As most of my readers know, although I now live in the Missouri Wine Country, I spent the first 30 years of my life in California and have more insight into the state’s history and political situation than the other states of the Union that I am frequently asked about.
Culturally, California has five or six distinct regions and there have been secessionist movements within the state since the time it became a territory of the United States. Around the time of the Civil War, Californians overwhelmingly lobbied for the state to be split in two, but the federal government had its hands tied with trying to hold the country together and the California split wasn’t given serious consideration in Washington.
Those five or six distinct regions of California have different reasons for wanting to split into their own states. Some (the extreme counties of Northern California near the Oregon border along with the Northern California coast) feel so far removed from the rest of the state politically end economically that they see themselves as shut off from the state government apparatus. The citizens of the region of California that has long tried to form a separate state called “Jefferson” feel that Southern California is as foreign to them as Canada is. Among other reasons that Californians support partition are the constant battle over water resources between Northern California and Southern California and the fact that the Sierra counties, Desert counties, and even some of the agricultural centers of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valleys feel either underrepresented in state government or simply out-muscled by the major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Sacramento.
Do I think it’s a good idea? I don’t think the proposal to partition California into six different states is a good idea because it’s simply not feasible. In order for an idea to be good (in my opinion), it must be possible. The six-state partition is just not going to happen — how will California’s natural resources be divvied up? How will water be allocated? Where do the prisoners which severely overcrowd every single prison in the state go to?— the nearest facility to where the crime was committed?; the facility that they are currently incarcerated?; who foots the bill for the prison facilities?
But, with that said, there would be benefits to partitioning California into two states — Northern and Southern California. Already, the two halves of the state are about as different as two regions within one state can be. Californians already identify themselves by the section of the state they are from. Infrastructure is in place that would allow the two parts of the state to split somewhat equally in every area except water allocation (Southern California needs water from Northern California to survive, that’s a fact). Some of the same issues involved in a six-state partition remain, but the solutions aren’t quite as daunting if California is split in two.
Why even consider splitting the state into two after over 160 years of statehood? Well, California is home to nearly 40 million citizens and, quite frankly, that’s probably way too many people for one centralized state government to effectively manage. I think that’s one of the problems that the state has faced over the past 30 years — the population is just too unwieldly. California has the area, the population, and the economic base of a large, wealthy foreign country. Yet, one state government is charged with administering California — no different, really, than the state government system in a place like Wyoming which has a fraction of the population. The population growth in California isn’t slowing down anytime soon — can the already creaky government in Sacramento keep up with the pace and continue managing the whole state? Indications from the last three decades do not inspire optimism.
Will partition of California ever happen? I doubt it. The water allocation issue itself will probably dynamite any serious discussions about it. Plus, California can’t even figure out a way forward with building high-speed rail — a sure-fire investment in the state’s future which would create jobs, change the nature of travel within the state, and likely have significant positive impacts on the environment and economy. If the state can’t deliver on a slam-dunk like high-speed rail, I doubt California will ever be able to deliver on splitting the state into two, let alone partitioning it into six new states.
Well, I’m glad that Politico and Dead Presidents could team up on Twitter to make your day.
Jonathan Allen and The Hill's White House correspondent Amie Parnes were retweeting my recommendation of their recently-released book, HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, which is a really fascinating insider account of how Hillary moved on from her loss to Barack Obama in 2008, accepted his nomination to be Secretary of State, carved out an important and influential role in the Obama Administration, and how the Clinton political machine has quietly been building the foundation for a potential bid for the Presidency in 2016. It’s really interesting to read some of the behind-the-scenes struggles between Obama’s people and Hillary’s people as they tried to heal divisions left over from the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination campaign and work together with Hillary’s folks at Foggy Bottom and Obama’s White House staff.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is something that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates echoed in his recent book, Duty. Basically, people who don’t know or haven’t previously worked with Hillary Clinton invariably tend to fear her or dread the prospect of working closely with her at first. Then they develop a grudging respect for her as they see how hard she works and how brilliant she is. Then they start to get to know her and are surprised at how nice and funny she is. And, in almost every case, those initially wary people become downright loyal to her and love working for or with her. Almost without fail, that is the process for people who start working with her for the first time — their preconceived notions fly out the window.
HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes is out now and well worth the read. I raced through it and highly recommend it.
Joe Biden could absolutely win the Iowa Caucus. That’s 100% retail politics and Biden is one of the two-best retail politicians in the United States. Of course, the other one is Bill Clinton, but I think Biden could definitely beat Hillary in Iowa. After that, things would get tough.
What will be interesting to see if Biden and Hillary both run in 2016 is how their campaigns are built. Even though Biden has been his Vice President for two terms, Obama will almost certainly sit the primaries out and remain neutral. Will some of the people who helped build the Obama political machine jump in early and, if so, who will they join? Will Hillary open things up and bring in outsiders who are new to Clintonworld? The nominating process isn’t about winning votes; it’s about winning delegates. That’s a mistake Hillary Clinton made in 2008 and I doubt she’ll make it again if she decides to run in 2016.
Senator Cruz hasn’t done a single thing to impress me, and I think he is the personification of everything that is wrong with the United States Congress — an obstructionist and extremist who makes a ton of noise without saying anything of worth.
Cruz will never be elected to anything more than the Senate, and the only reason he won that election is because it took place in Texas — a state that nobody really takes seriously despite being worth a whopping 38 electoral votes.
Ted Cruz is the very worst type of politician — an overbearing impediment to progress who is full of questions yet utterly lacking in answers.
I don’t know if “difficult to understand” would be the right term because most re-elections of incumbents can be explained pretty easily.
Let’s just look at your three examples — Nixon, Clinton, and Bush 43. As you mentioned, all three had it pretty easy when it came to their opponents. I have a ton of respect for George McGovern and Bob Dole, but they were no match for Nixon in 1972 and Clinton in 1996, respectively. And, of course, John Kerry was just a terrible candidate for President, so Bush got really lucky in 2004.
It’s important to note, however, that the scandals that tainted Nixon and Clinton didn’t start causing them major problems until after they were re-elected. The Watergate break-in happened during the ‘72 campaign, but the extent of Nixon’s in-depth involvement wasn’t revealed until after Nixon laid an ungodly Electoral College beatdown on McGovern that year — 520-17 was the score, 49 states for Nixon while McGovern took home just Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
The Monica Lewinsky story didn’t break until January 1998, well after Clinton had coasted to re-election against Bob Dole in November 1996. And, even if Clinton had faced re-election at the same time he was being impeached by the House of Representatives, would it have mattered? Remember, Clinton’s approval ratings went UP while he was being impeached and put on trial by the U.S. Senate!
So, I guess we settle on George W. Bush by default. In retrospect, the 2004 election is definitely one that raises eyebrows. Bush was tremendously unpopular and the only reason he was re-elected was basically due to the fact that in John Kerry and John Edwards the Democrats nominated their worst Presidential ticket since the nightmarish duo of John W. Davis and Charles W. Bryan in 1924.
That 1924 Democrats ticket required 103 ballots before the Democratic Convention finally settled on a candidate. At that Convention, the Democrats nominated SIXTY different candidates for the Presidency! And if they had spent just a quarter of that time on coming up with alternate candidates 80 years later in 2004, George W. Bush probably would have lost that election.
The nation did not want to re-elect Bush in 2004, but the Democrats blew it by nominating John Kerry. You can’t really blame Kerry — you have to take that opportunity when you get it. It’s other leading Democrats who could have and should have stepped forward in 2004 who deserve the blame. Most of them recognize that they made a huge mistake by not running in 2004 because (a.) they could have won, and (b.) they may have lost their window for being President. Hillary Clinton is fortunate to be a resilient enough political figure that her window is still open. If Hillary had run in 2004, she would have beat Bush and would have been seeking re-election to the White House in 2008 instead of losing the Democratic nomination to the junior Senator from Illinois that year.
I really don’t know if I’ve answered your question. I guess my point is that none of those re-election victories are difficult to understand, but it is certainly frustrating that an incumbent as vulnerable as George W. Bush in 2004 was able to win another term. I guess the difficult thing to understand is how the Democratic Party, with its vehement opposition to Bush and increasing anti-Iraq War sentiment in 2004, nominated such an underwhelming ticket in such an eminently winnable campaign. I don’t know if I will ever fully understand that.
Do you know what is most frustrating about the 2004 election? Despite the terrible Democratic ticket, despite John Kerry, despite John Edwards, despite the lack of passion from Democratic voters nationwide, and despite everything that happened from the DNC in Boston until Kerry’s concession speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, one thing will always haunt Democrats: Kerry still almost won! The Electoral College count: Bush 286, Kerry 252. If more people had voted for Kerry than Bush in just one state — Ohio — on November 2, 2004, Bush would have been a one-term President.
Like I said, it’s not that I find anything I mentioned to be difficult to understand; it’s just a bitter pill to swallow — still, nearly a decade later.
I now know the difference between a cactus and a caucus — in a cactus, all the pricks are on the outside.
Lyndon B. Johnson, to reporters, after meeting with the Senate’s Democratic Caucus following LBJ’s election as Vice President, January 1961
I had read repeatedly that I was the most conservative President since Herbert Hoover. My feeling was, if that’s true, damn it, the extreme right wing ought to be satisfied. But the truth is they never are unless they lock you in to a little ideological circle that is a miniscule number of voters in the American public. Regardless of the political consequences, I knew that I had to call them as I saw them from the nation’s point of view and at the same time from my own political experience. The facts of life are that satisfying the extreme right dooms any Republican in a Presidential election.
Gerald Ford, on his refusal to cater to the far right-wing of the Republican Party during the 1976 Presidential campaign
That’s not a stupid question. There are often phrases or words relating to government, or certain mechanisms of the government that we hear frequently, but that are never clearly defined. It’s important to share that information. Neil deGrasse Tyson frequently talks about the importance of expanding “science literacy”, and I think “history literacy” or “civic literacy” is something that also needs to be improved upon.
The Congressional elections are called midterms when they happen in the middle of a Presidential term — Obama was elected in 2008, so the 2010 Congressional elections were midterms. His 2012 reelection makes the 2014 Congressional elections midterms. Biennially (every two years), all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 1/3rd of the Senate is up for reelection, but midterms only take place every four years.
"Midterms" is a good word for those elections, too. Midterm elections are really the first chance — a test, of sorts — for Presidents to get a clear understanding of national acceptance for their policies and an opportunity for their performance to be graded by the American people. A President whose political party loses a significant amount of seats in a midterm election can be in serious trouble. If it’s their first midterm election, it could warn of a major challenge in their bid for reelection. If it’s their second midterm election, failure can accelerate their status as lame ducks going into their final months in office.
I’m not one of those people who say that there are no stupid questions. There are A LOT of stupid questions. I see them everybody in my inbox. But this wasn’t one of them!
I’m a big Jerry Brown fan, and I think he’s doing about as good of a job as anybody could possibly do as Governor of California.
Plus, how can you not love a guy who actually said this at a press conference: “Analysis paralysis is not why I came back. I want to get shit done.”
Sounds like an interesting panel. I haven’t read that book. With the upcoming 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination this month, there have been so many books released about JFK over the past few months that it’s tough to keep track. I literally have a stack of about 15-20 JFK books that I’ve received in the past two or three months.
As for Howard Dean and Ed Rollins, I definitely know who they are. I was on the Howard Dean bandwagon in 2004 and still think he would have been President of the United States if the Democrats had stuck it out and nominated him instead of John Kerry.
Ed Rollins is a longtime consultant for Republican candidates, but he’s been very successful, is very good at what he does, and I have mad respect for the man. Plus, he was a former boxer and spent some of his formative years in Northern California (even Sacramento), so I have two things in common with him that makes me like him even more. Also, I believe Rollins started off working for Jesse Unruh, the Speaker of the California State Assembly (and a Democrat!), who is a legend in California politics and a guy I’ve always been fascinated by.
I have not read Klein’s book, but it sounds like something I definitely want to take a look at. From you description of it, I definitely agree with what he’s trying to say.
The reason why, as Klein’s subtitle says, American Democracy has been “Trivialized By People Who Think You’re Stupid” is because it works. Most American voters don’t take the time (and, sometimes, don’t have the time) to swim past the soundbites and headlines and get to the meat of the story on the issues and candidates during elections. I’m sorry, but the majority of the American people are “average” — that’s why we use that word — and “average Americans” are easy to cater to.
Anti-intellectualism is nothing new in American politics. I wrote about it a couple of years ago:
Anti-intellectualism has ALWAYS been a favorite of American political campaigns. For some frustrating reason, Americans don’t like somebody who is *too* smart. I don’t know about you, but I want my President to be the smartest guy in the country. Most of the time, campaigns just dumb things down because they know it appeals to the people. It’s one of the biggest things that bothers me about this country — dumbing things down works.
This is not a new tactic. It’s also not a dead tactic. In 2008, we had Sarah Palin and Joe The Plumber speaking for the “regular Americans”. The thing is, I don’t actually know any “regular Americans” who pride themselves on being simple people. Why this works in political campaigns is beyond my ability to understand. It is Walmart advertising and it is infuriating.
When did this start in Presidential campaigns? Definitely during the 1824 campaign that John Quincy Adams won against Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford. It didn’t work in that campaign because the election was decided by the House of Representatives, but Jackson campaigned as the down-to-earth, man of the people. In 1828, he did the same thing and won. Other Presidents who used the same tactic successfully: William Henry Harrison in 1840; James K. Polk in 1844; Zachary Taylor in 1848; Franklin Pierce in 1852; Abraham Lincoln in 1860; James Garfield in 1880; Benjamin Harrison in 1888; Warren G. Harding in 1920; and Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Besides the Bush 43 campaigns, Carter is the most recent clear example of a President who completely dumbed down his abilities and personality for his Presidential campaign. In 1976, Carter campaigned against Gerald Ford as the smiling peanut farmer from Georgia who was ready to bring the Presidency back to the people. In reality, Carter was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy who studied nuclear physics, was a disciple of Admiral Hyman Rickover, and handpicked by Rickover to serve as the engineering officer on one of the first atomic submarines.
I don’t understand why this appeals to the American electorate. I don’t understand why it works. All I know is that it is not a good reflection on the American electorate as a whole. If anybody says, “Oh, I voted for him because he was dumber than the other guy”, they should have their right to vote revoked.
Unfortunately, delivering political candidates to people by dumbing things down works — and it will probably keep working. That’s why Lincoln is the poor rail-splitter instead of the clever, corporate railroad lawyer and Carter is Mr. Smiley Peanut Farmer instead of the nuclear physicist that he actually was.
I don’t know how to rectify it other than proving those stuffed shirts wrong. If you’re presented with Jed Bartlet vs. Robert Ritchie, you damn sure better vote for Bartlet and let them know that you want the smartest person possible sitting in the chair when decisions have to be made.