The Los Angeles Times issued its endorsements for the top two races in California this election — and the editorial board on First Street has come out in favor of Senator Barbara Boxer for Senate and AG Jerry Brown for Governor.Â Boxer’s endorsement ran in today’s edition while Brown’s endorsement ran in Sunday’s newspaper.
On the Boxer endorsement, the Times wrote:Â “For us, the choice in the race between Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and her Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, resolves itself into a simple proposition: Issues matter, especially in the United States Senate.
Fiorina is intelligent, energetic and accomplished in the private sector. But on too many issues she reflects the doctrinaire conservatism that is ascendant in the Republican Party.
By contrast, Boxer has been a voice â€” if sometimes a strident one â€” for values promoted by this editorial page: individual rights, equality, environmental protection and constructive engagement by the federal government with national economic problems, including the crisis in healthcare.
We have criticized Boxer in the past for not exercising influence commensurate with her seniority. For example, as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she has brought creative ideas to the process of crafting a six-year transportation bill, but she bears some responsibility for the panel’s failure to produce one â€” the legislation is now a year overdue. Part of the problem is an assertiveness that often is perceived as arrogance.
But the paramount responsibility of a senator is to cast the right votes for her state and her country. By that measure, the contrast between the two candidates couldn’t be starker.
Like us, Boxer believed that the government had to respond aggressively and creatively to the financial catastrophe that loomed in 2008. She supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Fiorina says TARP didn’t work. Boxer also supported the stimulus plan that has saved jobs even if it hasn’t been as successful as we or the administration had hoped. Fiorina has criticized it.”
In the endorsement of Brown yesterday, the Times’ editorial board clearly came out in favor of Brown as the lesser of two evils.Â It’s a backhanded endorsement at best, buit one that puts Whitman in her place.Â The TimesÂ wrote:Â “We will have to wait for the governor with the talent and courage to shake the state loose from the structural dead-ends into which voters continue to push it. In the meantime, we must choose between Whitman, with her disappointing and empty policy approaches and her assertion that having no experience in government is the best experience, and Brown, whose nonlinear, unscripted style sometimes leaves his listeners wondering what exactly they’re going to get. Again, Brown is not the ideal candidate for California, but what he does bring is the reality-based, seen-it-all-before wisdom of a political veteran, and of the two candidates before voters in November, The Times endorses him without hesitation.
Whitman has built her campaign on a checklist of popular but in the end incorrect and cliche-ridden assumptions about California’s current condition and what got us here. Illegal immigration is a real and serious issue, but Whitman’s solutions range from adding National Guard troops at the border â€” although illegal crossings directly into California account for little of the problem â€” to denying higher education or job opportunities to tens of thousands of children brought to the state by their illegal immigrant parents. To Whitman, it makes sense to educate those children in public schools so that they are incorporated into U.S. society, but then when they become adults to cut them loose with no place to go and no chance at earning anything but the most basic living. It is an approach that reflects the high emotional charge of the immigration issue, but none of the understanding that a leader needs of the nuances.
Whitman also takes a CEO’s approach to cutting expenses, asserting that she will lay off 40,000 state workers but failing to acknowledge that California’s public-worker-to-resident ratio is already among the nation’s lowest, and that further slashing the workforce merely moves our dysfunction from one arena to another by slowing state responsiveness without fixing the underlying structural problem. She targets welfare, zeroing in on the resentment that working Californians feel for supposed freeloaders, but she exhibits little understanding of the role that state social services play in keeping society intact in times of distress.
Whitman also completely misses the lessons of the Schwarzenegger governorship, arguing that the current governor started out on the right foot with his vows to “blow up the boxes” of government but then lost his nerve or interest. A candidate paying closer attention would recognize that Schwarzenegger â€” who unlike Whitman already had some background in politics and policymaking and was no stranger to Sacramento â€” grew into the job, moved the state past decades of gridlock to launch a major program of rebuilding infrastructure, accomplished key objectives in defusing partisan power and attempted to recapture the state’s leadership, sometimes successfully (as with greenhouse gas emissions), sometimes merely getting the ball rolling (as with healthcare reform).
Brown, too, jumps far too quickly at the chance to echo populist sentiment. His campaign promise to reject any new taxes unless they are approved by a vote of the people would only deepen California’s governmental stalemate. His assertion that the Legislature will buckle down and make hard decisions if only he lays out all the information before it sounds naive.
But Brown offers a different kind of leadership, and although it might not be our first choice, it will do. Rather than the dynamic leader of new ideas from the 1970s, Brown comes to us now as a sort of grizzled mechanic of the state’s failing machinery. He knows which parts can hold out a few more weeks, which rattles can be ignored and how much tension the timing belt can handle before it fails.
Brown knows that the state’s top expenses are public education, health and safety, and that none of those programs can be eliminated but that there are short-term efficiencies and long-term structural changes that can keep each operating for another generation. He has a good grasp of the degree to which labor unions can be weaned from unsustainable health and pension entitlements and, likewise, which regulations the state can ease to attract business and which cannot be touched without affecting California’s quality of life.