Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
I see Jerry Brown cut $71 million from a state office staffed by members of a union that fought him when he ran for governor. Outrageous and disgusting politics, wouldn’t you say?
–Nonplussed in Novato

Dear Nonplussed,
Absolutely not. This was good hardball, a shot across the bow of people who oppose him. A smack and a whack and a bim and a bam.  About time.  

This was an old timey, reward-your-friends-and-punish-your-enemies maneuver, a classic trip to the woodshed. When that law enforcement union, the California State Law Enforcement Association, endorsed Meg Whitman, they were rolling the dice. They knew if she won, they would be high in her sights when it came to renegotiating the contract.

It was a gamble and they knew it. Sorta like when the prison officers endorsed Gray Davis and funneled tons of money to him. Remember that? At the negotiating table, they got what they wanted from Davis.

The CSLEA hoped for a similar result with Whitman, and it was a risk worth taking (at least on paper, which is the same place where Whitman had more than a popsicle’s chance in a pizza oven). Whitman’s unprecedented $180 million campaign appeared to have a chance of putting her in the governor’s office, and it would have been nice for CSLEA to be the only public employee union to back her. CSLEA was playing for big stakes. Even if they played badly, at least they had a pair – and I ain’t talking poker.

Indeed, that’s what the campaign for governor is all about – playing for the big stakes. The voters, in the end, decide the issue – but from a set of choices the big-folks have offered them, and then only after relentless TV spots and an incessant drum beat of propaganda.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. This time, CSLEA lost. The world will wag on.

Brown’s bitch slap reminded me of my favorite politico and favorite fellow Texan after Sam Rayburn – Lyndon Johnson. This is exactly what Johnson would have done – and did. How do you think he got the Civil Rights Act through? By stepping on the voting rights of members. That old dog telephoned lawmaker after lawmaker, telling them “your president is calling,” offering to help them with problems in their district if they vote his way and then threatening them with oblivion if they opposed him.

Okay, so he embroiled us in Vietnam. He knew how to smack the rank and file, and that’s an invaluable skill. He made promises and he kept them.

All I’m saying is, what’s better than a carrot and a stick? A bigger carrot and a bigger stick. 

Brown is probably going to run for reelection – although he may have a secret understanding with John Chiang to only seek one term – and the next time around, people will remember what happened to CSLEA and will be inclined to stay on the reservation. This is what Sacramento is all about – money and power and personality.

It’s not about ideology, philosophy and good government. If you want your side to win on any of those three, you better hope to have someone with skills like Brown on your side. A spanking in one campaign is a warning to anybody in the next campaign who might be contemplating a similar move to proceed at their peril.

For those who follow politics, remember this: Revenge is the sweetest passion. Brown did.


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