Senator's thoughts on the special election...
1945, Winston Churchill was swept from office in a devastating
election defeat just days after leading England safely through
World War II. As he watched in
morose silence as the results rolled in, Clementine sat beside him, patted
his knee and said, “If you ask me, Winston, it’s a blessing in disguise.” Churchill
growled, “At the moment, madam, it is very well disguised, indeed.”
not going to pretend that Tuesday’s election was anything
other than what it was: an unmitigated and stunning defeat
of some of the most basic principles of good government ever
put to a vote: that government should live within its means;
that politicians shouldn’t chose who gets to vote for
them; that teachers should demonstrate sustained competence
before they’re granted lifetime tenure; that public employees
have a right to decide for themselves what candidates they’ll
support with their own money; and that parents have a right
to know if their teenaged daughter is undergoing an abortion.
McClintock is an expert on matters of the State
budget and fiscal discipline. He is a Senator in
the California State Legislature and ran for Governor
in the 2003 recall election. His valuable website
is found at www.tommclintock.com [McClintock index]
Nor am I
going to pretend that the election can be easily dismissed
as a fluke. It was a major setback in the cause of reform and
a major victory for the government unions that are now ascendant,
emboldened and unchallenged in their domination of our political
and legislative process.
many lessons to be learned and to be learned well. But as Mark
Twain warned, “We should be careful to get out of an
experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there; lest
we be like the cat that sits on a hot stove-lid; she will never
sit on a hot stove-lid again--and that is well; but also she
will never sit on a cold one anymore."
I have always
said that it is naïve to believe that the same legislature
that got California into its mess is going to get it back out.
The Governor learned this during the first year of his administration,
when, despite a few cosmetic and incremental successes, no
serious reforms survived the legislature and the state’s
finances continued to deteriorate (masked by a $15 billion
infusion of borrowed money).
ultimately had no alternative than to bring this impasse to
a head and appeal directly to the people. He could have maintained
a façade of bipartisanship, contented himself to tinker
at the margins, put forth pleasing half-measures while the
state’s deficit continued to mount – but he chose
finally to confront the state’s condition boldly and
forthrightly. And he knew that to do so, he had to confront
the government unions responsible for that condition.
election have been called sooner, when civic attention and
the Governor’s popularity were at an all-time high? Could
the reforms have been better selected, framed and crafted?
Would a clearer presentation of these issues have prevailed?
questions are important ones and I don’t begrudge the
pundits who are now raising and answering them. But they should
be tempered by Teddy Roosevelt’s observation that, "It
is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how
the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have
done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually
in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,
who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and
again (because there is no effort without error or shortcoming),
but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who
spends himself for a worthy cause…”
Now the watchword
is “compromise,” but through all this soothing
rhetoric there is a hardened reality: the government unions
are now in a stronger political position than ever and no “compromise” will
escape the Capitol without their seal of approval. And that
means the state will continue to drift upon the course that
has already brought it to the brink of insolvency, until the
next crisis awakens voters.
are decisive moments in time that record a snapshot of public
judgment, but they are conducted in a dynamic world where events
can quickly reshape the political landscape. If the fundamental
course of the government is not changed – and the government
unions have an intense self-interest and demonstrated ability
NOT to change – crises will visit California with increasing
frequency and intensity. In such an environment, the politics
of the state could shift very rapidly.
the Governor does in response to the election, it is imperative
that he levels with the people on the actual fiscal condition
of the state and that he is very clear and uncompromising in
presenting the solutions that must ultimately resolve it. And
when watered-down and meaningless changes are all that emerge
from the legislature, he must resist the temptation to proclaim
them as anything more.
are creatures of habit. We instinctively resist change and
engineer our institutions of government to resist it as well.
Change occurs in a society only after the necessity for it
finally overcomes our own resistance. That is why serious reforms
only come in a state of agitation – and why the recall
succeeded in 2003, while the reforms to consummate that recall
failed two years later. The recall proceeded while the public
perceived a crisis and the reforms were attempted when they
next crisis comes, the Governor will find a new appreciation
among Californians for what he was trying to do in this election,
and a more receptive electorate to do so in the next. CRO