[To keep things clear, unless I explicitly preface a statement by saying "Bob said" or "Bob pointed out," or something similar, the opinions expressed in this post are mine, and reflect my understanding of Bob Stephen's approach to governance, as well as my view about California's myriad problems.]
I went to a party last night held to introduce Bob Stephens, the Republican candidate to represent Marin in the California assembly. Bob is a courageous man. How courageous? Marin is so overwhelmingly liberal, he’s the only person willing to try to run as a Republican against Jared Huffman, the Democratic incumbent. Even the good news that registered Marin Republicans have swelled from approximately 26,000 to approximately 31,000 since Obama was elected means that, in a county with about 100,000 liberals, he’ll have a hard time finding a winning majority.
Still, if anyone can penetrate Marin’s liberal hegemony, Bob might be the one to do it. He’s got a straightforward political platform, which is really predicated on a single issue: California is broke and going broker. Politicians like Huffman who tinker with green this and green that, are essentially putting make-up on a soon-to-be corpse. Bob explained that, unless the climate is made more business friendly, unless the bureaucracy is cut, unless pensions are controlled, and unless out-of-control spending is stopped, there will be no California left at all. As it is now, Bob pointed out that Moody’s bond ratings place California, once the wealthiest state in the union, at number 50 out of 50. (Hurricane ravaged Louisiana ranks higher than we do.) Bob also reminded the party’s attendees that, in education, California, which was once the top-rated state in the union, is now 48 out of 50.
California’s government infrastructure is so bloated it has to be seen to be believed. To make this point, Bob unfurled seven pages of paper, taped together (meaning they are taller than I am) listing, in single space, without hard returns, and without paragraph breaks, California’s many agencies — more than 500, in fact. Bob acknowledged that many are necessary for a functioning state, such as the Department of Transportation and the Department of Education (although I’d seriously clip the latter’s wings). Others, however, are duplicative or of dubious necessity (or both). Bob brought our attention to a perfect example of overkill in the consumer protection realm:
- California Consumer Hotline
- California Consumer Information Center
- California Consumer Information
- California Consumer Services Division
- California Consumers and Families Agency
Surely those can be consolidated? As it is, each of those agencies, which serves the same constituency (people who buy things in California) has its own staff and budget.
It’s clear that, whether or not he is associated with the Tea Party movement, Bob is a tea partier insofar as he is a fiscal conservative who believes that taxpayers should not and cannot be forced to pay for a bloated, ineffective government that sucks up money without generating conditions within which wealth can be created.
My major concern about Bob after hearing him speak is that he is manifestly a really nice guy. As the RINOs in Congress show (nice guys all, I’m sure), nice people can easily be intimidated by Democrats who have no compunction about smearing people as racists, if they oppose illegal immigration or out-of-control welfare spending; or as murderers, if they point out the necessity of cutting back on programs that benefit children and the elderly. Bob told me that he can handle this heat. He explained that he is not a career politician. At 75, he’s entering politics to try to salvage California for his children and grandchildren, not as a means of starting a glorious political career. With a focus on the bottom line, he says that he refuses to get sidetracked by name calling. In his mind, the answer to every gratuitous swipe is an obvious demand for one vital piece of information: “Show me the money.”
And with that last statement, Bob made me see why it’s possible that, in today’s bizarre political climate, a Republican might be able to win in Marin. You see, unless the Assembly has mastered Rumpelstiltskin’s trick of turning straw into gold, all the Leftist name-calling in the world won’t trump California’s new reality, which is that we’re broke. If Bob, who is a good communicator, can help Marin voters understand the reality of that bottom line, he stands a better chance with worried people than does Huffman, a man who seems committed to spending taxpayer money so that green, wealthy Marin, can be green long after the wealth is gone.
(By the way, on the point of green, one of the guests at the party told me that Huffman is less green than he appears. Three of his pet projects — SMART rail, a desalination plant, and a consolidated energy plan — will inevitably result in significant low-income, Democratic-voting population growth along the new train corridor in Marin. This will bring about 500,000 extra people in Marin, turning Marin from a wealthy, green oasis into yet another California community of, bland, back-to-back, ticky-tacky houses crawling across cement covered hills. I’ll blog more about this, with greater coherency, if this guest sends me the information he promised on the subject. Otherwise, this may be all I have to say on the subject, so I throw it out here for what it’s worth.)