Lance T. Izumi - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Izumi is Director of Education Studies for the Pacific
Research Institute and
Senior Fellow in California Studies. He is a leading expert in
education policy and the author of several major PRI studies.
[go to Izumi index]
Was Carter But Is Arnold Another Reagan?
Davis was doomed from the beginning...
[Lance T. Izumi] 10/16/03
It's not often
that one gets to make a public prediction and have it come true.
In April 1999, just after Gray Davis first
took office as governor of California, I wrote a column for the
California Journal that posited that the seemingly invincible
Davis could become the next Jimmy Carter. Even at that early
date the signs of Davis's ultimate failure were discernible for
anyone willing to look closely.
Back then, many were
pumping Davis as a new Bill Clinton - a moderate-talking Democrat
by polling data and focus
groups rather than knee-jerk liberalism. Davis had, for example,
successfully stolen the Republicans' "tough-on-crime" issue,
effectively neutering Dan Lungren, Davis's 1998 GOP opponent.
However, once in office, Davis's governing style emulated Carter
rather than the centrist Clinton.
Davis and Carter had
major "forest-for-the-trees" problems.
Like Carter, Davis was a micro-manager of the first order. Carter
wanted to control the detailed minutiae of White House operations
including whom his senior aides hired as secretaries and who
played on the White House tennis court. Davis went over his press
releases with a fine-tooth comb and argued about which secretary
should make that day's Federal Express run. Davis, like Carter,
could never see the big picture. He lacked an overall vision,
which meant that he had no compass to guide him in dealing with
Carter muddled through
the oil crisis of the 1970s displaying zero leadership and
eventually giving in to
despair. In my California
Journal piece, I said, "Paralysis in the face of difficult
policy challenges sank Carter, and it could sink Davis." Davis
would subsequently prove this observation all too prescient.
He failed to nip the electricity crisis in the bud when he had
the opportunity to do so. He enjoyed a $12-billion budget surplus
at the beginning of his governorship, but failed to stop liberals
in the Legislature from dramatically hiking spending when revenues
started to tank. Even as the red ink rose, Davis stayed notoriously
In the end, Gray Davis,
like Jimmy Carter, crashed and burned because he had no raison
d'être. Ed Meese noted: "Reagan,
in contrast to Carter, was a big-picture man. Carter could tick
off a list of inconsequential details about some aspect or other
of federal policy, but seemed to have little idea where he wanted
to lead the country. Reagan did not immerse himself in details,
but he had a true vision of what he wanted to accomplish, and
how the various components of his policy fit together." Although
it is still too early to tell, Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to
be cut from the Reagan mold in some significant ways.
has laid out a big-picture vision that includes low taxes and
smaller government, plus a nuanced social agenda
that appeals to moderates surrounded himself with a top-notch
team, is willing to listen and to delegate. Further, Democrats,
who constantly underestimated Reagan, seem to be underestimating
Schwarzenegger. Cranky Sen. John Vasconcellos of San Francisco
calls the governor-elect a "boob," while his ultraliberal
comrade from Santa Monica, Sheila Kuehl, calls him ignorant.
Reagan made Democrats regret their sneering condescension. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, who is undoubtedly bright and thoughtful, may
do the same.
2003 Pacific Research Institute