You don’t typically see the media analyzing the spin and framing work done for their behalf. But Steven Harmon of MediaNews does just that today. And, to this point, the Governor is winning…
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first move after the May 19 special election was to immediately tamp down any thoughts of raising more taxes, claiming voters had sent a “clear message” against taxes in rejecting five of six ballot measures.
In striking quickly against the idea of more taxes, Schwarzenegger was trying to take ownership of the political landscape before opponents could craft their own response, political observers said – and he was laying the groundwork for upcoming negotiations as lawmakers seek to resolve a projected $24 billion deficit.
Democrats have countered with a muddled response. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, conceded immediately after the vote that she saw little chance of going back to Republicans for more tax hikes, saying, “It’s really going to be about devastating cuts.”
Since then, she has backpedaled some, saying that all options – including taxes – are on the table. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said that he is also bracing for “deep and painful cuts.” But, he added, “there is not $24 billion to cut in a way that would be acceptable to Californians. So, we’re going to begin with cuts, certainly. And we are going to look for every opportunity to use the crisis to fix the structure of government because it doesn’t work. (Media News 5/31/09)
Harmon goes on to talk about the yeoman’s effort put up by the coalition behind the No on 1A campaign (that I worked on), including SEIU and AFSCME. In the Binder poll that has been discussed around here frequently, we saw strong evidence that Californians support paying for the services they value. Without rehashing all of the details from the poll, suffice it to say that we have the data on our side.
However, we don’t have the framing on our side. It has always been easy to cast the May 19 election as some sort of referendum on taxes. But the fact is that the special was far more than that, or far less depending on your point of view. It was about the failed communication between representatives and constituents. It was about voters growing weary of the constant hiding of the ball and failure to address our structural problems. Sure, it was about the spectre of Jarvis’ ghost, but just as much as the failure to have a consistent fiscal policy since 1978 as the tax aspects.
Yet, like Harmon points out, Democratic elected leaders are losing the framing battle to (faux Democrat) Susan Kennedy and her gang of merry thieves in the Horseshoe. In the short term, we need our current elected leaders to stand up for government and for our values. In the long term, we need to work to ensure that those who are elected to Sacramento understand why we sent them there. When term limits create open seats, we need to put not just Democrats in those seats, but progressives who will shape the caucus into a body that can fight the Republicans obstructionism.