Professor compares California's 'one-party rule' to Mexico PRI

By David Yates | Jul 9, 2014

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - Low voter turnout, increasing corruption and a lack of fresh ideas all can be contributed to California's "one party rule," according to a recent column.

On Tuesday CityWatch, a Los Angeles opinion and news website, posted a column authored by Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban studies at Chapman University, in which he compares California's current political climate to that of Mexico's 40 years ago, when the country suffered under a one-party dictatorship - Partido Revolucionario Institucional.

In his column, "One Party Rule is No Party in California," Kotkin writes that while the reformed Mexico used to be hobbled by slow growth, soaring inequality, endemic corruption and dead politics, California, in contrast, was considered a model American state, with a highly regarded Legislature, relatively clean politics, a competitive political process and a soaring economy.

"Today these roles are somewhat reversed, and not in a good way for the Golden State," Kotkin wrote.

"But if Mexico's governance can be seen as at least gradually improving, it's more difficult to reach that conclusion about the Golden State. California is now a one-party state, with increased corruption and little to no willingness to reform its creaky, scarily unbalanced economy. Californians, by a large margin, think things are getting worse, rather than getting better.

"We can call this trend PRI-ization, and nowhere is it more evident than in our state's increasingly torpid politics. As there is no real competition for power or for ideas, voter turnout, at both the local and state levels, has plummeted to the lowest levels on record. June's primaries attracted barely 25 percent of the electorate, while the Los Angeles County turnout was just over 17 percent."

Democratic incumbents such as Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris dominated Republican challengers in the June 3 primary.

"This lack of voter enthusiasm could be explained, in part, by a lack of competition between the parties statewide," Kotkin wrote.

"Let's be frank. California's democracy is fading, the result of one-party politics, a weak media culture and a sense among many that politicians in Sacramento (or city hall) will do whatever they please once in office. As under the old PRI in Mexico, a lack of competitive politics has also bred the kind of endemic corruption with which California, in recent decades, was not widely associated."

Some of the underlying causes for California's decline and rise of the left?

"Until the Republicans develop some basic sense and offer a compelling social and economic message for an increasingly diverse state, they will remain bit players," writes Kotkin. "Perhaps the biggest shift in California's balance of power is in the diminished role of business."

In recent years, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has garnered national attention for his profitable expeditions to the Golden State to lure away California businesses, enticing companies with promises of fewer regulations and lower taxes.

And as bad as things are, in Kotkin's opinion, a worse future possibly awaits California - the continuing rise of Harris.

"Oddly, unless this trajectory is reversed, we may look back at this time and wax nostalgic about the Jerry Brown years; Brown may be a bit over-the-top on some issues ... but at least he's not mindlessly ideological," he wrote.

"Just wait four years, when a full-bore true believer, the glamorous Attorney General Kamala Harris, could well become governor and tries to remake this amazing, diverse state into a more impoverished version of California's real political capital, San Francisco. If business finds getting along with the somewhat mercurial Brown to be, literally, taxing, they will find the more pure-left regime that may follow him a far more onerous task."

Reach David Yates at elections@legalnewsline.com

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