A Schwarzenegger hangover saved California Democrats from a wipeout as the Tea Party wave washed harmlessly up the High Sierra’s eastern slope. Democrats won eight of nine statewide offices, with the race for attorney general looking more Republican as the late ballots get tallied. Democrats also racked up their largest State Assembly majority since the Watergate blowout year of 1974 (52 seats of 80). And, the passage of union-sponsored Prop. 25 allows Democrats to enact a budget with a simple majority vote. But for visual confirmation of this election’s connection to the failed “Republican” governor, one need only look at governor-elect Jerry Brown’s ad showing Arnold Schwarzenegger side-by-side with Meg Whitman uttering the same platitudinous inanities we’ve come to expect from self-funded dilettantes who neither have the time to vote nor the inclination to first seek a lesser office so as to gain political experience.
It isn’t hard to see where things went awry in California: just look back to the heady years of the historic 2003 recall of Gray Davis. Davis was swept out of office due a massive deficit brought on by his rapid expansion of state government during the dot com economy combined with his mishandling of the state’s electricity crisis. Candidate Schwarzenegger won on a platform of “blowing up the boxes” of bureaucracy while “cutting up” the state’s “credit cards” – Schwarzenegger did neither. Instead, he gave California seven years of uneven leadership, veering from the right to the left while calling his erratic leadership “post-partisanship.” Schwarzenegger pushed through the largest state tax increase in U.S. history, expanded government spending, debt and regulatory hurdles while shrinking the sphere of liberty – curious actions for a self-avowed fan of the late Milton Friedman. Schwarzenegger’s voter approval rating hit 22 percent this summer, matching Gray Davis’ recall-eve rating – something Davis, if he wishes to indulge in schadenfreude, might see as poetic symmetry.
While the Democrats had a great election night in the Golden State, there are some signs of hope for the majority of Californians who don’t take their ideological cues from San Francisco.
In politics, nothing lasts forever – including the Democrats’ dominance of California. For California’s sake, and America’s, all Americans should hope California voters catch up with the rest of America in 2012.