Welcome to the think tank game, Sam Blakeslee.

The state senator from the Central Coast, a moderate Republican who is not running for re-election, recently announced the formation of the California Reform Institute. His think tank will have a focus: supporting California lawmakers who want to work across the aisle on reform legislation that the legislature can pass.

Talk about a narrow mandate.

Is there anyone such a think tank could serve? Is there anything it could work on? Or is this a think tank about nothing?

Those are real questions. In this partisan time, there simply are fewer and fewer state legislators who have any interest in working across the aisle and being bipartisan. Indeed, many of those more recently elected see their role as to take hard lines against compromise. That’s one reason why Blakeslee had such trouble politically. He was one of those inclined to compromise and bipartisanship – and he’s not running for re-election.

But the new think tank’s policy agenda would seem to be even narrower. Blakeslee was quoted by The Tribune of San Luis Obispo [LINK: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2012/05/09/2061161/california-reform-institute-blakeslee.html]  as saying that his think tank would focus on reforms that would pass the legislature. The think tank “will not craft unrealistic proposals that the Legislature will never pass.”

That sounds fine, but fails to recognize the hard truth. Serious fiscal and governance reforms that would change the California reality have no hope of passing the legislature. Because California’s system requires supermajority consensus for major changes. And such consensus is hard precisely because there are virtually no politicians willing to work across the aisle.

A better focus for Blakeslee’s think tank would be: figuring out how to remake California’s system so that it doesn’t depend on supermajority consensus and people working across the aisle. If there proves to be a way to involve the legislature in doing that, great. But that will require figuring out a way to appeal to strong partisans, not the small number of lawmakers in the middle.

All that said, it’s great to have another institution devoted to thinking about California’s problems. But Blakeslee would be wise to expand the charter and agenda of his new enterprise. Think bigger, Sam.