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Irrelevant Opposition – A Loss for Democracy

June 29, 2011

This week, California’s Democratic legislators rammed through the process on party-line votes, and swiftly approved a supposedly “balanced” state budget. Governor Brown – a Democrat who two weeks ago vetoed a previous Democratic budget – has indicated that he will sign this new budget package, since this time he helped forge the plan.

Not involved in the budget discussion-making are the Republicans, who have been completely sidelined after months of “negotiations” behind closed doors, which included considerable enticement by Governor Brown.

No one should be surprised by the Governor’s failure to reach a bipartisan agreement despite his tireless effort. The political climate, both in Sacramento and across the nation, is not conducive to give-and-take. Compromise – an essential component in any smoothly-functioning multiparty democratic system – has become a dirty word. An attitude of “if you are not with us, then you are against us” now runs deep through our political fiber. Never mind that imposition of solutions crafted by a one-sided point of view only gives rise to tyranny, and weakens democratic institutions.

In our current poisonous political environment, moderation is frowned upon, and a willingness to listen to a different point of view is considered a weakness of character. When reaching compromise for greater public benefit is labeled as a betrayal or a sell-out, it is no wonder that logic and rationality fail to prevail.

Now one would think that the elders in California’s Republican party might see an advantage in promoting a compromise on a budget deal – in a way that would allow the Republican legislative minority to help determine how the new revenues would be generated, as well as how the necessary budget reductions would be applied, and critical (but still fledgling) economic recovery would be preserved.

Instead the Republican leadership has allowed their party to be sidelined by barely participating in the budget process, leaving it to the Democratic legislature and Governor to impose their will.

The new state budget has been passed, like it or not. There will be numerous analyses coming out in the next week, decrying both the revenue generation plan and the reductions included in the budget. Pundits will no doubt dissect every aspect of the budget and wring their hands about all of the “what-ifs.”

All those analyses aside, the simple and sad fact remains that the main, and only, opposition party in the California legislature has rendered itself inconsequential. That, indeed, is a regrettable event and it is not good for our democracy.