Gov. Brown Calls Legislators Girlie-Men by Another Name

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

He might just as well have called them Girlie-Men.

Gov. Jerry
Brown has been giving interviews recently in which he seems bent on confirming
a theory, offered tongue-in-cheek in
this space
, that he really is just an avatar inhabited by Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger.

Brown used
one of Schwarzenegger’s favorite – and least effective – techniques:
challenging the manhood of legislators of both parties who won’t go along with
him. Brown told the LA Times that lawmakers lack courage and "cojones" – that’s
Spanish slang for balls. That’s calling them Girlie-Men by another name.

You might
ask what’s wrong with that, given that legislators aren’t exactly courageous.
First, it reminds people that Brown himself isn’t exactly courageous.
(Remember, this is "Mister I Won’t Raise Taxes Without a Vote of the People").
Second, it’s counter-productive.

Governors
need lawmakers to go along with them. Brown spent considerable time and energy
on building personal relationships with legislators. So it sure doesn’t help
when you give a slate of media interviews in which you suggest that they have
no balls. (At least, that doesn’t help with the male legislators).

As I’ve
repeated ad nauseum here and everywhere else, it would be much more productive
– and I dare say, accurate – for Brown to say: these legislators are prisoners
of a budget and governing system that doesn’t work. And I’m going to spend every
day that I’m governor working to change that system so legislators and I have a
better chance to make timely decisions and advance policies that will improve
the economy and quality of life of Californians.

This is
long, laborious work. And systemic reform won’t be completed under this
governor, or even the next. Since any reform that improves the legislature will
require investing lawmakers with more discretion and power, every gubernatorial
blast at lawmakers makes it that much harder to fix the system.

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