Magical Thinking Won’t Fix California

Jerry Brown Magician

California's political leaders criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry's day-long prayer event, but even as it was underway, Gov. Jerry Brown was on CNN -- engaging in some magical thinking of his own.

Brown, expressing the consensus in California, argued that politics is too partisan and unreasonable, and that the only way to fix is for the parties to compromise.

To his mind, that means Republicans would have to abandon their anti-tax fervor and agree to stimulus.

"I'm telling you, we are at a crossroads, that if the Republicans cannot give up some of their ideological baggage, and if the Democrats can't find a way to create common ground, the country is going to face some decline."

It certainly would be nice if Republicans and Democrats would do this.

But wishing for it -- or praying for it -- is not a strategy.

It seems unlikely that significant numbers of members of each party are going to abandon their principles in the name of compromise and common ground.

People such as Brown are old enough to remember a time when the parties weren't quite so ideological.

But that time -- the post-war era when some Republicans were liberals and many Democrats were conservatives -- is over.

Now the parties are aligned with ideologies.

So the way to fix governance is not to hope for a magical return of the past. The way to fix governance is to redesign how decisions are made to reflect the realities of this partisan, ideological age.

It means that rules that require broad consensus between the two parties -- such as California's various fiscal supermajorities -- should be eliminated.

In their place, we need a system in which the parties take turns controlling power. When one party is in power, it's in charge -- and thus must take responsibility for governing. If that party's decisions turn out poorly, a proper election system would make it relatively easy for the party out of power to get back into power.

But there's almost no conversation among California leaders about redesigning the governing system.

Heck, they dislike the idea. Since they won't act to fix things, they should take every opportunity for prayer they get.

Even if it's in Texas.

Photo illustration by Olsen Ebright

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