Most of the things in my life for which I am thankful have nothing to do
with California politics. However, the editors at Capitol Weekly would
probably not be amused if I turned in a Thanksgiving column about a loving
family, good health and Terri Hatcher. So instead…
Odd as it may seem, I’m thankful for Democrats. Why? Because Democrats make
me smile. Democrats make me laugh. Most importantly, Democrats will always
be there to save us Republicans from our worst mistakes.
Democrats say funny things. They talk about why raising taxes doesn’t hurt
the economy. About why trapping inner city kids in failing schools is good
for them. About why solar power is only beneficial if solar panels are
installed by union labor at prevailing wage.
Democrats entertain me, because they do silly things. They argue that a
two-thirds majority for Supreme Court nominations is critical to our
survival as a country, but is an unnecessary annoyance when it comes to
California state budgets. They run a multi-millionaire for President on a
platform of economic populism and wonder why he loses. They will nominate
Phil Angelides for governor and not understand why all the tax increases
he’s proposing don’t translate into more votes.
Democrats are arrow-through-the-head, pie-in-the-face,
knock-knock-who’s-there, downright hilarious. Democrats are better than
But most importantly, Democrats inevitably overreach, and in doing so, they
inevitably help us Republicans recover from our pratfalls. At a time when my
party’s governor is beginning to put himself back together again after a
great fall in this month’s special election, I am profoundly grateful that
his Democratic opposition will dramatically over-react and careen off to the
left end of the political spectrum.
Democrats are not unique in this respect. After our victories, Republicans
are just as capable of pushing too hard and too fast for policy goals that
the voters never intended.
Years ago, Los Angeles Times political reporter Ron Brownstein observed that
the American politician is somehow capable of going to sleep on Election
Night having achieved the narrowest of victories and waking up the next
morning convinced that he had been granted the broadest mandate to implement
the most radical change imaginable.
At the time, Brownstein pointed to Bill Clinton’s belief that receiving 43
percent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election entitled him to remake
the nation’s health care system, and to the Republican takeover of Congress
two years later as evidence of the voters’ desire for a revolution. More
recently and closer to home, the case could be made that Gray Davis somehow
confused beating Dan Lungren with being popular, and that Arnold
Schwarzenegger failed to distinguish the difference between passing ballot
initiatives with bipartisan support and in the face of fierce partisan
So neither party has a corner on the hubris market. But at this moment in
state political history, it is my Republican Party that is in need of some
outside assistance. And so the enthusiasm that California Democrats are
displaying to help Schwarzenegger in his rehabilitation is almost
The nurses union is talking about pushing for a state-run universal health
care program. The chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee is
preparing for hearings about a moratorium on the death penalty. Legislation
providing for drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, for same sex
marriage, and for all sorts of tax increases is all being drafted even as we
speak. By the time the Democrats are finished, Schwarzenegger will be
well-positioned to reclaim the political center from which he had been
shoved, just in time for the last weeks of his re-election campaign.
The governor’s opponents will pass some bills designed to embarrass him as
well. (For example, Schwarzenegger would be well-advised to call for a
measured increase in the minimum wage in his State of the State address,
maybe in exchange for a return to more flexible overtime work schedules.)
But sticking to that approach would presume a level of discipline that
Democrats have not displayed since….ever.
That’s why they’re so much fun, these kooky Democrats. That’s why I’m
thankful for them. Because, in their zeal for political payback, they’re
going to help re-elect a Republican governor.