Individual career aspirations account for much of California's destructive budget deadlock, but there is a darker dynamic at play. As the state's political composition evolves, some lawmakers appear to be falling into end-times thinking. The notion that they are fighting some Last Battle before the world they know passes away tends to magnify their partisan fervor -- and it does so at exactly the time they ought to be jettisoning doctrine and saving the state.
It's a simple fact that California has become less Republican. That's not the same as becoming more Democratic; the fastest-growing segment of voters is the independent and decline-to-state group that has been inclined to elect Republican governors but increasingly sends Democrats to the Assembly and the state Senate.
In the November election, the state Democratic Party urged the faithful to press their growing advantage in the districts. The reward would be a two-thirds supermajority in each house and a new world order in which no Republican votes would be needed to adopt budgets or raise taxes. The Plain of Megiddo in this epic struggle became the swath of central coast that makes up the 19th Senate District, where Republican no-tax-pledge signer Tony Strickland defeated Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson by a few hundred votes.
Republicans still cling tenaciously to the third of each house they must retain in order to stay relevant. But they know that in four years, or eight, they could lose it. This budget battle may be their last opportunity for sweeping structural changes while they still have leverage far out of proportion to their numbers.
Yet to the extent that California Republican lawmakers articulate a vision for the state -- and they seldom do, except to demand lower taxes and less regulation -- it's not shared by voters, who consistently demand environmental protection, high-quality higher education, first-rate (and free) roads and freeways, and a competent network of hospitals.
A steadfast belief in Armageddon may be self-fulfilling, and California is now witnessing the beginning of the end -- an avoidable economic collapse, as construction projects to build things we need and to inject money into the economy come to a halt, and as Sacramento's ineptitude and Republican intransigence obliterate confidence and dissuade investment. This is self- inflicted self-destruction, a fiscal apocalypse foisted on the state by a nihilistic Republican minority. It's not yet clear just what new beast is now slouching toward California, but unless Democrats and, especially, Republicans take their minds off victory and put them instead on the 38 million people of the state, it likely won't be something anyone here recognizes.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times