An extremist exists in the California governor's race. But it is not Bill Simon. Unlike the low-key businessman and philanthropist, Gray Davis is a high-strung ideologue, pursuing an agenda straight out of the pages of the Nation magazine.
Consider Davis's bout of extreme liberalism this week. Appearing with the racial huckster Jesse Jackson at a San Jose shake-down conference, Davis spoke about possibly extending reparations to minorities in California. "Clearly, we want to right any wrongs and do justice to people who were taken advantage of," said Davis.
Playing up his liberal credentials to the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic Party, Davis noted that he signed the legislation commissioning the California Department of Insurance study on insurance practices that date to the days of slavery.
Jesse was most appreciative. Davis and state Insurance Commissioner Harry Low, Jackson said, are "laying out the predicate ...which will go a long way toward a national remedy of this crisis. If we correct a wrong, and make a crooked way straight, everybody wins."
Particularly him. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Jackson "said he would not expect reparations to be paid to individuals but to nonprofit groups, educational programs, arts facilities or other groups that help minorities." In other words, him.
Davis's willingness to advance this off-the-wall reparations agenda is quite telling. Californians would do well to remember that Davis cut his teeth in politics as chief of staff to Governor Moonbeam, Jerry Brown. The hard-left ideology of Brown still appeals to Davis.
He frequently says that Simon is out of ideological step with California, even as he takes positions far to the left of average Californians. Davis is more careful in the image-maintenance department than his old boss Jerry Brown, but he is just as liberal, with a great weakness for entertaining wacky proposals.
Sometimes the tension between his left-wing ideological sympathies and moderate political instincts yields comical results. Look at his recent support for granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens with the proviso that they only use them to drive to their illegally-procured jobs. You see, he's no pansy in the war on terrorism. He isn't about to let them use their auto licenses to commit crimes.
This is what passes for "triangulation" in his mind. He is sure that every idea, no matter how dogmatically liberal, can be shoehorned into a "moderate" position. He wants, for example, in-state illegal aliens to pay $10,000 less a year in tuition at University of California schools than out-of-state Americans, provided that the illegal aliens promise to observe the law in the future.
He casts himself as the perfect instrument of the will of the people. But on matters like affirmative action, which the Californians rejected through a popular initiative, he obstructs their will. If Simon can wipe the moderate gloss off Davis's policies, Californians will see the degree to which the governor holds their common-sensical views in contempt.
The abortion issue, which Davis feels confident to demagogue almost daily, could backfire on him if Californians grow weary of his hectoring. Most Californians favor some regulation of abortion; Davis (a practicing Catholic) favors none. To many Californians, even ones ambivalent on abortion, Davis sounds more pro-abortion than "pro-choice." Such is his enthusiasm for the right to abortion under any circumstances and at any age that he almost sounds ready to perform the abortions himself.
The California media are studiously uninterested in Davis's odd passion for abortion, while simultaneously searching frantically for passion against it in Simon. The less he talks about the issue, the more the media focus on it. Californians are told incessantly that Simon disagrees with them on abortion. But the media never bother to inform them that Davis's support for abortion is far more liberal than theirs, even covering the partial-birth abortions Californians abhor.
The media seek to wring out of Simon a pledge to protect abortion, never mind that that decision is beyond his reach. Would that they showed the same level of attention to the no-new-taxes pledge. Simon made it, but Davis won't. He hems and haws on the tax issue, falling back into weasely ambiguity about not foreseeing the need for new taxes.
But who is he kidding? If he gets a second term, taxes will rise to offset ballooning deficits from his first one. Besides, according to Davis, Californians owe minorities "reparations."
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