|Governor Jerry Brown is finding California to be an effective Archimedean leverage point in shaping a progressive alternative to a federal system stalemated by the New Civil War.
The latest example is a West Coast pact to combat climate change by the governments of California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, a region populated by 53 million people with a GDP of $2.8 trillion.
The plan will produce energy savings, green jobs and greenhouse gas reductions, and will exploit any new Obama emissions standards that will eliminate new coal plants. California also will soon forge a carbon-reducing trading market with Quebec. The growing clean energy bloc will pressure for adoption of a new global energy agreement in 2015.
California created similar leverage by adopting energy efficiency standards and renewable energy incentives in the Seventies, when America was paralyzed by Detroit's political monopoly over transportation policies favoring gas-guzzlers. At least fourteen states, led by California, formed an alternative energy bloc that resulted in greater fuel efficiency, consumer savings and domestic manufacturing jobs.
Many progressives traditionally regard "state's rights" as the exclusive banner of racial and economic reactionaries. The rise of the Tea Party with its political grip on 23-25 so-called "red" states and its leverage over the House of Representatives is a case in point. But progressives have no alternative to reviving their own tradition of states being "laboratories of reform" as Justice Brandeis once said. Progressive examples in American history include the Farmer-Labor parties in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the election of hundreds of socialist mayors in the Midwest, and the achievements of New York's Wagner and La Guardia administrations in shaping the New Deal.
A progressive state and local strategy does not abandon struggles at the federal level. The victory of Obama over Romney, the subsequent fights over federal regulatory power, the struggle to limit wasteful US military intervention, and the all-important appointment of Supreme Court nominees are the clearest examples of the national stakes.
The reality, however, is that the US is divided solidly between a Progressive American Bloc and one based on the Old Confederacy and the Wild West, with only about a dozen so-called "swing states" where the civil war is internalized. The progressive state-based strategy is born of necessity.
Another key example of the political wind blowing from the West is California's recently-enacted immigration reforms; including drivers' certificates for the undocumented, in-state college tuitions for their children, and even the right to become lawyers despite lack of legal status. The core of the student-based Dreamer movement originated and achieved its early gains in California too. While it is uncertain, even unlikely, that Congress will approve an immigration reform law with an expedient path to citizenship, many parts of the country will become de facto sanctuaries for immigrants, with California in the lead.
Brown's success is leading to his restoration as a sought-after sage on the national stage among Democrats and the mainstream media. California stands in stark contrast politically to Washington D.C., having balanced its budget, passed higher taxes on the wealthy, and redistributed more funds to K12 and higher education during Brown's first three years. The marriage equality movement also has succeeded due to the "California effect", especially among Democratic donors in Hollywood. Public sector unions and the building trades have been largely protected under Brown and the Sacramento legislature.
Brown's initiatives are far from perfect, of course. His climate change policies have failed to address fracking beyond moderate regulatory adjustments. His law-and-order approach helped fuel mass incarceration, and he refused to lift a finger, at least publicly, when hundreds of inmates went on hunger strike against brutal conditions of solitary confinement. Those failures only show that social movements have more pressure work ahead, since Brown is careful about positioning himself too far in front of public opinion.
The opposition to fracking will only grow when more Californians in the Monterrey Shale region are impacted, as happened with homeowners all across suburban New York. And Brown may turn to prison reform once his court appeals are turned down for a final time, which is likely to be soon. Then he can blame those judicial mandates for any reforms he adopts while running for re-election next year. Politics is an ugly world, but that's what they have confessionals for. [...]
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—Rep. Steve King Is An Asshole:
|So earlier today, Republican Congressman Steve King actually said:
"All Americans have health care, every single one."What a noble sentiment. And what a spectacularly, blatantly false one. One would have to believe King knows full well it is false, but then again he is a conservative Republican, and conservative Republicans are at this point synonymous with manufactured realities in which tax cuts cause unicorns to fart rainbows of money across the land and decent public education is the gateway to Stalinism. So it is equally possible that King is being honest, at least within the narrow confines of his own head, and he honestly believes that no Americans are out there who do not have basic health care.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin rounds up more of the elections fallout, and the unlikeliness of the sometimes-predicted Obamacare "death spiral." And using Jonathan Cohn's latest for TNR, we debate the question of "winners" and "losers" among insurance consumers under the ACA. Developments in two #GunFAIL stories, one brand-new, the other wrapping up the trial stage, illustrate the reality of the old "an armed society is a polite society" claptrap. NYT's Charlie Savage turns our attention back to surveillance issues, this time via an alleged CIA/AT&T partnership. You don't need a warrant if they're willing to sell you the data!