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This Week In The Echo Chamber: What Capitol Insiders Are Buzzing About
For the Week of February 3, 2008
1) Sacramento King -- The blindingly-brilliant Darrell Steinberg as Senate President-designate and the politically-prodigious Alex Padilla as second-chair offer the promise of a peaceful transition and a high-powered one-two punch through 2014. It’s the best of both worlds for Senate President Perata, who smartly avoids an internecine feud at the worst possible time and secures his hold on the Senate’s levers according to his own timetable. Now, if we can just get Senators Clinton and Obama to follow their lead.
2) Generation Next -- Don’t cry for Alex Padilla. At the age of 34 (!), he’s already served as President of Los Angeles City Council, won several highly-contested elections, played a key role in the Clinton for President campaign after Bill Richardson dropped out and, in a Senate Democratic Caucus comprised of 25 veteran politicians, finished second in the race to be their next leader. With his gracious and strategic exit, he earned a place of particularly high influence on the Senate’s leadership team. He may not be the next Pro Tem, but he is, as Steinberg called him, a "rising star" and should one day be occupying a Mayor’s or Governor’s office near you.
5) Torn Between Two Lovers -- In a Presidential election more volatile than Dick Cheney’s heart rate, the underlying subtext is this: we Democrats are madly in love with both of our candidates, while the Republicans want a divorce from all of theirs. McCain’s the frontrunner for a political party whose own rank-and-file base can’t stand him. Few voters voted FOR him -- they voted AGAINST his opponents. And now he’s stuck in a classically Rove-ian Catch-22. He has no choice but to tack hard to the right to win back party loyalists but, by doing so, he’ll inevitably deliver ready-for-change moderate Republicans and independents into Democratic arms.
6) Super Tuesday’s Biggest Winner -- The State of California, hands down. Moving the Presidential Primary from June 3 to February 5 created a political gold rush. Candidates campaigned here and their money followed. We were the center ring in the greatest political show on Earth. And the Governor, Senator Perata and Speaker Nunez all deserve credit for making it happen. A lot of columnists (rhymes with "Falters") and navel-gazing bloggers who once claimed omniscience and openly mocked the significance of the move are now huddled in spiderholes with several helpings of crow.
7) Super Tuesday’s Biggest Loser -- The anti-democratic California Republican Party. The bankrupt-on-many-levels gang-that-can’t-shoot-straight defied Governor Schwarzenegger and other reasonable Republicans and hurt their eventual nominee in order to keep their gated-community primary closed to independents. The results: Clinton and Obama received nearly twice as many votes as all four remaining GOP candidates combined. And, as we’ve seen in previous open primaries, if an independent casts a vote for a candidate in a primary, they are statistically more likely to vote for that candidate -- and even that candidate’s party -- in the general (see "Gray Davis in 1998"). In the end, the shortsighted agents of intolerance who hold dominion over the state party didn’t even accomplish their goal: McCain won big anyway.
8) It’s "Fine" but not a "Mess" -- It’s true that Tuesday’s Presidential-palooza didn’t manage to winnow the Democratic field, but we have nothing to fear from an ongoing, competitive primary between these two first-ballot Hall-of-Famers. First of all, President Clinton is right. It IS an embarrassment of riches, the political equivalent of choosing between a Rolls-Royce and a Maserati, which continues to put our party in the best possible backlight. Second, it’s been a relatively clean fight to date with a shockingly low number of attack ads. Third, as the Republican nominee becomes old news, our candidates and their issues will continue to dominate every news cycle in the foreseeable future, sort of like an "American Idol" with debates instead of Celine Dion covers. Fourth, whoever emerges, we know one thing: they will have already defeated the toughest candidate they’ve ever -- or will ever -- face.
9) Dream Team? -- But, then again, the prospect of a long, protracted, resource-consuming primary fight finally settled over the summer by a Justice League of "superdelegates" might not a sustainable unifying strategy, so expect a sharp increase in the volume of party grayhairs volunteering to take on the thankless task of encouraging the two campaigns to kiss and come together.
10) Term Limits -- It’s like firing your starting lineup every six years and replacing them with minor leaguers. It’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Term limits is a popular reaction to the perceived image of an ineffective Legislature -- which then becomes more ineffective because of term limits. 93 was a noble attempt to bring some sanity to the asylum and the surprisingly-close results prove that it’s NOT a third-rail of California politics. Kudos to the Democratic leaders and their political teams. Hopefully, balanced reform will be attempted again, this time accompanied by a common-sense blend of good-government reforms similar to what worked in last year’s Los Angeles election.
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