Neel Kashkari’s policy paper for his gubernatorial campaign is on one side of a piece of paper. “Education and jobs,” he says. “That’s it.” Certainly, he’s picked the two topics most important to Californians and if he can fix these two major issues a lot of the state’s problems go away.
The short plan brings back a couple of memories for me. When I was policy director for Richard Riordan’s run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2002, we had a press conference announcing we would put out our budget direction for the state. We kept it short, two pages as I recall. Garry South, Governor Gray Davis’s campaign chief was on hand at the press conference to jab us. “That’s all!” he chided, expecting a full-blown budget document.
Garry’s good at jabbing. He’s already on record taking shots at Kashkari. He told Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle, in discussing Kashkari’s voting record, “Voters will find this inexplicable and indefensible, like someone trying to become pastor of a church they seldom attend.”
The truth is voters main concerns will be in believing the policy program of a candidate and the candidate themselves, and importantly, can the candidate make the policy changes happen. Voters must believe Kashkari can reverse the fate of schools and job creation in the Golden State where schools rank low and unemployment is high.
Convincing the voters will take more detail. That’s bound to come. Kashkari has a whole team of consultants and advisors to help fill in the particulars.
Focusing laser-like on major issues is not a bad approach. My second memory of short policy statements is when Howard Jarvis addressed the Republican platform committee before the national election of 1984. He recommended that the platform be written on one side of a piece of paper. His argument was that people don’t read a long document and a short platform would focus the campaign. The committee didn’t listen. That platform went on for pages and pages.
Some will argue that running on a short platform allows Kashkari to avoid divisive issues particularly in the social realm. But Jarvis was right – most voters have a short attention span. They want to know if a candidate can lead in a different direction. Polls show voters still think California is going in the wrong direction.
The short policy platform can focus a campaign. Now Kashkari will have to convince voters he can make the policy fixes.