Sacramento: The Pig and Pony Show
So the future of California rests in the hands (hooves?) of pigs and ponies. Or so declared Arnold Schwarzenegger moments ago in his State of the State Address, citing his pets’ ability to work together as a metaphor for bipartisan cooperation in the new year.
It’s an interesting choice.
The pony spends its life being led around on a short leash.
The pig lives in poop, until ultimately it’s led to slaughter.
Not much of a bargain either way.
Ok, about the big speech . . .
First, it was double the length of last year’s 12-minute buzzkill. Kudos to Arnold for manning-up this year and addressing real problems, instead of last year’s load of self-pity.
And the problems, as he said, are myriad. The economy is flat, revenues won’t be pouring in anytime soon, we have serious infrastructure needs, Washington’s shortchanging us, and on and on and on . . .
And yet, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an optimist. It’s not an act. He truly believes in a better future for California. The problem is, he wants to realize the dream of a 21st Century California . . . all the while at the mercy of a 12th Century political system. Unfortunately, that’s what Sacramento is right now — medieval in its feuds and feudalistic divisions.
Realizing his limitations (and his own affinity for ideological tacking), Arnold’s final State of the State was vintage in his shifting from left to right — one moment pleasing Dems, the next minute Reeps. Some of you might recall the bongo board, a popular party favor back in the 1950s that later grew popular as a means for balance training. You stand on the board, roll the bongo side to side beneath, trying to maintain your equilibrium.
Arnold, in his speech, was the man on the bongo board. He’d shift left: money for job-training. Then right: tax and regulatory reform. Then left: a constitutional amendment to protect higher-ed spending. Then right: privatize prisons. Then left: we need health reform. Then right: not the way Congress has done it.
This much I can you assure, having worked on these speeches in a past life. Ultimately, State of the State Addresses are just empty words if there’s no follow-through. It requires . . . well, heavy lifting.
So look for two things in the weeks and month ahead:
1) The follow-through with the Legislature. The governor has taken the first step — ideas that titillated both sides of the aisle, even an invitation to have lunch. Next up, methinks: a private meeting with the leadership to discuss what’s d.o.a. vs. what can go into a deal. With less than a year to go in office and a lot of moving parts suddenly put into play, that’s Arnold’s best hope: bring both sides together fast and start the deal-cutting process.
2) The follow-through in D.C. Arnold was spot-on when he brought up the California “fair share” gripe (Pete Wilson did the same in the ’90s, when defense dollars started disappearing). But he has a lot of lost ground to make up with Congress. If the Governator wants to be the Collectinator, he needs to take on a collection agency mentality and be a pest, be persistent, and take advantage of existing assets (Speaker Pelosi, Barbara Boxer looking for good p.r.). Nag, pound the rums, offer the one things all D.C. politicians crave: access to California political donors.
The chances of all this happening by year’s end? Perhaps some change and needed reforms are in the air. But the governor getting everything he wants? Roughly the same chances as this guy — the other half of Arnold’s bipartisan tandem — ever taking flight . . .