The Kersten Institute has been developing an exciting new multimedia project called "True Progressive" which will highlight and discuss truly progressive ideas, and contrast them with the status quo in California politics.
The unfortunate reality is that government in California is failing in California because it is ran by "progressives" that are not true to progressive principles. I have studied the progressive era in California politics and thought long and hard about what it should truly mean to be "progressive" and concluded that the California Democrat Party is about as unprogressive as it gets.
Would a truly progressive party run the entire state into bankruptcy as opposed to having the courage to stand up to the state's public employee unions to correct the state's estimated $1.5 billion pension problem? Would a truly progressive party side with the construction trade unions over common sense reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to help facilitate the timely construction of more affordable housing in California? Would a truly progressive party spend all the state's money on retired public servants, as opposed to investing in our kids?
Many of the "progressives" who run California are really just pushing a their own private agenda that comes at the expense of the public interest and California voters.
I believe that government and public policy can have a real impact on people's lives and do a lot of good. But a poorly run government, on the other hand, can be actually detrimental to the interests of the populace in California. And unfortunately that is where the California Legislature, under the leadership of the California Democratic Party has been headed for a very long time.
I grew up admiring people like John Burton for their solid leadership and Democrat principles, but somewhere along the way the California Democrat Party has lost itself, and started serving the state's public employee unions above all else, certainly not the public interest.
This is reflected in so many aspects of government today in California. Union control of the California Legislature has prevented substantive reform in the following areas pension, tax, budget, housing, education, and campaign finance to name a few.
Many union leaders are political hacks who could care less about what is good public policy or the state's future, they just want to maximize their members' paychecks and benefit packages. These are not the only bad actors and special interests who exert an undue influence on the state's political system but they are by far the most powerful in California politics today in terms of the breadth and scope of policies impacted.
The state cannot really move forward until its political leaders break free from the chains of union control and start thinking about these major issues in truly "progressive" ways. It's easy to go out and spend a lot of public money on government programs and subsidies, but it's harder to reform the system, improve government efficiency, and do things that are initially unpopular. But that is what true political leadership is really about. And if many of these Democrat leaders can't change, then we need to "throw the bums out."
I admire the California Republican Party and Republican lawmakers for standing up to many of the unsustainable practices and self-serving ideas of the the California Democrat Party, but in many races and on many issues Republicans do not provide a viable alternative. I hope this changes soon, but in a solidly Democratic state, significant pressure needs to be put on the ruling party to clean up their act.
I believe in "progressive" ideas such as universal preschool, high-quality education, environmental protection, affordable housing, tax reform and government efficiency and accountability but we are never going to get there under the "business as usual" approach of the current ruling party and Democrat political elites.
We need to start thinking about how we can cut across traditional partisan lines to move into a "third space" from which we can truly start to debate and solve the state's most pressing policy programs. It is always so much easier to attack something than to create and sustain support for highly complex and difficult to craft public policies. But we have not other choice than to take on these challenges--the alternative is continuing to watch California decline relative to other states and nations on many different levels, starting with its failing system of governance.
California needs both an effective and sustained attack on the political status quo to the point of its decline and disappearance, and then the facilitation and emergence of viable policy and political alternatives.
This will not come overnight, but the "True Progressive" project aims to jump start the conversation about what it should mean to be "truly progressive" as opposed to just having a "D" next to your name and doing little more than carry water for the state's public employee unions and other special interests.
David Kersten in the president of the Kersten Institute for Governance & Public Policy.