Now that it’s over, get back to work

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From the Publisher / Arnold G. York

Sacramento, Calif.-Well the election is over, and altogether everyone spent $250 million. But no matter, we all got a great deal for our money.

We got to be entertained for several months.

We got to see a TV commercial in which three mean-looking white guys in judicial robes looked like they’d send you to the gas chamber for a traffic ticket.

We got to see The Terminator terminated, but only momentarily because he was back the next day as Mr. Compromise.

We got to see the unions crow for about 90 seconds before some of their smarter folks realized the voters were simply ticked off at everyone and they might be next on the list.

All in all, the election turned out to be much ado about nothing, and about all it proved was that in the Golden State, money is god. If you have enough of it, you can just about kill anything.

It’s a strange way to run a government.

A number of people said to me, “I’m just voting No on everything. I’m tired of these people not doing their job,” which, I must confess, is pretty much how I felt.

So what happens next?

Well, after the governor gets back from China, where apparently he could get elected mayor of Beijing, he’s going to have to sit down and try to actually govern this state, which is a bit tougher.

But I think Schwarzenegger is going to bounce back. He’s smarter than he’s given credit for, and he’s shown the ability in the past to change course when he had to. And I suspect that’s what we’re going to see.

They’ve already started the swing back. After the election the governor was contrite, which to my mind struck just the right tone. Sort of, “The people have spoken and I accept their judgment.” Humbled, yet determined. Then it was off to China, which immediately took the election off the front page. Next is going to be a triumphant return from China, probably with some goodies in hand, the fruits of a successful trip. Then it’s on to the gigantic infrastructure bond, which we need desperately but may not be able to afford. With the infrastructure bond, governor’s race, a number of statewide offices up for grabs, 80 Assembly seats, 20 Senate seats and an assorted group of propositions, I would guess that the total spending for the next election will probably pass the $350 million mark or more. What bothers me most is not the $350 million; it’s that almost all of it’s going to be spent on TV, which ought to be against the First Amendment or something.

So how do you actually govern?

There is only one way to govern this state. You govern from the center, which, in a Democratic majority state, means you govern as a moderate quasi Democratic Republican-liberal on social issues, more conservative on economic issues. Can Schwarzenegger do it and bring back the conservative Democrats and Independents to his side? I suspect he’s got a reasonable chance. Next time he runs against real people, probably either State Treasurer Phil Angelides or State Controller Steve Westly, depending on who survives the primary, and in a head-to-head contest, it will probably boil down to whom you dislike the most. Considering that all three-Schwarzenegger, Angelides and Westly-are multimillionaires, the TV stations are already licking their chops. They might even throw a few crumbs to the print media.

The saddest and most dysfunctional part of all this is that all these initiatives have let the Legislature off the hook. We’re supposed to be a representative democracy, but more and more, elected officials are leaving all the tough questions to the ballot, which, on complicated issues, is probably the worst possible way to run a government.

For example, the last proposition on the ballot was the electricity reregulation. I read it. Reread and re-reread it, and I still haven’t the remotest idea what it meant, and, even more, how it would work. I have a suspicion that the drafters of the proposition didn’t know anymore than I did.

As that great American philosopher “Dirty Harry” once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

It would appear that many of these proposition proponents never heard that sage advice. Hopefully, the governor and the Legislature will get to work, realizing that if they expect to get back into our good graces, they’d better start dealing with the things they’re elected to deal with.