Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Neo-Hooverism in California, part 2

What is an appropriate progressive response? There seem a number of possibilities:
  1. Support and attempt to reform the state Democratic Party. The problem here is that the Democrats are as much part of the problem as part of the solution, and will have little credibility. Anger at the Democratic Party may in fact be higher than anger at the Republicans: the Democrats betrayed their rank-and-file.
  2. "Direct action." The problem here is that it is going to be very difficult to bring any pressure to bear on the factions that have made the problem. Any effective action is going to have to involve sit-ins at major businesses, sit-down strikes, and the like. A violent response seems likely, and it will be blamed on the protestors. Protesters are going to have to be tough, disciplined, and desperate.
  3. A constitutional convention, to remove the worst features of the California state constitution. This solution is popular with progressives, but it seems to this old bird to be risky. There is no strong progressive leadership with media access--nothing like the megaphone which Schwarzennegger's fame and his backer's wealth provide. It is entirely possible that a constitutional convention would be hijacked by the same factions which have made the current situation. Acceptance of a new constitution of good quality in the current media environment seems hopeless.
  4. Found a reform party. It's...possible. Conditions have rarely been better, and a third party could easily win a local election in San Francisco, where elections are conducted by instant runoff vote. This appears to be spreading in local electoral practice. The major parties will fight state-level voting reform tooth and nail. Still, with strong leadership, I think a new party could emerge in California. But it is likely to be several years before it makes a substantial difference in state politics.

[2009.08.04 edited for clarity]

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