California’s prisons are constitutionally overcrowded. Our unemployment rate is higher the national average. Even changes in our school funding leave us shortage of the national average for K-12. Our underinvestment in higher education has led to a decline in the percentage of adults who are college graduates. Our tax and regulatory regime is uncompetitive with other states.
So in this campaign season, what’s the biggest issue in California?
Judging by news coverage, the answer is simple: money in politics.
The scandals involving three members of the state senate have turned into a conversation about how to limit money in politics. The big issue in the Secretary of State’s race, the only one with real energy, is the notion of fundraising bands. And we’re all safely ignoring the governor’s race because there are no real challengers – since a challenge can’t be considered real if there aren’t tens of millions of dollars behind it. The initiative battles on health care make the news for all the money that’s attaching to them.
This focus on money feels natural, for those covering and watching California politics. But the focus is a bad habit; it allows us to totally ignore the policy proposals on the ballot and the complicated problems the state faces.
And if we’re not going to discuss our problems during an election year, when exactly are we supposed to talk about them?
Our campaign finance obsession in California is also a waste of time. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that it thinks there are too many rules on campaign finance already. And most of the proposals would add to complexity and compliance – thus strengthening the wealthiest candidates and interests.
So a modest proposal: Let’s take a week and not talk about campaign money. No stories, nothing. If you’re media, candidate, government or interest, you gotta talk policy.
That’s a crazy idea! you say
Nope, what’s normal here is nuts.