor Gandalf will still be doing pull-ups at 80 (as well as their prediction that California Republicans by then will be scarcer than snowy plovers), our Department of Logarithmic Forecasting and Necromantic Foreboding confirms that the  intraparty gubernatorial brawl between Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom will be the key race to watch that year.

“We can predict a Harris-Newsom contest with a 98.6% level of confidence,” said our public opinion research chief, Marc DiCassare. “We further forecast that the state deficit at that point will be $4.65 trillion.”

Today, Calbuzz presents the first in an occasional series of special reports updating the race between Lieutenant Starbuck and the Empress of River City. At a time when the electorate is  beginning to form its crucial first impression, we examine how they are introducing themselves to Californians, based mostly on a hard-hitting analysis of the constant stream of press releases churned out by their taxpayer-financed flacks.

January 18:

Harris: Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Settlement on Comcast- NBC Merger with Protections for Consumers, Competition and Innovation

“Settlement gives California authority to provide oversight on $30 billion telecommunications joint venture.”

Newsom:Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom Launches Statewide Discussion on California’s Higher Education System

“Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the launch of a statewide higher education listening tour and an online campaign that will engage Californians in a public dialogue, seeking their feedback and suggestions on issues relating to the state’s higher education system.”

February 2 – 3

Harris:Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Establishes California Foreclosure Relief Fund with $6.5 Million Settlement from Former Countrywide Financial Executives

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a $6.5 million settlement of a predatory lending case against Angelo Mozilo and David Sambol, former officers of Countrywide Financial Corporation. Attorney General Harris announced the settlement money will be used to establish an innovative statewide California Foreclosure Crisis Relief Fund to combat the effects of California’s high rates of foreclosure and mortgage delinquency.”

Newsom:Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom Issues Statement on Lunar New Year

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement today regarding Lunar New Year:

‘To everyone across California and the world who is celebrating the arrival of the Lunar New Year today, Jennifer and I want to extend our best wishes for a prosperous and healthy Year of the Rabbit.’”

Feb. 14-16

Harris:Harris: Suspects Arrested in Murder-for-Hire Plot Commissioned by Mexican Drug Cartel

PALMDALE – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the arrest today of three suspects in a foiled murder-for-hire plot commissioned by a Tijuana drug cartel.”

Newsom: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom Sends Letter to Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture in Support of the Marine Life Protection Act.”

February 21-22

Harris:Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Supports Port of Los Angeles Program to Reduce Air Pollution and Cancer Risk

LOS ANGELES – Seeking environmental justice for all Californians, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case in support of efforts by the Port of Los Angeles to reduce air pollution through its Clean Trucks program.”

Newsom: “Apple dish: A spy in Manhattan tells us he ran across Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom last weekend shopping for ties in the men’s department at the swank Bergdorf Goodman store.

Newsom’s office confirms the couple did take a “private trip” back East last week for the screening of Jennifer’s new documentary, “Miss Representation.” They also attended a showing of new designers at New York’s semiannual Fashion Week.” (h/t Matier and Ross).

Astute analysis: At this point, it’s not really a fair fight.

Not only does the AG have, you know, an actual job, but her public story is largely being told by the wily James A. Finefrock III, chief flack for the Department of Justice and a battle-hardened veteran of the throwback Chron-Ex War of Words; Starbuck’s pub shop meanwhile thinks it’s a cool idea to e-blast a press release wishing everyone Gung Hay Fat Choy.

(Calbuzz training tip for the young ‘uns:  carefully study this video of your guy’s famous interview with our old friend Hank Plante, then make Gavin start doing everything exactly the opposite).

Round 1 bottom line: Harris +4.

On Wisconsin: There are exactly two words to describe the sickening spectacle of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s vicious move against  public employees in the Cheesehead State: Union Busting.

Walker is one of the favorite, lickspittle running dogs of the Koch Brothers, the greedhead polluters and social Darwinists who are the most visible players in the ultra-rich, right-wing effort to make oligarchy the law of the land in the U.S.

Not content that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have grabbed nearly 25% of its wealth, thanks to decades of tax cuts for the wealthy and increasingly profitable banks and global corporations, the Kochs and their cadre now aggressively blame middle class workers for the Wall Street-triggered recession and, in the process, are pushing to destroy the last vestiges of trade unionism and all that it implies, as Paul Krugman notes:

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

More recommended reading: Gene Robinson and Ezra Klein in the Washpost.

Polling footnote: Rasmussen’s at it again, loading up its polling to support the Republican position on the debate over collective bargaining by public employees. Best evidence from impartial and also from Democratic connected pollsters finds that about six in 10 voters in Wisconsin and throughout the country reject the drive to do away with this fundamental labor right.