Gov. Jerry Brown gave a brilliant State of the State speech this evening, validating those who hoped that he would have the wisdom, courage, and candor to properly frame this difficult political moment. And it was great because he abandoned tired calls for bipartisanship and opted to go straight to the people, even citing Egypt and Tunisia as cautionary examples of the peril and potential of real democracy.
Contrast that with President Barack Obama, whose White House today indicated it would plow forward with a health care reform package – crafted entirely by politicians and corporate lobbyists – that nobody really likes even after another federal judge ruled its central tenet unconstitutional and House Republicans have threatened jihad over.
Liberals never did buy into this reform after Obama abandoned single payer and even the public option compromise, and its seems conservatives and teabaggers have been whipped up into a froth over its real and imagined provisions. So Obama has some pretty thin backing to fight through the fairly reasonable ruling that the federal government can’t make it a crime not to want to be health insurance company customers.
Both Brown and Obama correctly gauge that “something is profoundly wrong,” as Brown put it. “They see that their leaders are divided when they should be decisive and acting with clear purpose.”
Obama’s solution is bipartisanship, even though Republicans seem incapable of dealing with him or the public in good faith these days. So he makes attempts at bland compromises that please nobody – from escalating war in Afghanistan with a fake exit strategy to extending jobless benefits and billionaire tax cuts – feeding the public perception that both major parties are hopelessly corrupt and ineffective.
Brown is taking a different tact: nonpartisanship. He’s crafted a bold effort at compromise that neither political party likes, but one that will probably prove reasonable to most people if sold properly (unless we are indeed incapable of self-governance at this point, a possibility the I allow and which would require solutions like breaking California up into multiple states or accepting anarchy). And hopefully creative progressive legislators will even give multiple options to the people, including increasing taxes on the richest individuals and corporations to lessen the cuts even more, as long as we’re placing our faith in the people. Hell, I don’t even mind putting a conservative package of deep cuts to government on the ballot as well, just so we can show them how unpopular the right-wing stance really is in California.
Brown doesn’t preclude the future possibilities of bipartisanship, but he also correctly says that the political gridlock is just too strong in Sacramento right now. After punting the budget to the people, maybe they can start doing old-fashioned governance again.
“But let’s not forget that Job Number 1 – make no mistake about it – is fixing our state budget and getting our spending in line with our revenue. Once we do that, the rest will be easy—at least easier because we will have learned to work together and earned back the respect and trust of the people we serve,” he closed. “I look forward to working with all of you.”