Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mr. Bland Builds His Dream House

Over the past few months, several of our readers have asked me about potential Republican candidates for the upcoming California gubernatorial contest. So let me introduce you to one of the early possibilities. He is the most famous California politician you've never heard of. His name is Tom Campbell. And now you've heard of him.

Tom Campbell is one of two Republican "Toms" who have been prominent in recent California politics. My personal favorite, Tom McClintock, has not shown any sign yet of being interested in getting into the race, but if he does, you can bet I will be sure to report back to you. But in the meantime, Mr. Campbell is nothing to sneeze at either. After the glitz and glamor and hazy politics of RINO Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Kennedy-family wife, Maria Shriver, California may be ready for a solid, intelligent, conservative policy master. And if the glitz factor is now working as a negative, his likely opponent, the current mayor of San Francisco, is in more trouble than he expects.

Campbell's first negative is that he is a Harvard Law graduate, but at least unlike another prominent politician (from Illinois), this grad actually attended classes, got good grades, and has an academic record which can be found. On the upside, he also has a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago--you know, the one that teaches market economics. His mentor at the school was Milton Friedman. Campbell was a Reagan adviser on supply-side economics, and when at first it didn't seem to be working, Campbell prepared to leave D.C. expecting a Reagan loss in '84. When Reagan won 49 states in the election, Campbell couldn't have been more pleased, and more self-deprecating about what he calls his "apparent lack of political acumen."

Upon his exit from Washington, Campbell taught law at Stanford Law School, where again, unlike a certain Illinois politician, he had an illustrious record of teaching and publishing. He was one of the few conservatives in an increasingly-liberal faculty. He then went on to five terms in Congress representing Silicon Valley (the Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto and Stanford corridor). The old money in Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto, along with the entrepeneurs, liked him. The Stanford liberals, not so much. He ran for the California Senatorial nomination in 1992, and lost. In 2000, he succeeded in getting the nomination, but lost the election in a very Democratic statewide year.

Campbell looks at the patchwork budgets (to cover previous failed budgets), the immense and growing deficit, high taxes, low productivity, "creative financing" schemes which use bonds to pay off previous bonds, and the enormous public employee sector, and asks: "Where did my California go?" A state which used to be the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world is now one of the world's biggest debtors. Business and middle-class taxpayers are fleeing the state in droves. Illegal immigrants comprise one of the state's most important political blocs. Politicians pander to the public employees unions and radical environmentalists, thus reducing both productivity and the possibility of productivity.

Columnist George Will has said that Campbell's motto should be "speak softly and carry a small calculator." Campbell was California's budget and finance director from 2004 to 2005, when he quit in disgust over the state's complete unwillingness to curb spending and taxation while refusing to do anything to reduce the growing government sector or encourage the private sector which produces the only genuine wealth. Given his experience, Campbell has a plan and an agenda.

First, he proposes a restoration of the Gann Amendment to the California constitution which lasted from 1979-1989, at which point the legislature again amended the constitution via the referendum process. The Gann Amendment limited state spending by tying it to the rate of inflation and growth of the legal population. Of course, once the liberal tolerance of illegal immigration and hoboism caused a huge increase in the need for pubic assistance and state services, the legislature found a way to pull out the violins and convince the people to vote for an amendment to take money away from their families and give it to public employees and all-around moochers.

He also proposes to re-set the state budget cycle so that the current year's revenue is used to pay for the next year's operations. This would halt the pie-in-the-sky predictions of future revenue increases to pay for current increased expenditures. There would be no more guessing. No increase in this year's expenditures if revenue from the previous year won't cover it. And if there is still a shortfall, budget cuts have to be made to match the previous year's revenue. In other words, he's proposing performing the outrageous act of "living within your means." In California today, that's plain damned revolutionary.

Campbell is also a big fan of Arthur Laffer's theory of decreased taxation leading to increased revenue. Of course, when he first encountered it back in the Reagan administration, he was convinced it was a highly-flawed theory which the left had already started calling "voodoo economics." At first, the conservatives called it "trickle-down," but eventually settled on "supply-side" economics. Today, unlike liberals, Campbell knows when he was wrong, and has learned from it. In every single instance in which the Laffer Curve has been applied, revenues have indeed increased. Campbell is even willing to add his own corollary: "The worst possible time to increase taxes is in the middle of a financial recession." That completely flummoxes the Democrats and RINOs in Sacramento, but taxpayers who haven't already headed for Texas are beginning to sit up and take notice.

Many of my fellow UC Berkeley alums and my son's fellow UCLA alums won't like another of his proposals. He says that the two state schools provide an education equal to that of privately-funded and endowed Stanford. Campbell singles the two leading UC campuses out for increased tuition comparably priced with Stanford's. For those who cannot afford the tuition, he would offer carefully-crafted academic scholarships based on need (in the interest of full disclosure, after my father's death, my plans to attend UC Berkeley looked rather grim until I was awarded a full-tuition California State Scholarship). Sports, "heritage," affirmative action, and non-academic scholarships would be prohibited from being paid out of the public treasury. For these two campuses at least, the concept on which the University of California was founded would be restored--the best university education available without regard for family wealth, social station, political connections, race, creed or color. And California residents would have precedence over non-Californians in the matter of tuition.

One proposal of which I am very wary is his call for a constitutional convention (California, not the United States). The intention is excellent. He wishes to reform the initiative process (by which the California constitution is amended through the publicly-created "proposition" followed by a vote of the people). His proposal is to add the requirement that any amendment which costs money must show specifically which taxes would have to be raised and/or which programs would have to be curtailed or eliminated in order to pay for the cost of implementing the proposed amendment. But he is cautious enough to recognize the inherent power of a constitutional convention (just study what happened when the states' representatives formed a constitutional convention to amend the Articles of Confederation). So he intends to ask the California Supreme Court for a written advisory opinion as to whether a constitutional convention in California can be limited to a single topic. If he succeeds in getting a strong favorable opinion, I withdraw my objection. And besides, the precedent regarding the Articles of Confederation didn't turn out too badly, did it?

Currently, Campbell has two serious declared rivals for the Republican nomination. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman comes with fine business credentials, a moderate social agenda, no political credentials, but a lot of personal wealth. Ditto for tech entrepeneur Steve Poizner who does have the political credentials, however. He is California's commissioner of insurance, one of the few statewide offices held by a Republican. Either of these two could self-finance. Campbell is a professor, and that won't cut it in the campaigning arena of multi-multi-million dollar California campaigns.

But Campbell is not without some history and practical experience to get around the initial campaign finance roadblock. First of all, the two holy harridans of liberal leftism, Senators Boxer and Feinstein were elected by defeating multi-millionaire Republican non-entities with no discernible political or philosophical anchors. How many people outside of California have ever heard of Zschau or Herschensohn? How many people inside California remember them? And the only reason you've ever heard of Huffington is that he turned openly gay after his humiliating defeat, and he was married to the strident conservative-turned-radical-leftist Arianna Huffington of the infamous HuffingtonPost.

So assuming that Campbell can get a few important and wealthy sponsors at the early stages, and neither of the other two candidates run very good primary challenges, there is a good chance of Campbell securing the nomination while the two rich candidates try to beat each other over the head and outspend each other (it's how the man of limited means, Democrat Gray Davis, defeated his rivals). But wait, there's more.

Neither party has a majority in California, though the Democrats have a clear lead over the Republicans currently registered. The Republicans don't comprise a majority in a single Congressional district, although Republicans are elected, some repeatedly, in moderate to conservative districts. The large and quickly-growing sector of the electorate which determines elections is the declared independents. As the Republican Party has continued to lose members, the Democrats have not increased their numbers correspondingly. Disgusted with the wishy-washiness of the Republican Party, many who don't like or understand party discipline and effectiveness have switched their registration to independent. And that is a major factor in California primaries. Under California's peculiar system, a Democrat cannot vote on a Republican ballot, and vice versa. But, and this is a big one, a registered independent can vote in either primary. It's not an "open" primary, but it's getting darned close.

Campbell has been misjudged by his opponents in the past as being politically unsophisticated. That misjudgment has cost many of them dearly. Campbell has taken a page out of the Democratic community organization handbook and is going directly to the voters. He has obtained the lists of voters registered as independents (a perfectly legal exercise). He has then gleaned a list of "likely" voters, and can even determine from past records if this voter was a previous Republican voter who didn't switch parties. He has invited 150,000 California independents to call into a monumental "town hall" conference call to spend an hour and a half discussing their issues. He expects about 20 to 25 thousand of the invitees to accept the invitation and participate. He believes that the majority of those voters would vote moderate-conservative if they could find a Republican who is a principled conservative. And he further believes that those 20 thousand or so are activists looking for a cause. I think he may be right.

Assuming that Campbell is successful, and is not discovered in bed with a dead female or a live boy, whom will he face in the general election? So far, he has only two declared (or at least serious) opponents. The first is former Governor Jerry Brown, aka "Governor Moonbeam." At the age of 72, he is no longer the boy-wonder he once was. He can hardly rely on the vote-gathering power of his father's name (former Governor Edmond G. "Pat" Brown, who last appeared in California politics in his victory over Richard Nixon in 1962). His airy-fairy bachelor form of government became an object of public derision toward the end of his gubernatorial term. As Mayor of Oakland until term-limited out of office, his accomplishments were meager, at best. And as current Attorney General (though it was even questionable whether he could serve in the post because of his failure to provide proof of his active State Bar status), he enraged the state's conservatives by refusing to support the People in argument before the State Supreme Court in the matter of Proposition 8 (the no-gay-marriage amendment).

His other potential opponent is current San Francisco Mayor Gavin (I didn't do it, and I'll never do it again) Newsom. Newsom is only fairly popular in his hometown, hugely popular with the Pelosi-Feinstein-Boxer insiders, and relatively unknown in the rest of the state. He will get some traction in movie star-addled Los Angeles since he is movie star handsome (and just about as politically logical). He's a serial philanderer, and when caught in a tryst with the wife of his chief of staff, declared he was a drunk and a user, and was going into rehab. His wife divorced him because of his infidelity. All-in-all, he's a young Ted Kennedy, although he hasn't driven off any bridges that we know of. He went Jerry Brown one better by openly defying California law in ordering the San Francisco County Clerk to register gay marriages when the prior law was still in effect. When the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, Newsom famously declared "you're going to get gay marriage whether you like it or not." Many Californians don't like it, and many who are neutral on gay marriage are not neutral on having the will of the government imposed over the will of the people.

Although it is unlikely that California will ever again be a conservative state in our lifetimes, it does tend to show a distinct preference for conservative over liberal governors when the choice is clear. Polls show that even in California, though Democrats outnumber Republicans almost two-to-one, self-identified conservatives hold a slight edge over self-identified liberals. Campbell will not make the mistake of trying to run to the middle if he gets the Republican nomination. He has clear proposals which appeal to both intellectuals and the average guy. Short of some sort of economic miracle or divine intervention, it is likely to be a "throw the bums out" sort of election. Conservative Democrats in some districts will still be able to beat RINO moderate Republicans. The Democrats, and specifically the far left of the Democratic Party will maintain their stranglehold on the big cities (with the possible exception of San Diego). Republicans are likely to gain seats in the state legislature, but will come nowhere near a majority.

But statewide, given the choice of a pretty-boy liberal or an aging hippie running against a bland but smart, principled conservative, this Republican gubernatorial candidate stands a very good chance of winning. California is currently a shipwreck, and its citizens are looking for someone who knows how to plug the holes with something other than public money. Campbell could certainly fill that bill--and those holes.


MegaTroll said...

I think bringing Governor Moonbeam back for that final push that puts California into the ocean is a good idea. There's poetic justice in that.

Tennessee Jed said...

Campbell sounds like a guy I could sure learn to like

AndrewPrice said...

I'm with Jed, Campbell sounds like a good guy. Except for that whole Constitutional convention thing. What a mess.

Everyone thinks, "gee, it will be great to get a chance to clean the whole thing up at once." And what they never consider is that every idiot in the world is going to show up demanding to have their own issues jammed into it. It will be like the European "Constitution" -- a bazillion pages that talks about everything from how people get elected to how you handle farm animals.

Unknown said...

Megatroll: I'm usually pretty good at calling California elections, but I'm at a complete loss on this one. I'm guessing Campbell will win the nomination, but it's definitely not a sure thing. It's the Democrats I won't even hazard a guess on.

Although Jerry Brown as Attorney General refused to support the will of the people on Prop 8, which will earn him some enmity both among supporters of Prop 8 as well as those sophisticated enough to know that an Attorney General is expected to defend the law passed by the people, and he chose to do the opposite. But there is no legal requirement that he do so, and it will probably end up having little effect. Newsom, on the other hand was much more "in your face" with his "gay marriage whether you like it or not." That will cost him votes among fence-sitters on the issue who don't like politicians who openly defy the will of the people. But it will also energize the liberal Democratic base. It comes down to the old guy with lifelong poltical connections statewide versus the glamor boy with real strength in the ultraliberal big city enclaves. I won't even try to call this one.

In the general election, it will be straight liberal versus conservative (assuming Campbell wins the nomination). Again, California has become heavily Democratic, but not yet heavily liberal. If it's a conservative year, with anti-Obama sentiment running high, Campbell could pull it off.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Campbell is quite a guy. Even his strongest opposition doesn't dislike him. If this turns out to be a year where the people are tired of slick platitude-spouters and are looking for someone with brains, and a clear plan, Campbell could just pull it off.

Andrew: I'm with you in worrying about a constitutional convention (although Campbell has been very cautious in his approach to it). Your assessment of what could happen is spot-on. And we have the evidence to prove it. The United States Constitution is approximately two and a half pages long. The California Constitution is four volumes and nearly 3,000 pages. The mind reels.

Writer X said...

I thought Gov. Brown joined a boy band. I'd almost pay the price of admission to watch a debate between Brown and Newsom. At least you have some really fine Republican candidates.

Unknown said...

WriterX: A Newsom-Brown match-up could almost be as euphonious as "The Thrilla' in Manila." We'll call it "The Hunk Meets The Monk."

I suspect the two other Republican potentials can hold their own in a debate, but I know Campbell can. He could easily deflect Brown's snarky sarcasm, and he can easily attack Newsom's fiscal record at a time when California is teetering on the edge of bankuptcy. Whether he can get that past the MSM without their constant running interference for the Democrats is an issue to be faced later.

patti said...

"Campbell has been misjudged by his opponents in the past as being politically unsophisticated."

we are in good company then...

Unknown said...

Patti: LOL! I have a sneaking suspicion that we may have a lot of "politically unsophisticated" surprises for the Democrats all over the country.

Unknown said...

Lawhawk: I agree with you on Campbell. I would have preferred Tom McClintock only because he has political credentials in Northern and Southern California, and did very respectably in the wide-open Governor's race that first elected Ahnuld. But then, there's 2012 and the Senatorial Race.

Unknown said...

CalFederalist: I know Tom McClintock from my days on the planning commission in Ventura County. I would have preferred him to Campbell, but more because of the personal connection than the political ramifications. However, if Campbell should win, that might indeed encourage McClintock to run for the Senate. If Obama continues on his current case, with support from Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein, we could have two very successful election cycles in a row.

Individualist said...

Wow LawhawkSF

Sorry I missed this... Man Septeber 2009

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