To paraphrase a quaint, though sadly ignored, saying, California has one week to flatten the Newsom.
No matter what happens next Tuesday (or Thursday or October 12 or whenever), many wrong lessons will be learned.
If Newsom prevails, the deep Golden State blob will be able to pat itself on the back, take credit for the progress California is making on every front, keep its political and ideological desires at top-of-mind across the country, and wheeze a sigh of relief that it gets to stick round for a bit, or a lot longer.
If the recall succeeds, the wailing and gnashing of teeth will echo from Sacramento to DC. The California blob, and it’s bigger, badder, and far better armed step-cousin blob in Washington, will say the vote was unfair, that the voters were too confused to understand how to answer two very straightforward questions, that nefarious forces deep faked the rational world and that, because of these unassailable facts, the vote really wasn’t about them or their policies or actions.
It was just those people out there, and we all know how stupid they are, having a passing tantrum unrelated to how well, in fact, the state is actually run.
If the right lessons are learned (“be less intrusive, be better at your job, be more attentive to the public, be less hypocritical”), however it turns out, maybe it might not have to happen again.
Of course, since the Newsom campaign’s Pythonesque, albeit most successful, message point to date seems to be “vote for me because Feinstein’s gonna die next month,” California may have to start with a much simpler lesson, like “be more human.”
The blob – career bureaucrats, lobbyists, fund raisers, Silicon Valley wigs of unusual size, the rotating legislative club, self-interested non-profits who get paid by the government to sue the government (actually that’s true), grifters, union tzars, hangers on, entrenched Republican political consultants who somehow still keep getting work, entrenched Democratic political consultants who can actually show some return on investment, nabobs, solons, and the army of little people who depend upon their largess – will keep learning the wrong lessons because to learn the right ones would entail acknowledging the wholly parasitical nature of its being.
The manifestations of the blob lead many to whisper, or shout or type in ALL CAPS, of a dastardly organized conspiracy. But, generally, they would be wrong because in this case, as in DC, a conspiracy is unnecessary. While being able to smugly tell itself that is fighting for proper democracy and equality, it is in fact fighting for mortgage payments, for its continued presence on the invitation lists of the best brunches, and to keep its kids from having to go to public school. In this situation, conspiracy is simply redundant.
The Sacramento blob is astonishing in its resilience and combines an insularity with an ability to co-opt people and ideas that must, at some level, be admired. From morphing the idea of equality into the need for specific advantages, to ensuring that term limits are wholly beneficial to itself (it simply waits out recalcitrant legislators or dangles offers of employment post-service to others), to draining each and every lofty sounding project and program dry before it can reach the public, the blob knows the system because it created the system. That’s why it never learns the right lesson – it simply doesn’t have to.
So how can the mob teach the blob the right lessons?
The recall vote must be seen as a starting point for a cultural transformation, not an end in and of itself. It is merely step one in a long grueling slog to melt the blob – to succeed long-term personalities must be put aside, irrelevant differences must be ignored (no, it does not matter what a water board candidate’s position is on abortion), and time and effort must be dedicated. It cannot be about signaling – it must be about achieving.
Parents must make sure their children are taught how to think, not why to hate. Experts must prove their expertise and not be allowed to coast on theoretical credentials. Programs and projects must have “failure standards” built-in, i.e. if X, Y, and Z are not accomplished by a specific date, the entire effort is ended. Actual competence in the public sector must be rewarded – if Jill does a better job she should get more than Jack even if he’s been their ten years longer. The list could go on and on…
A separate blob advantage is its absolute belief in the righteousness of its cause. It cannot imagine learning (only ingesting) anything from the wasteland outside of its own existence.
But that could be turned into a fatal flaw. The blob’s self-certainty is one of its defining and most important characteristics but any system built on hubris can be taken down.
In 1954, a Boston lawyer named Joe Welch changed the national political landscape overnight when has asked a senator named Joe McCarthy a very simple question: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
The scourge of mindless McCarthyism crumbled, the once all-powerful senator was censured a few months later and dead from drink within three years, all because one man, in a clear, calm, and collected voice, asked a basic human question.
The fever was broken and life could begin anew.
The recall vote is like that question – it’s about the core of being, of governing, and starting what could be a difficult process to make our state Golden again.
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