You might be surprised to learn just how difficult it can be to be a California Democrat. Our party seems to produce nothing but uncharismatic checklist pols who only seem to win due to institutional support or spoils, instead of any real popularity. We have some rising stars outside of the standard state officeholder ladder like Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa (who for some reason makes me feel leery, but for no specific reason).
On the federal level, we have a pretty good stable of folks, but most of them aren’t interested in purely state matters at a state level.
As passionate and involved as I might feel with federal elections, within our state, I feel completely unmotivated. Just about every legislative district is safe for the incumbent party. As I noted, Democrats never produce a candidate for governor that I feel will move the ball, and our Proposition system has made it clear that the word “byzantine” will soon be an archaic use because “Californian” will be more modish.
It’s a weird landscape. Each election is basically a fight between a few big unions and the chamber of commerce. Social conservatives play almost no role. Environmentalism is superficially important, but doesn’t drive the agenda as much as people think. Real environmentalism, anyway. Excluding Arnold’s global warming bill, California is the champion of NIMBY exclusionism instead of progressive environmental policy. (Witness the myopic fight over wind power and birds — what habitat will the birds have if the climate is destroyed?)
While the unions and their employers squabble over their issues, very little is done for the average person. Making sustainable yet affordable housing available is virtually ignored. Sprawl and traffic congestion, the two horsemen of the California apocalypse, are derided but permitted.
And why not? If you can get elected to the legislature, you are safe until term limits move you to a different chamber, or to the executive branch. If a tough issue comes up, punt it to the initiative process.
Here’s what we need:
(1) Proportional representation in the lower house.
(2) No term limits
(3) No propositions, recalls, or referenda.
(4) No Lieutenant Governor