In June 2002, the liberal American Prospect magazine was hailing California as a "laboratory" for Democratic policies. With "its Democratic governor, U.S. senators, state legislature and congressional delegation," author Harold Meyerson gushed, "California is the only one of the nation's 10 largest states that is uniformly under Democratic control." In the Golden State, Meyerson said, "the next New Deal is in tryouts." (Can't you just feel the tension building?)
Just a few years before that, the impresario of this adventure in Democratic governance, Gov. Gray Davis, was being touted as presidential material – which wasn't nearly as insulting a thing to say to a politician back then as it is now. Analyst Charles Cook said Davis was "a major player in the Democratic Party," with qualities that would "serve him well should Davis try to test his national ambitions." Davis' fellow Democratic governor, Gary Locke of Washington, called Davis "truly the rising star among governors across America, and among Democrats he's so highly respected as one of the new breed of moderate, centrist Democrats." The only Davis adjective he left out was "money-grubbing."
Around the time of the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Davis was forced to announce that he would decline offers to be Al Gore's running mate. The Associated Press hailed the match-up, noting that Davis and Al Gore were "strikingly similar in background, outlook and demeanor." Perhaps their campaign slogan could have been "bland and blander."
Gore advisers cooed that "Gray would certainly be one of those names that would have to be in the mix." Both were said to be "cautious, moderate 'New Democrats.'" Both were veterans, after a fashion, of Vietnam, which would make a Gore-Davis presidential ticket the only compelling argument yet in favor of friendly fire.
California is, in fact, a perfect petri dish of Democratic policies. This is what happens when you let Democrats govern: You get a state – or as it's now known, a "job-free zone" – with a $38 billion deficit, which is larger than the budgets of 48 states. There are reports that Argentina and the Congo are sending their fiscal policy experts to Sacramento to help stabilize the situation. California's credit rating has been slashed to junk-bond status, and citizens are advised to stock up for the not-too-far-off day when cigarettes and Botox become the hard currency of choice. At this stage, we couldn't give California back to Mexico.