Here in California elected Republican officials are as rare as the desert tortoises they are always trying to delist. Still, the conservative anti-tax meme has dominated the state ever since boozy, stogie-wielding Howard Jarvis bamboozled the population into enacting Proposition 13, a Trojan horse that let the largest corporations in the world pay almost no property taxes on some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Have another Vodka twist, Howard.
This (and some other disingenuous rightwing posturing, like Schwarzenegger’s demagoguery about car registration fees) led to the biggest fiscal crisis in California’s history, mirroring what is happening at the federal level.
But there’s a difference: Jerry Brown. Governor Moonbeam, the Zenmeister, Linda Ronstadt’s arm candy, yes, yes, we know. But in fact Brown may be the most astute Democratic politician currently holding office. Not only did he handily defeat the smarmy billionairess and maid-abuser Meg Whitman with a low-budget low-tech campaign, he has completely turned public opinion against the core conservative memes. Over the past couple years, Californians had happy feet for the Tea Party babalu of slashing budgets and not raising taxes on the rich. But four months into his governorship, and Brown has turned that completely around.
Recent polls show that by a huge majority, Californians now support raising taxes on the rich (and even themselves) rather than further Tea Party slash and burn budget cutting. Here’s Brown’s mojo.
First, he didn’t come out of the starting block with a compromise pleasing to the entrenched extremist Republican minority obstructing a tax increase (unlike a certain President we know). He made a definite proposal and he stuck to it. When the Tea Party gurus tried to change the subject and make unions the issue, not taxes, Brown refused to fall for the Shock Capitalist feign and stuck by the unions. He didn’t flinch or apologize for his support of higher taxes, even suggesting – mirabile dictu – that the GOP’s zombielike anti-tax dogma showed their bad faith and lack of concern for Californians. They squealed like stuck pigs with lipstick on (don’t apologize Obama) and looked foolish.
Second, Brown talked directly to the people of California, not just the obstreperous and incoherent Republican commandants. Again, unlike a certain President. Over and over again, he took his message to YouTube (you got to love that), as well as highschool gyms and union halls. For a septuagenarian he made a certain young president look like a geezer. Again the GOP squealed, and most people here saw the Republicans for what they are: ideological bullies who act like South Park’s Cartman when somebody stands up to them.
Finally, he created a narrative. He didn’t bother, Vulcan-like, to rebut the noisy Tea Party’s deceptive graphs and slogans. He just called them deceptive. He didn’t hold a seminar on interest rate fluctuations. Rather he painted a picture of what a dystopian California will look like if conservatives have their way and perform further budget amputations without anesthesia.
It worked. The vast majority of Californians now side with Brown on raising taxes. And in particular raising taxes on the rich is now favored. Democrats are emboldened (just today State Treasurer Bill Lockyer twisted a dagger in the GOP by saying conservative lawmakers who want an all-cuts budget because less government is better should get their wish with the cuts starting in Republican districts– resulting in further squealing). A vanishing minority of Republicans is still blocking a tax increase on the rich, but they are the besieged Mubaraks of the election cycle, making irrelevant delusional proposals nobody but a few Tea Partiers in trailer parks even bother to listen to.
That’s how it’s done. Obama, are you listening?