As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Search For An Endgame

So the Senate Republicans voted en masse against $11 billion in cuts as part of the budget proposal put forward by the Democrats today. Lou Correa and Leland Yee voted no as well, and the final vote was 22-16. Technically, I believe the bill could go to the Assembly, and after passage to the Governor, but Arnold has vowed a veto, so that's probably out. Meanwhile, California will start to use the reserve fund to pay bills for the next week or so, and failing a solution after that, will resort to IOUs, which basically was the deal back in February as well. Yes, the Democratic proposal has its share of gimmickry, but no more than the Governor's own plan, and considering the Yacht Party refuses to write a plan, ALL OF THEIRS is gimmickry, as is their entire ideology. But the Yacht Party smells blood in the water, the Democrats have pulled their tax proposals off the table, and the future is incredibly uncertain.

I cannot disagree with Greg Lucas' analysis.

Examining the Senate’s budgetary actions of June 24 from a political rather than a policy perspective, the majority party Democrats may not have achieved their objectives [...]

Judging from the remarks of Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, the intent of the exercise was to illustrate that Democrats are unwilling to cut as deeply into social programs as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and to portray Republican lawmakers as obstructionist or hypocritical or both for not backing the cuts embraced by Democrats.

“Democrats are asking Republicans to vote for billions of dollars in cuts and apparently your answer today is ‘no,’ Steinberg said. “Why won’t you cut? Why won’t you cut?” [...]

In a purely political sense, the “bad” vote is the one cast by Democrats, ostensibly champions of public education, who – if the February budget they backed is included – have chosen to reduce state support of schools by more than $12 billion over a two-year period.

Republicans can portray their “no” vote as a refusal to cut nearly $5 billion more from public schools.

Perhaps a more effective illustration of support for what Democrats call the safety net would be to bring several of the GOP governor’s more draconian proposals to a vote.

It seems unlikely Schwarzenegger’s call to eliminate California’s welfare program would garner the votes necessary for passage. Nor would the governor’s proposal to end state grants to lower-income high school students to help them attend college.

After rejecting those and possibly other gubernatorial proposals then a vote on the more modest – more humane – measure with $11 billion in cuts might more satisfactorily frame the issue.

I would argue that making these "symbolic" votes doesn't do a ton of good unless you're willing to use them in the context of the 2010 campaign (and I don't remember votes coming into play in key districts in 2008) or in a coordinated and widespread media campaign immediately. To the latter point, we don't have any such media in California. It's a good argument in search of a broadcaster, and that goes for Lucas' alternative solution.

The real problem is that Democrats don't appear to have an endgame strategy, and haven't for years. The words "two-thirds majority" hasn't exited anyone's lips in quite a while. This is a process problem, and only a process solution will suffice, and teachable moments like these have been wasted for 30 years.

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