The Leaders of the Tax

Now that the
Republican Party in California has officially passed the budget hurdle,
the civil war which has plagued the Right since November appears to
have come to California. And interestingly, the battle is not between
moderates and hard-liners, but rather between different varieties of
hard-liners who have different tactics for achieving the hard-line.

One
casualty of such purging is former Senate Minority Leader Dave Codgill,
about whom the Los Angeles Times recently did a profile.
In it, Codgill lays out the arguments for a pragmatic approach in
conservative politics, which set him firmly at odds with the current
Senate Minority Leader, Dennis Hollingsworth.

Negotiating this ideological impasse becomes easier to the extent
that this is a personal fight between Hollingsworth and Codgill, but
unfortunately, that is not the case. The truth is that Codgill and
Hollingsworth’s identities are almost irrelevant where this battle is
concerned, as it has been fought out many, many times
by Republicans and will likely continue to be negotiated at the point
of a metaphysical gun. Still, it is worth using their statements as
valid samples of the different approaches, if only to analyze the path
which California’s GOP feels compelled to tread, and see if it ends up
leading somewhere worthwhile.

The current battle between these two figures revolves around the
controversial soon-to-be ballot measure Proposition 1A, a measure which
imposes voluntary spending limits on California’s government while
simultaneously extending tax increases by two years. On one side is
Dave Codgill, the Los Angeles Times‘s ultimate “pragmatic
conservative” (which to conservatives generally is no endorsement worth
having). And Codgill’s argument is simple – spending limits are an
amazing political coup, especially in California, so a few years of
temporary taxes are worth it. Proposition 1A is “a price worth paying
in order to get permanent spending reform,” as Codgill told the Times.

Supporting Codgill is Mr. Democrats-Only Primary, also known as Abel Maldonado, who told the Times
that the battle essentially came down to a question of whether to let
the state go belly-up. Maldonado claims that some Republican
legislators believe that “We need to prove a point that the majority
party got us into this mess.” Maldonado asks the obvious rhetorical
question, “Then what?”, in response. And while it’s difficult to admit
that moderates like Maldonado have a point, the question of a
nonfunctional State casts more of a shadow over this debate than some
would like to admit.

So that’s the pragmatic side. What about the ideological one? In
this court comes Hollingsworth, who says the GOP should not support
Proposition 1A, seeing as it will be opposed both by the Left and by
the Right simultaneously for wildly different reasons. Hollingsworth’s
argument, as related by the Alameda Times-Star, boils down to the claim that “People will look at
whether they want more taxes in exchange for a spending cap. It’s hard
to connect how a spending cap really affects your daily life, but a tax
increase is very real to people.”
In other words, while the GOP might get a spending cap in place, they’d
be out of power for so long as a result of the unpopular taxes that
there’d be no way to prevent the Democrats from perverting their
achievements. The battle-lines, therefore, are drawn on the basis of
one question: Will the GOP preserve more short-term political efficacy
in conditions of budget insolvency or in conditions of high taxation?
And intertwined with this question is the question of whether the GOP
can be blamed for a budget solution in which they ostensibly had no
hand.

The solution to both these questions is unclear, but it depends a
great deal on whether the GOP can successfully detach itself from the
5,000 lb gorilla that is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial record. Schwarzenegger is not running for anything,
so the GOP has a fighting chance at doing this, but if it can do so,
then the answer to the above conundrum clearly is to follow
Hollingsworth, since his remedy preserves the GOP from blame,
effectively allowing them to pick up the pieces after the Democratic
mode of governance implodes upon itself.

Assuming, of course, that California survives the blast.