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Why The Reform Bid Stumbled
...and leadership for tomorrow...
[Thomas G. Del Beccaro] 11/11//05

The Special Election is now in the books. Given the results, there will be a temptation to second guess and lay blame. In my view, as a tactical matter, there were mistakes. But as a strategic matter, there were successes.

Most importantly, if you were for reform, there is no reason to hang your head. Success is not far off provided certain lessons are understood, adjustments are made and perseverance becomes your mantra.

Thomas G. Del Beccaro

Thomas G. Del Beccaro is publisher of the website Political Vanguard. [go to Del Beccaro index]

1. What Went Wrong.

I believe that historians will look back at 2005 and judge Arnold and President Bush in much the same light: They were too ambitious. Both leaders threw down the gauntlet, openly described the breadth of our governmental problems and proposed an agenda to deal with those problems. For Bush, that meant addressing social security as well as other reforms.

For Arnold, that meant that he took on the education lobby (Prop 74), unions (Prop 75 & 76), and politicians (prop 77). By any fair analysis, that was an ambitious agenda. It was intellectually honest and the reforms are needed. Tactically, however, it was too much to take on all at once – especially given the unions’ ability to spend money.

For future leaders, the lesson of 2005 may well be that they should not chase too many rabbits at once lest they catch none of them.

2. Union Spending/Democrat Distortions.

Make no mistake about this, the Democrat leaders and Union money bought this election. By doing so, they openly proved Arnold's point that the Unions have the single largest influence in California policy. Beyond that, the level of distortions practiced by the Unions and the Dems was perhaps unprecedented. Frankly, I believe that they went too far and liken their victory to Davis' victory over Simon – it was the result of a terribly negative campaign and the voters saw it for the cynical victory that it was.

In the end, Davis' tactics paved the way to his Recall. The blatant purchase of this election and the Union tactics may well do the same for them.

Morover, their victory may well prove pyrrhic because they have not won something, they avoided losing. In the years to come, the pension crisis facing the state will baloon. Since Unions have nothing to offer California voters in that regard, the mood of the voters will likely swing away from them.

3. 2005: A Difficult Year.

There can be no question that 2005 proved to be a difficult year to hold this election. The reasons include (1) the poor performance of the Congressional Republicans on spending (see article below), (2) the poor performance of the Bush Administration on controlling the national agenda (see article below), (3) donor fatigue and (4) election fatigue. All of those factors conspired to make this Special Election an uphill climb.

Frankly, if these had been brought in 2003, I believe they all would have passed. In other words, outside factors played a great role in this election. They likely will not be there in the future.

4. What Went Right.

This Special Election was fought on our agenda: Reform. To defeat that, the Democrats and the Unions mortgaged their future and frayed their credibility. Recall that Reform does not occur overnight. Remember that welfare reform initially was offered by the Republicans and then eventually adopted later by a Democrat President. These reforms are not dead. Sooner or later they will be back.

For perspective it is interesting to note that none other than Machiavelli wrote that: "The reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it."

California voters are beginning to understand the issues now. That is a victory in and of itself. Another election under the old system will make the problems more evident not less. As time goes on, the Democrats lack of ideas will also become more evident.

Now is not the time to cede control of the agenda. In each election going forward, Republicans must put forth common sense reforms. Each ballot should give voters something to vote for and the unions something to be against. By controlling the agenda and by providing meaningful reform, this fight can and will be won.

I will leave you with a quote by Conrad Hilton the legendary Hotel tycoon.

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit.”

And so it will be for us. CRO

copyright 2005 Thomas G. Del Beccaro




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