California has once again become a Favored Nation in the eyes of Washington. After eight years in the political doghouse, we have been returned to our national leadership position - at least as far as auto emissions standards are concerned.
"For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States of America," said President Obama, flanked by two governors with the most to gain from his presidency - Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Arnold Schwartzenegger of California. Both Governors are Californians in one way or another - Schwartzenegger for obvious reasons and Granholm because she graduated from UC-Berkley. Both are also politically in synch with the president. One is a Democrat, and one is married to a Democrat (and intensely distrusted by the true believers of the Republican party). Both delivered their states for Obama.
But there is even more to the unholy alliance that has put the nation's brokest state back in the upbeat spotlight: the automakers are in on the deal.
From the New York Times:
For seven long years, there has been a debate over whether states or the federal government should regulate autos," said Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, the industry's largest trade association. "President Obama's announcement ends that old debate by starting a federal rulemaking to set a national program.
And we like those national programs - especially when our state leads the way. So it looks like we're all environmentalists (and socialists) now. And that puts California on top. It's Kumbaya time again!
When a Golden Bear and a Terminator stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the first black president, you can expect a tectonic shift (hopefully not on one of California's faults), and that's what seems to be happening under Obama. We're no longer focused on states with the highest percentage of NRA members, nor are we backing away from the societal advances typically led by Californians (e.g., stem cell research). While a few months ago it seemed we were close to re-entering the Dark Ages, today we're back in the modern world and the shadows have lifted to reveal the sunshine that our state is famous for (albeit with a little bit of smog thrown in for cultural effect).
Despite our multiple problems of deficits, droughts and depressions, California may no longer be on the verge of becoming a silicon rust belt because we are back in the good graces of the nation's leaders. Our governor should be congratulated for walking the fine line between advocacy for his party and advocacy for his state - a line that seems too narrow for the governors of South Carolina, Alaska and other red states. But California, like Sally Fields herself, knows how to make a comeback and remain an endearing presence to even the middle of America.