A day after the Washington Post’s Morning Fix column headlined The Lamest Week of the 2012 Campaign, Mitt Romney selected a running mate that should, at least for a time, turn the presidential contest into a discussion about substance and policy.
What a refreshing change. Over the last week or so, the presidential election had turned into a tournament of name-calling.
Congressman Paul Ryan is known for creating a blueprint to reform the federal budget. The fresh ideas that Ryan has explored will be attacked and defended by the opposing parties – but they will be talking about policy – how the government works or doesn’t work but should.
Ryan’s plan speaks to cutting and remodeling government social programs. The Democrats want to buttress those programs by raising taxes.
That national debate reflects California, which is having a similar discussion – do we reform our budget and governance system and live within our means or do we raise taxes to shore up the current system?
President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown and the California legislative majority want to tax the rich to continue the current way of doing government business. The movement for reform has been pushed off and stymied.
While the policy debate may be the same, California is not a microcosm of the country. The nation is politically divided. California is a Democratic stronghold. That could be seen in the last election in which Republicans took over congress and swept to many impressive victories in the states but the Democrats held a tight grip on California government. California and the nation may not reach the same conclusion to solving problems.
Yet, the action will be played out on a battlefield of ideas. The Democratic Party consultants who have expressed joy over Ryan’s selection, believing his effort to reform the budget can be exploited, remind me of the Democrats who slapped each other on the back in triumph when California Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan for governor.
When the country or this state is facing a dire future and is headed in the wrong direction as every poll indicates, the voters are looking for change and reforms. As someone once observed, ‘Nothing much happens in American politics until the status quo is more fearful than the change.’ We are reaching that place in both the country and the state.
California government cannot continue in its current direction. Reform is needed and will come. The tax structure will be reformed; the pension system will be reformed; education will be reformed. The reforms are not merely a matter of throwing more money at the state’s problems but changing policy.
The national debate over government programs, taxes, and governance reform generated by the Ryan selection will play out on a parallel path in California.