It’s 1931 in California – or – Hooverism Triumphant

The sad story is told at Calitics: the Democrats in the legislature rolled over and played dead. When grandmothers start to die, when the roads fail, when fires go unfought, the public will at last know out what the California state government once did for them. And the state will be unable to fund any response a major natural disaster, like an earthquake or a huge storm.

What will the public do? One thing that they probably won’t do is turn out to vote Democratic. The Democrats in the state legislature scarcely put up a fight. There’s nothing in their leadership to inspire confidence, trust, or energy–why would the voters come out for them?Look back to 1932.

Marches, riots, radical parties. That’s California’s future for several years to come. Followed, I suppose, by reform. But the state’s credit will be wrecked, and the government’s ability to hire–especially the public schools ability to hire–will be impaired. It’s going to be at least a decade before the state will be anything like normal, and meantime, it seems likely any recovery will be late.

What is an appropriate progressive response? There seem a number of possibilities:

  1. Support and attempt to reform the state Democratic Party. The problem here is that the Democrats are as much part of the problem as part of the solution, and will have little credibility. Anger at the Democratic Party may in fact be higher than anger at the Republicans: the Democrats betrayed their rank-and-file.
  2. "Direct action." The problem here is that it is going to be very difficult to bring any pressure to bear on the factions that have made the problem. Any effective action is going to have to involve sit-ins at major businesses, sit-down strikes, and the like. A violent response seems likely, and it will be blamed on the protestors. Protesters are going to have to be tough, disciplined, and desperate.
  3. Found a reform party. It’s…possible. Conditions have rarely been better, and a third party could easily win a local election in San Francisco, where elections are conducted by instant runoff vote. This appears to be spreading in local electoral practice. But the major parties will fight state voting reform tooth and nail. Still, with strong leadership, I think a new party could emerge in California. But it is likely to be several years before it makes a substantial difference in state politics.

Hard times, hard times.

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