Many things in life take confidence and many times confidence is misplaced.
More specifically, fixing something – anything, really – takes confidence in that it will be worth the effort, that deciding to spend time and energy to repair a thing will result in a long-term benefit at least the equivalent of just throwing it away and buying a new one.
Which brings us to the following question: do the people of California have the confidence in the potential future of the state to make the difficult decision to fix the state?
For the past decade-plus, California has been in free fall. The once universally-envied California Dream no longer exists. That state is plagued by crime, lawlessness, bureaucracy, foul corruption, and stupidity. The middle class, which – not Hollywood, not Silicon Valley – is what made the Dream a reality, is vanishing. The schools are not preparing children for reality, the charity industry is fending off reality, Silicon Valley is censoring reality, and the government is denying reality.
How does a state move on from that?
More to the point, can California move on from that? Does it have the confidence in the possibility of repair to make the effort?
California will never again be what it once was, the global beacon will shine no more and any future plans must be predicated on that simple fact.
But just because California cannot go home again, does that mean we up stakes and move on? This is not to criticize at all the hundreds of thousands who left the state in the past few years – it’s more than understandable and, if California cannot be fixed, unquestionably the right call.
In other words, they’re probably right long-term and definitely right short-term.
And the decisions were made in part because of a lack of confidence in the future – again, probably warranted.
So what could be done to re-build that confidence and what could a confident California do now to make one last bid to save itself?
Confidence comes from many sources – self-confidence, physical confidence, and confidence in the tools needed to make the repairs. When it comes to tools, California’s lack of confidence is more than understandable.
The Legislature is rigged so that’s out and the state Republican Party is the definition of vestigial, so it cannot be counted on. The media can be relied upon to do and say the exact opposite of what is good for the state so expecting a massive popular groundswell – a la Gray Davis – is not a sound strategy.
With these roads to redemption seemingly cut off (for now,) how can the repair even begin?
There are two avenues back that so far have yet to be co-opted: local politics and the internet.
As to local politics, this is not a mere call to make sure to vote and go to the occasional council meeting. The foundation of the renovation must be built on a detailed knowledge of how local governments work and a delving into the minutiae so when an elected official responds with “you don’t have all the facts” you can say “um, wait a minute…”
Local is detailed, but it must have an overarching vision to truly succeed. Campaigning on better housing design standards, for example, may seem rather prosaic but take a look when driving around: which neighborhoods and cities last the longest? The dumpy ones or the pretty ones? And tell the public that: it’s not about being fancy, it’s about being forever.
Also, a focus on issues that are directly relevant matters greatly. Good candidates for water boards, for example, shouldn’t be blocked because they hold no strong opinion on the transgender youth phenomena while good candidates for school board should definitely have some (sane) thoughts on the issue.
An oft-forgotten part of local politics is that people do not have to get elected to the legislature to have a serious statewide impact. For example, there are statewide city, school board, water associations, and intergovernmental agencies (see SANDAG in San Diego and the fight over “transit first.”)
Typically, local electeds go to the meetings and conventions, probably sing too much karaoke, maybe learn a little bit, and go home while the day to day running of these surprisingly powerful groups is left to their very pro-bureaucracy, typically hyper-progressive staffs.
That needs to be changed and can be changed with active local leaders stepping into positions of power in these groups that can – as with ballot propositions – serve as a bit of an end run around the legislature.
At the very least, the state groups will start telling the truth to the media, the public, and Sacramento Blob.
Taking these steps will improve confidence for the future, even more tangible efforts sooner rather than never.
The internet – while it is still kinda sorta allows for free speech – is another avenue to start the repair.
Interact, email, prod, coax, but do so with care. Keep a focus on what matters for each effort and do not get bogged down in absurd doctrinal spats. The car needs to be completely rebuilt – you can focus on what color to paint it later.
These two things may not appear to be much and, at first, they won’t be. But they will build the confidence needed to go forward to larger-scale even more concrete efforts.
Again, the state will never be the same so aiming to re-create the Dream is doomed to fail and will impede any efforts to even get the smaller things done.
The car may look a bit different, but it could run a lot better if the people of the state first built the confidence necessary to believe that California is worth the effort.
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