Friday, July 03, 2009


The Wisdom of Professor Kimber

Professor H. H. Kimber was one of my teachers when I was an undergraduate student at Michigan State College in East Lansing, Michigan. (It’s now called Michigan State University.) I remember one day in one of his history classes he remarked that democracy, as a system of government, doesn’t work unless there is agreement among the political factions on certain fundamentals. We can see today the wisdom of that remark in the behavior of our elected representatives both in the State and in the National legislatures. Our State legislature is hamstrung over the budget because Democrats and Republicans disagree over certain fundamentals, particularly how much service is the State to provide in areas of health care and education. There is a sincere and ideological difference between Democrats and Republicans on these issues. Since a 2/3 vote is needed to enact a budget and neither side is willing to capitulate to the other the result is a stand-off.

Our governor has made an effort, and I believe it was a sincere effort, to find a compromise between the Democratic and Republican beliefs about that services the State should provide. He was unable to persuade the Republicans to budge from their “no new taxes” position and now is trying to persuade or pressure the Democrats into accepting the Republican position. It isn’t working. He has become irrelevant.

As a Democrat I have only the most heartfelt God-damns for the Republicans and their stubborn position on any tax increase. At the same time, I can understand the frustration of a non-partisan voter at the stubbornness of both parties. This non-partisan voter believes that one party has to give in so that the State can have a budget and pay its bills. If the Republicans won’t budge, then the Democrats should do the honorable thing and concede to the Republican demands for the sake of the State. In a logical world, if the Democrats made the sacrifice they would be viewed as heroes.

But the world isn’t logical. Or, at least, human behavior isn’t logical. After the Democrats give up their beliefs and accept the Republican budget, the public would soon experience the results. Schools would be starved of resources. Public hospitals would have to turn away patients. Public assistance programs such as Medi-Cal would be severely curtailed. Some prisoners would have to be released. The public would be up in arms. Who would they blame? Many of them would blame the majority party in the legislature, the Democrats. They would not blame the Republicans for sticking to their principles. They would blame the Democrats for abandoning theirs.

Professor Kimber was a wise man.


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