Is California governable?

05 July 2009 |permalink | email article

The Sunday New York Times magazine piece by staff writer Mark Leibovich is compelling. It takes a look at the cast of characters lining up to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former Mr. Universe and action-hero star, who gets a revealing close-up, along with mention of his “increasingly orange hair.” One comes away from the read with a deep sense of déjà vu.

The Democratic drum roll, with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa dropping out, is expected to be between former Gov. Jerry Brown, the current State Attorney General who has rechristened himself as the Apostle of Common Sense, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has became the champion of same-sex marriage, and is described as “vivacious and something of a political thrill-seeker. As the underdog he the race as “past versus future.”

Popular Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, told Leibovich it’s unlikely she will run, and yet coyly clinging to the “not ruling anything out” line.

The major Republican candidates, State Insurance Commissioner and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Poizner, and Meg Whitman, the former eBay C.E.O., are billionaires who bring private sector discipline to the contest. Both are socially moderate Republicans and favor abortion rights.

Brainy socially liberal and former Congressman Tom Campbell polls well, gets press plaudits for his financial expertise but lacks deep pockets. What the trio fear most is that a social conservative may entry the race and throw the primary into chaos.

About the state’s deepening financial crisis Schwarzenegger told Leibovich that he doesn’t walk away from his office depressed. “I will sit down in my Jacuzzi tonight. I’m going to lay back with a stogie.”

Respected UC Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain has a different take about the governor’s stewardship: “The result is that he’s a rudderless ship that has lost all credibility with his Republican base and that the Democrats don’t trust him because he turns on them.”

Cain is equally critical of the two parties which are largely controlled by what he calls “the Taliban,” resulting in Sacramento gridlock, and a standoff between the parties.

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