This is “bipartisanship” the way Democrats, and the mainstream media, like it: Republicans giving in on nearly every issue. From the Los Angeles Times to the San Jose Mercury News, journalists are united in praising the work that both parties did to pass a slew of bills that largely push a left-wing agenda, calling it an example for leaders in Washington. GOP leaders are basking in the temporary praise. But what, exactly, have they done?
Of the bills that passed, only two–a $7.5 billion water bond, and a rainy day fund–are of real significance to the state, and both merely nibble around the edges of major problems. (The water bond will do nothing about the state’s present drought, and the rainy day fund will barely make a dent in California’s long-term public pension-driven debt). The other bills are a “progressive” wish list, superficially watered down to placate the GOP.
The legislative “achievements” of 2014 include a statewide ban on plastic bags–the first in the nation; rules for “affirmative consent” in sexual relations on college campuses–also a national first; and tax credits to keep film production in Hollywood (as opposed to tax reform that might benefit all Californians). The glaring omission is any real kind of ethics reform, after four Senate Democrats were either charged or convicted of crimes this year.
The media and policy commentariat are celebrating–and making sure Republicans learn a lesson. The Mercury News quotes USC’s Sherry Bebitch Jeffe: “California Republicans in particular are beginning to understand that if they are going to survive as a party, they have to move to the center.” The Times praises Republicans who “chose to work across the aisle” rather than “throw a wrench into the legislative works” when they could have.
The Times suggests that Republicans likely seized the opportunity to cooperate after realizing that Brown was likely to be re-elected this year. Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff also credits Democrats for being “more collaborative, less confrontational, more focused on getting things done,” the Times notes. But when much of what is done is counter-productive, the question is why Republican opposition was less visible and effective.
The Democrats’ ethics problems provided a perfect opportunity. But Republicans did not press the issue–perhaps because of the beating they took in 2012 over Brown’s tax hikes. Last week’s visit by the Mexican president said it all: two Republicans boycotted over the arrest of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, and one led protests outside, but the rest preferred to sit at the table. And the gubernatorial candidate was nowhere in sight.