national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]

















Doug Gamble- Contributor

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]

Democrats In Disarray
At least so far, state party at a loss in trying to counter a cunning governor

[Doug Gamble] 1/21/04

Political life can be brutal. It's a life of peril and pitfalls where even years of success can't prevent a plunge from the penthouse to the basement. At least that's what I was told in Los Angeles the other day by my taxi driver, Gray Davis.

That may be a joke, but it reflects how much things have changed over the past year for the California Democratic Party. Last January, it was in chest-thumping mode after sweeping all statewide offices in the 2002 elections and seemingly relegating the bumbling, demoralized Republicans to the wilderness for years to come.

The Democrats still hold every statewide office but one and remain in control of the Legislature, but now they are the ones who seem to be lost in the jungle without a machete, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger's sea-change win in the recall election. To rub salt in the wound, the onetime laughing-stock California GOP came out on top in fund raising last year, attracting $6 million more than a Democratic Party that holds a large advantage in registration.

Another indication of how much things have changed can be seen in the only name speaker the contentious Democratic convention in San Jose attracted from out of state this past weekend - presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the congressman from "Star Trek," reflecting the extreme left wing of the party. Some other speakers represented a rearview mirror on yesterday, including the humiliated ex-governor Davis, and outgoing Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson and Senate President John Burton, who are both being whistled to the sidelines this fall by term limits.

The convention was the first opportunity since last October's voter revolt for the Democrats to consider, as the song says, what condition their condition is in. A realistic assessment would indicate they're in deep trouble if they think business as usual, such as trying to demonize their opponent, will win back the governor's office in 2006 - and if they don't come up with some way to counter the Schwarzenegger magic.

Democrats will first have to figure out who they are, in the type of soul-searching that previously embroiled state Republicans in a tug of war between moderates and conservatives that was put to rest, at least temporarily, by Schwarzenegger's victory. The Democrats are currently split between factions led by state Controller Steve Westly and Treasurer Phil Angelides, with Westly backing most of Schwarzenegger's fiscal initiatives, including a role co-chairing the campaign in favor of the controversial $15 billion bond measure, and Angelides attacking the governor's economic policies at every opportunity.

The longer the Democrats are seen as not having a clear, unified message - and the Schwarzenegger camp was shrewd in co-opting Westly - the more difficult it will be for them to mount an effective opposition.

But their biggest obstacle is Schwarzenegger himself, who is unlike any opponent California Democrats have had to face, including Ronald Reagan. While he dominated the Sacramento political stage with his charisma and communications skills, Reagan proved more conventional in his tactics than the unpredictable Schwarzenegger. If Reagan was the citizen politician, Schwarzenegger is the unpolitician.

From the moment he shocked even his own advisers by telling Jay Leno's audience that he was in the governor's race after signaling he wouldn't be, Schwarzenegger has utilized tactics aimed at keeping his opponents off-balance. If he believes the Democrats are devising a strategy based on him zigging, he'll zag, and vice versa. Beyond his star power, he has an intuition and cunning that defies the normal rhythms of political logic, which is probably why his bond measure will pass in March despite currently trailing in the polls.

The weekend convention showed that California Democrats know the way to San Jose. Yet unanswered is whether they know the way to solve the Schwarzenegger puzzle.

Copyright 2004 Doug Gamble




Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005