An icon of California Democrats, Jess Unruh coined the phrase, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Over the last six decades, Mr. Unruh’s political progeny have been dedicated to the principle of working hand in glove with labor unions, a myriad of hyphenated “justice” groups, and a broad spectrum of others desiring to put their noses in the governmental trough in return for large amounts of monetary “support.”This symbiotic relationship is the source of massive campaign “contributions” to a broad array of liberal (read Democrat) legislative policy initiatives, ballot measures, and political campaigns. In fact, when faced with a series of propositions supported by a newly elected Governor Schwarzenegger, the California Teachers Association “went to the mat” by refinancing its San Francisco headquarters building for a mere $60 million. The “guarantee” of repayment was the CTA’s ability to get an “advance” against the dues of its members over the next three years.
Following decades of triumph bringing down opposing issues, ideas, and candidates liberals responsible for the financial successes, to paraphrase Plutarch, seeing the breadth of their domain, they wept as there were no more worlds to conquer. But, alas with their allies in place they realized their power to shape California’s future and they began the march to utopia.
This new-found power lead to efforts to increase the minimum wage, press the “Green Agenda,” impose exorbitant taxes and restrictions on evil corporations, expand regulatory requirements on companies, and passing higher taxes aimed at “the rich” but hitting the middle class the hardest. They also targeted big employers through expanding Private Attorneys General Act complaints, broadened family leave requirements, and of course they began pursuing their crown jewel of liberalism, Universal Healthcare.
Of course, passage of such a massive program in the Legislature is no small feat, especially considering Senate Democrats couldn’t or wouldn’t include the cost of such a massive government takeover. Rumors, backed up by a 2008 analysis of a similar measure, pegged a possible cost of $400 billion or roughly two or three times the total of the current state budget.
The confluence of legislative timing and political constituencies came together in late May when Democrats from across California gathered in the Capitol city to hold their summer convention and elect their next state chair. The issue of support for government-run healthcare became so intense that party progressives joined with the leader of the California Nurses Association to warn legislative Democrats that they would put up primary election challengers against lawmakers who didn’t support the bill to create public-funded, universal healthcare.
While the Establishment Democrats could put a “public band aid” on the whole affair that even tainted the election process of their state chair, there was little doubt about the very large shadow now cast on the relationship between legislative Democrats and their political masters. Fortunately, Democrat Leadership saw a way to blunt the threats facing their choice and put the blame for their duplicity on California Republicans.
Shortly before the Democrat convention the Legislature and Governor Brown enacted the largest gas tax in state history, despite their promise to allow voters of California to have a voice in tax increases. This outrage prompted state Republicans to file a recall petition challenging a freshman Senate Democrat that voted for the new tax and won his seat by less than one percentage point. This set the stage for Establishment Democrats to rush through measures intended to slow down any recall process and allow for substantial funding of the targets of any recall effort. Publicly, Democrats and their supporters in the media decry the recall of a dedicated public servant who is merely representing the best interests of his constituents.
Well, isn’t it also handy that any effort by progressives, union leaders, or simply angry liberals believing Democrats are turning their backs on supporters or worse biting the hand that has fed them for so long will now face the same recall hurdles as their Republican enemies. Aren’t symbiotic relationships fun to watch?
Doug Haaland is a retired Republican policy consultant having spent more than 27 years “Under the Dome.”