Commentary Magazine


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Running on Empty

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.