California Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Jerry Brown gestures while speaking during a news conference August 31, 2010 in Oakland, California. Attorney general Brown announced that law enforcement officers had arrested key members of the Nuestra Familia gang who had orchestrated crimes from inside prison using cell phones. Brown called for a solution to end the use of contraband cellular phones inside prisons.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown is out campaigning, and saying things that sound good but make no sense.
Such as yesterday in Southern California: "I just want to go back to Sacramento and I want to do everything I can to pull Republicans and Democrats together. It's not a time for increasing the partisan divide. It's time for thinking as Californians first. I'm not saying it's easy, but we've had tough times before and we've always come out of it."
The good news is that Brown is almost certainly too smart to believe this. He almost certainly knows that American political parties have become increasingly ideological and polarized. He almost certainly knows that this ideology and polarization make it very difficult to get compromise on anything. He almost certainly knows that Republicans and Democrats in the legislature do care about California but have diametrically opposed ideas about the big questions -- spending and taxes -- that can't be reconciled.
And he almost certainly knows that California's requirement of a two-thirds vote for budget bills or for raising taxes make governance all but impossible given the underlying polarization.
And the only thing worse than the constant disagreement is when these two parties do get together to pass a budget. Those annual budget compromises have been disasters in which Democrats and Republicans agree to push problems into the future and create billions in debt, much of it disguised through accounting gimmicks.
Multiple choice: A politician who calls for bipartisan compromise in a two-thirds system at a time of partisan, polarized parties...
A. has nothing to say
B. is hiding his true agenda
C. thinks voters are dumb and aren't paying attention
D. really likes debt and pushing problems into the future
E. a little bit of all of the above
A politician who was thinking about governing, and not just winning an election, would say something very different.
Our parties are very polarized. Getting them together to agree on big issues in times like these causes more problems than it solves. What we need in California is to change our system to make the party that's in power much more accountable.
How? By returning to majority vote on big issues and by changing how we elect the legislature. We need to make it easier for the party in the minority to become the majority when things don't go well.
It's a simple truth that neither Brown nor Meg Whitman seems able to articulate.