Letter from California
06/02/05 0855.11 pst
San Jose, California
California can go two years with barely a drop of rain and still support the greatest agricultural region in the world—nothing comes remotely close—while humming the sixth largest economy on the planet. Governor Moonbeam’s Daddy and Roosevelt built the backbones while Los Angeles and San Francisco raped the Owens Valley and Hetch Hetchy to make it possible, all over 50 years ago.
Five years of fat rain have filled every reservoir to the brim and this year’s 200% rainfall has gorged every river in the state into thick cold torrents of runoff, killing the unwary and sustaining endangered salmon. For now, at least, Californians can breathe easy and forget about their ugly water history and stark choices that would have to be made in times of drought.
A late Spring seems to have settled a chill on the populace, or perhaps it’s the dreary cascade of war, suicide bombers, unemployment, and local casualties in the news that has dimmed the usual sparkling anticipation of a California summer. Whatever the cause there seems to be no new wave of hip music or clothes, no particularly sharp defiance or rebellion among the yoots (always a good sign), no normal sense that now is the time to glory in this special place under rays of golden sun where any dream can come true.
A Clintonian phenomena swirls in the environment of those politically aware while the pundits and their cousin bloggers, precisely like their predecessors in 1991 who blithely assumed Poppy would walk for re-election, just sit there in their diction and thumb-suck an inevitable Arnie victory in 2006—the flashy muscled movie star, victor of recall and facial wrinkles, lose?
Arnie’s getting knifed every day, has been for the last 200, first by fiercely pugnacious and brave nurses and then by outraged cops, firefighters and teachers (Arnie has shown his true hack GOP stripes by going after public service unions). It is a lesson in television advocacy and dogged photo-op disruption that every liberal political group in the country should pay very close attention to as they look at Arnie’s numbers in a free fall.
Another profusely bleeding gash in the steroid body of political Arnie is the stark realization of the aware voter that last year’s grand budget saga of voter-approved debt where Dianne got on the teevee and said “this would never happen again” is, in fact, happening again. Arnie threatens a special election and doesn’t explain why our kids are still screwed for lack of funds, why we’re broke and must pay interest on our debt while cutting programs. A growing sense of outraged betrayal is growing among the formerly duped in this blue state, and the race for Governor of California 2006 is wide open.
Of course the especially painful scenario of budgeting currently cast could be avoided if, for the hundredth time, a Democratic politician was simply honest and said our revenue mechanisms are busted, some will have to be raised, some lowered, and our kids and state will have a future.
Instead we get a minority of dunce GOP legislators obdurately refusing to raise taxes anywhere, in any fashion, no matter how progressive or necessary. Tax reform is impossible in the great Tomato (abbreviation of Sacratomato from the beloved Herb Caen) legislature. Make no mistake, this current stalemate is totally as much to blame on the timidity of our Democrats as it is on the pigheadedness of our Republicans.
Democrats cannot credibly make the case as to why we need revenue and make the GOP sufficiently pay for it at the polls. One supposes they took their lessons from one of the worst American politicians of all time, Gray Davis, who “governed” under the theft of electricity deregulation yet could not in any fashion make the GOP pay for it with some honest Democratic populism. Our public servant unions have already shown them what committed energy can do; perhaps, one day in a glorious time, Democrats will pull a monkey-see-monkey-do, not an unreasonable expectation for our politicians, maybe.
For our children, whom we have yet again abused with Mississippi school funding, no day care, shoddy health care and dirty air, another summer is about to burst upon their lives. Despite our very real shortcomings as adults there will come a day when our schools are magical places with the best facilities, books, equipment and committed teachers happily teaching without horrible punishing standardized testing, where health, dental and vision care were obtained without thought, where the air and water are clean, Mom and Dad are employed, great daycare to help everyone out exists, with stunning food everywhere from our great state on everyone’s table.
It’s not a dream—the voices of our public servants, our bloggers, our candidates and our people in this very blue state will make it happen, one day. In the meantime we do the best we can—this is still California, after all, and just because the place carves half a decade off one’s life expectancy doesn’t mean we can’t have a helluva good time and enjoy raising our children while we’re here. It may be a chilly summer, but it’s still summer with the corn and watermelon from Mexico tasty in the stores.