Friday, May 06, 2005

Michael: Napolitano's Budget Compromise

Many Democrats are upset by the deal that Governor Napolitano cut a deal with GOP lawmakers to secure the final components of her budget priorities: 17 million in all-day kindergarten funding and 7 million for an extension of the U of A medical school in Phoenix. Some would have preferred she go to the mat, veto the budget, and shut down the government if needs be. The terms of Napolitano’s deal speaks volumes about the thinking of radical Republicans on the likely public perception of a shut down. There is little doubt Napolitano would have fared better than the legislative Neo-Cons, and they are well aware of that fact. But we can’t afford to imperil the lock the Governor seems to have on re-election in 2006 – she’s the best weapon we Democrats have in stopping the radicals. With over 40 vetoes to her credit, just imagine how much worse things would be without a strong and popular Democratic governor keeping the legislative radicals in check.

I would remind Democrats that the Governor stood firm against vouchers, denying the radicals an important legal tool for diverting yet more public school funds to private schools, and she cut more than 90% of the GOP’s demanded corporate tax diversions to private scholarships. In addition, she was able to put in place important mechanisms to exercise oversight of private schools receiving diverted tax revenues. To my mind, the Governor made an excellent, and skillful, deal.

Some are concerned that the door has been opened to growth in the size of tax revenue diversions to private schools. But that threshold was passed long ago when individual tax diversions to private scholarships where allowed. The sad truth is that Napolitano is fighting a desperate rearguard action against an all-out assault on our public schools by GOP ideologues and religious extremists. If we win every battle in as lopsided a manner as the Governor won this one, we’ll be doing well.

If voters want to stop the assault on our public schools, and reverse the budgetary neglect that has buried our state at the bottom of the heap in per child educational spending, we have to do more than rely on Governor Napolitano. We will need kick the GOP radicals out and elect many more moderate Republicans and Democrats to the state legislature.

Unless you want to see American Madrassas funded by state taxes, perhaps it is time to get serious about supporting GOP moderates. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and Republican moderates have no love for their party’s right wing radicals. At this point, many moderate Republicans are really more at home, policy wise, in the Democratic Party than in their own. Perhaps Democrats should register as Republicans for primary battles in heavily Republican districts. Perhaps Democrats should openly support moderate Republicans who run for office. But one thing the crisis we face surely does not mean is complaining when Napolitano brings home a major victory at such a minor cost.


At 6:18 PM, Blogger toc001 said...

I agree that we need to stick with Napolitano. She has consistently sided with consumers in ths state as attorney general and think she is walking the tightrope here in AZ very adeptly.

I think that our focus needs to be John "rubberstamp" Kyl. this guy needs to go.

My wife and I, and even my 14 year old daughter,were very active in this last election and we are prepared to march ahead in the next election. However the local party here seems to be very slow to act.

The Arizona Democratic Party website and Blog rarely updated. Hell the news on the budget today was not even posted! They still have an ad to sign up to fight for the gov's budget! No note of Congrats or anything.

Thier last post was April 22!

Keep up your good work and you might want to try to submit to the AZ Dem Blog or Swing state Project. I'll submit for you if you want.


Tim O'Connor

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Rick Romero, Sr. said...

Being able to negotiate a compromise with Neo-Con Republicans isn’t enough for me to lock in my vote in 2006 for Janet. From my perspective, the GOP really wanted the corporate tuition tax credits and they were willing to sacrifice vouchers. Its logical since they have many willing corporate members ready and able to contribute scholarships for students who will breed more Right Wing radicals. It was a win-win for both sides. But, for me, making the deal doesn’t create more confidence in Janet.

I also don’t buy into the discussion that it is better to have Janet instead of another Neo-Con Republican. That’s a defeatist attitude and feeds on fear and NOT empowerment. In my opinion, its crazy to nurture the idea that Janet is the Democrats only hope. It goes along with the notion of voting for the lesser of two evils.

For instance, last summer peace activists were leaned on by Kucinich and Dean to support Kerry. (“Anybody But Bush”) I feel Howard and Dennis basically sold us out. They told us to remain loyal to the party instead of standing to their convictions that the Iraq War was wrong. In the next election, I won’t be driven my Party loyalty at the polls. My vote will go to ANY progressive candidate who is willing to take a stand for humanity and responsible government and let the chips fall where they may.

It is logical that someone may feel that I’m the crazy and unrealistic one. But I refuse to continue making the same mistakes in acting as a traditional rank and file Democrat. I feel it is our responsibility to create movement and critical mass in our community. Not preach and attempt to inspire Party loyalty. This means bringing education and clarification and vision to humanity. Not preaching Party faithfulness. Our duty is to the people of Arizona - - not to reelect Janet.

I feel you are an enlightened person, and I admire your work on this Blog and support many of your opinions. However, try to think outside of the box in your assessment of Janet, and take a better healthier position for gubernatorial strategy in 2006. There are better leaders than Janet. She isn’t (in my opinion) a very real person, and she hasn’t done much (if anything) to encourage progressive activism.

Regarding progressive leadership: There is the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” I don’t buy that ideology anymore. My comeback is: “When they come, they will build it.” So, my feeling is that responsible and dynamic leadership will come from the rank and file of the progressive movement.

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Rick Romero, Sr. said...

Dear Tim,

The reason the State Party isn't doing much to connect with activists is because they have only one strategy: Reelect Janet.

The State Party could care less to what you have to say or think. They don't want your input. All they want is for you to walk the streets for Janet.

Try this sometime: Ask Janet to meet with you or your fellow activists to hear what you have to say. See if she will accept. I predict that she will not come within a hundred feet of you or your group if she finds out you are progressive or liberal. Yet, the State Party's platform is basically progressive. They just don't want to use the word. There is only one word worse than progressive, that word is liberal.

At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Jane Arizona said...

Don't worry, Michael, if Trent Franks has his way, using tax dollars to fund private schools will be federalized, and Janet won't even get a say!

At 8:29 AM, Blogger toc001 said...

David Sirota writes:

Where are the Democratic Populists?

American Prospect writer Matt Yglesias poses an interesting question: have we seen a large-scale collapse in support for economic populism inside the Democratic Party? The answer, unfortunately, isn't clear - but the fact that there is even a concern is a troubling sign for the party's efforts to regain the majority.

Yglesias points to the failed candidacy of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt in the 2004 Democratic primaries as an indication that we have. I would disagree that Gephardt is a good example - whereas in 1988 he ran a serious, populist campaign on his trade record (and almost pulled off an upset victory), this time around he sadly seemed a bit scared of his own shadow on these economic issues, and wasn't nearly the firebrand he had been before. As Ezra Klein notes, "we don't know how the party feels about populism because we haven't run a populist for quite awhile." My only problem with that statement is that, in a way, we have: his name was Bill Clinton. He ran successfully as a rhetorical economic populist, but unfortunately did not GOVERN that way.

That said, Yglesias is onto something. Why is the Democratic Party defined exclusively on its orthodoxies on social issues, but not on any orthodoxy on middle class economic issues? Why hasn't anyone made an issue of the fact that all of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for president (with the fortunate exception of John Edwards) by-and-large all free trading economic "moderates?" If they were, for instance, all pro-lifers, you'd hear a huge outcry (and rightly so). But on economic issues, national Democrats are basically permitted to be Republican-lite on key economic issues with little question from either the media or many Democratic primary voters.

Why is that a problem? Well, consider that in the last election, 55 percent of white working-class voters trusted President Bush to handle the economy, while only 39 percent trusted Sen. John Kerry. That means people simply don't have much faith that either party (and especially the Democratic Party) is standing up for ordinary people's economic interests, and thus people vote on intangibles like "moral values" (whatever that means). Also consider that, as I described in an earlier American Prospect piece, the Democrats who do manage to win in red regions usually do it with serious, old-school economic populism. In Montana, for instance, a major tenet of the successful Schweitzer for Governor campaign was serious, gutsy talk about corporations who are ripping off average people - not empty Tom-Friedman-esque platitudes about the wonders of the "new economy" that so many corporate politicians parrot. That posture not only showed that the candidate would stand up for the middle class, but also showed he had guts - a key intangible for any Democrat in an age where people too often see Democrats as lacking conviction.

If Democrats are to truly compete in those ever-growing "red" regions, they need to re-evaluate this destructive pattern of being defined only on social issues, and not on economic ones. And Democratic primary voters need to start prioritizing those issues when they choose their candidates. Otherwise, we continue to cede that vast swath of persuadable Ross-Perot-supporting Lou-Dobbs-watching voters who are key to bringing Democrats back to the majority.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Tery Spataro said...

Brilliantly put Michael, as always. Though, I believe Sun Tsu says it best "Keep your friends close and enemies closer." High time we Democrats took some advice from a true warrior via a healthy dose of the “Art of War”.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Far from preaching 'party faithfulness' (I do advocate active support of some moderate Republicans, for Christ's sake...), I advocate pursuing our rational self-interest as progressive Democrats. The GOP demonstrates all too well the trouble that one gets into with voters when politicians forget that politics is the art of compromise and negotiation. My point about Janet is not that we should blindly follow her, but that we should be able to recognize a skillful compromise that wins a lot more than it conceedes, rather than crying apostasy.

That said, I think that we would do very well with another 4 years of Janet. In her second term she could be much less constrained by re-election from obeying her more progressive instincts. I also think that her obvious successor is the very progressive Terry Goddard. If Democrats were able to cap off another 12 years of Democratic governorship, we will have the time we need in Arizona to rebuild the Party and continue the demographic changes that are pulling Arizona back to the blue.

Tim's excerpt of David Sirrota is right on the nose. The more that Democrats work bread and butter issues of economic populism into a viable political vocabulary for the 21st century, de-emphsizing cutural hot-button issues such as religious schooling, the better Democrats will do. Economically, America is coming to resemble itself at the end of the 19th century, rather than a modern Western democracy in the 21st. This, and a sane foreign policy, are THE issues that Democrats should be running on. They are OUR wedge issues to take away the McCain/Perot progressive / populist / moderate Republicans who should be voting Democrat and who are as alarmed as we are about the theocratic wing that has gained ascendancy in the GOP.

I also agree with Tim's comment that Kyl should be our #1 target in 2006. That is a much more sensible goal than replacing Janet, in the primary presumably. Kyl's numbers are very poor and he is as vulnerable as a Senator can be in our sinicure system of elections without a major ethics scandal. The big problem is finding someone capable of taking him on. I have my doubts that Jim Petersen could accomplish the task, though he could mount a credible effort financially.


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