So I'm sure everyone and their robot has been keeping track of California leadership. Arnold finally took office today and immediately repealed the much reviled car tax which Gray Davis had signed into law earlier this summer.
In and of itself, it's hard to be for or against the car registration tax without bring in your biases. I mean, you'll be for it if you think the state needs enough money to keep running. You'll be against it if you think the government already takes too much of citizens' paycheck or already spends too much of the taxes it levies.
All of the political shenanigans here in the state, including the car tax, have really put a focus on the way which politics works here. The Judgement? We're one fucked up state!
But while I've derided Arnold in the past and even put a lame title in this post, I really do hope that his term will be one characterized by a change in the political climate. So here's my logic to why we're so jacked up, why a change in the climate could fundamentally change the nature of politicking here, but also why things could get even worse (but let's hope we don't have to worry about things getting worse)
So here goes the novice's logic...
The tendancy of people to be skeptical of their politicans lead to direct democracy here in the state through the use of initiatives. Over time, these initiatives have become a pressure release (or last resort) when the legislators in Sacramento can't work out deals. If they couldn't get it done in the Capital, then heck, just take it to a direct vote. The allegiances of voters could be swayed more easily (hopefully). This method, I think has lead to Dems & Repubs not seeking to truly work things out. Afterall, why negotiate when, if you really think you have the best solution, you can just "take it to the people" and advertise your way to success!
I see this as a vicious cycle which lead politicians to be less willing to cross the aisles and with people becoming more and more cynical of the men and women they've voted into the office. So combine this climate with a bad economy, an unprecedented electricity problem, and a politician who seems to care about politicking but not a whit about democracy.
A small number of people who wanted to take advantage of the situation were able to snowball their disgust into a majority of the state feeling that it truly was time for radical change.
So here we are with Gov. Schwarzenegger. I'm sure a lot of people are still disgusted with the fact that he's in office. But I'd bet that a large portion of the people who hoped to never see him in office have finally come to grips with the reality. Moreover, I'd like to think that they are hopeful that since we're at this point, we may as well make the best of it. I'm definitely in that boat.
I really think the next few months will give everyone a chance to step back, take a breath, and really think about what they want from their state government. This will hopefully lead to a climate where negotiation and rational legislation is possible. I really do think that the radical change Californians voted for is not so much an about-face in policies, but a change in the political climate. With that hope, I think it'll give our leaders alreay in office a mandate to try to make things work.
We'll surely find out soon. There's always a chance that after these few months people will be just as disgusted with Sacramento as they were this past summer. If that happens, I really don't know what I'll say. But I'm an optimist, especially when it comes to the concept of democracy. So let's take this day as the first in a series of days where there is hope amongst the majority of Californians.
Our new governor has a mandate for changing the way things work. That's what he campaigned on (well, every politican campaigns for change when things aren't going great, but let's leave that aside). From the beginning, I've believed that Arnold truly wants to change things...I've ranged from being wary about the type of change he might want to bring (and who he wants to bring along a la Pete Wilson) to being in support of some of his ideas, but the whole time, I've believed he's sincere (or it could just be a great act). In any case, this is a chance to force the issue of change and I hope everyone involved, not just Arnold, is a part of that change.
Here's to democracy working for the better. And here's to all Californians participating in that process.