Monday, April 08, 2013

California Democratic state convention and Grover Norquist

My two activities this weekend were to listen to the podcast of Grover Norquist speaking to the Commonwealth Club and attending the annual California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento. Norquist played up the libertarian angle, probably a smart move when a conservative addresses a liberal crowd. He definitely threw the Bushies under the bus on Iraq and claimed to oppose occupying nations (something contrary to his position back when it counted). He also claimed the Democrats drive up the size of government to increase the number of people dependent on government and therefore supportive of Democratic positions, making opposition to government spending a partisan issue on purely partisan grounds. A lot of it was either disingenuous or vague, like supporting tort action as a substitute for environmental regulation, when torts are incredibly inefficient and often limited by the Republican Party.

The best part of the Democratic state convention was a panel on strengthening partnerships to communities of color. The really interesting thing these independent organizations are doing is targeting intermittent, low-frequency voters and get them to turn out on issues (not for specific candidates). I can attest from my own campaign that those voters are not campaign primary targets - when you have limited money, you put your effort into reaching someone who votes 80-100% of the time, not 20%. While California is majority-minority, the stats they showed had a majority of voters being white and disproportionately wealthy, and until the electorate reflects the population, they argued that governmental priorities won't reflect popular needs - quite the opposite of the problem Norquist sees of a too-big government.

For myself, I'm not sure whether growing inequality is caused by unfair governmental processes biased against the poor, or by the nature of our current economy, but either reason to me justifies countervailing action. I'm not buying Norquist's argument that we just need government to leave us alone. That doesn't mean he's always wrong though - finding the areas where government doesn't work well or should be less intrusive could be an area of agreement. A cap-and-trade or carbon tax is a good example, as opposed to typical regulation. Just waiting for the Republicans to pick that one up.