By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
California has, for some time, been rather inhospitable to Republicans.
The state where Reagan once reigned is now considered one of the most liberal in the nation. California has not voted Republican for president since 1988. All but two of the statewide elected officials are Democrats. The congressional delegation is majority Democrat. And in the state legislature, one-party Democratic rule is considered regular order.
Once a national symbol of entrepreneurial spirit and the ability of a man or woman to remake themselves into a success on the order of their ability, the state is now mired in a morass of taxation, regulation, spending, and debt that should serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of America. Whether the damage caused by the amalgam of labor unions, trial lawyers, state bureaucrats and career politicians who actually run the state can be reversed depends on the caliber of candidate who can be enticed to enter the arena.
The contest for the right to challenge veteran Democrat Barbara Boxer in 2010 says a lot about the state's prospects for survival. On the one hand is a career assemblyman who, while reliably conservative, has attracted the support of the dour, "rather be right than win" crowd for whom everything is a fight over principle and against "the establishment." On the other is Carly Fiorina, most recently a senior advisor to the failed presidential campaign of Arizona Republican John McCain.
At first blush Fiorina, the former chairman and CEO of computer giant Hewlett-Packard, seems to be one of those boardroom Republicans without a soul who would do little to advance the cause of conservatism but would be nice token opposition to Boxer, who has made mincemeat of her three previous opponents, usually through some last minute negative attack that has the ring of truth but little reality associated with it.
In point of fact, Boxer, who is suited to running against men, may find herself confounded by Fiorina, who proudly proclaims she is both a fiscal and social conservative but who, unlike Boxer, is in tune with what the state truly needs—jobs, fiscal discipline, and a system of education that costs less and delivers more or what she calls "bread and butter, kitchen table issues" that the veteran Democrat does not know how to address.
Fiorina says Boxer, who votes with the unions "100 percent of the time" is "singularly ineffective for the people of California," pointing out that she has only three legislative accomplishments to point to after 18 years in the U.S. Senate. "People are tired of professional politicians," she says, pointing to both her primary and general election opponents. "I know what it is to need a job. I know what it is to not be able to balance the checkbook." As the former CEO of a high tech company, she is optimistic about the way technology can point the way to a better, brighter future for America. The challenge, she says, is for government to create "a climate that encourages entrepreneurship" which, to her, means lowering taxes, improving the climate for job creation and innovation and hacking back on federal spending and regulation.
As a Californian, she knows from what she speaks. "The tax, big government, regulatory regime we see in California is the current course and speed for where the nation is headed" under Barack Obama, she says, adding "California is a great test case, a factual demonstration that those programs don't work."
With California now losing more jobs than are being created there, it may be that the desperate times that call for desperate measures have arrived. For many in the state's electorate, that may mean sending a fiscally conservative, socially conservative, former corporate CEO and, worst of all, a Republican, to Washington.