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April 1, 2013

Paul Krugman: Lessons From a Comeback

Is the the "era of hamstrung government" coming to an end?:
Lessons From a Comeback, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Modern movement conservatism, which transformed the G.O.P. from the moderate party of Dwight Eisenhower into the radical right-wing organization we see today, was largely born in California. The Golden State, even more than the South, created today’s religious conservatism; it elected Ronald Reagan governor; it’s where the tax revolt of the 1970s began. But that was then. In the decades since, the state has grown ever more liberal, thanks in large part to an ever-growing nonwhite share of the electorate.As a result, the reign of the Governator aside, California has been solidly Democratic since the late 1990s.
And ever since the political balance shifted, conservatives have declared the state doomed. Their specifics keep changing, but the moral is always the same: liberal do-gooders are bringing California to its knees...; however, reports of the state’s demise proved premature... Far from presiding over a Greek-style crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown is proclaiming a comeback. Needless to say, the usual suspects are still predicting doom...
So what do we learn from this history of doom deferred?
I’m not suggesting everything in California is just fine. ... The point, however, is that these problems bear no resemblance to the death-by-liberalism story line the California-bashers keep peddling. California isn’t a state in which liberals have run wild; it’s a state where a liberal majority has been effectively hamstrung by a fanatical conservative minority that, thanks to supermajority rules, has been able to block effective policy-making.
And that’s where things get really interesting — because the era of hamstrung government seems to be coming to an end...., at this point the state’s G.O.P. has fallen below critical mass, losing even its power to obstruct — and this has left Mr. Brown free to push an agenda of tax hikes and infrastructure spending that sounds remarkably like the kind of thing California used to do before the rise of the radical right.
And if this agenda is successful, it will have national implications. After all, California’s political story — in which a radicalized G.O.P. fell increasingly out of touch with an increasingly diverse and socially liberal electorate, and eventually found itself marginalized — is arguably playing out with a lag on the national scene too.
So is California still the place where the future happens first? Stay tuned.

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