August 14, 2007

Oh, No He Didn't

THERE'S NOTHING LIKE having the tranquility of one's weekend shattered. Here I was, sitting back and enjoying a nice dinner, when I stumbled upon a wretched and foul essay from Stephen Bainbridge, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Prof Bainbridge was apparently annoyed at coverage of the Iowa GOP's straw poll and as such wrote an essay that not only condemned Iowa, but also South Carolina and New Hampshire.

Prof Bainbridge essentially argued that New Hampshire was small and full of white people, and as such the state shouldn't have such a powerful say in choosing Presidential nominees. Instead, he argued, California should have a powerful say in the matter:

As I watch the coverage of the Iowa straw poll, I can't help once again feeling incredibly annoyed with the political process.

I live in California. Our population is over 37 million, representing 12% of the total US population. Indeed, if we were a separate country, our population would be larger than that of all but the 34 biggest countries in the world! We're responsible for 13% of US GDP. Indeed, if we were a separate country, we'd be the 7th largest economy in the world. We produce cutting edge technology, world class wine, and much of the nation's food crop. We ought to matter. And yet, we're virtually irrelevant to American politics other than as source of money that candidates then go spend in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Now, others from all over the nation have said similar things before, so that itself wasn't really worthy of writing about. But then, at the end of his essay, Prof Bainbridge delivered the coup de grace:

How is it that we persist in allowing these unrepresentative, yahoo infested, pissant states decide who gets to run for President? The notion that the Ames straw poll matters would be preposterous were it not so pernicious.

I about choked on my broccoli when I read that. Unrepresentative? Yahoo infested? A pissant state? My reaction, after I performed the Heimlich maneuver on myself for a couple of minutes, can be summed up in four words: Oh, no he didn't. So, as a Michigan native who once lived in California but who has lived in New Hampshire for more than six years now, I would like to say the following to Prof Bainbridge:

You can kiss my freedom-loving, clean-air-breathing, ten-minute-commute-driving, no-sales-or-income-tax-paying, unrepresentative fat ass.

Now, in a follow-up post commenting on the reaction to his article, Prof Bainbridge tried to play down his remarks, saying he had been sarcastic and those who didn't originally see that ought lighten up.

Unfortunately, Prof Bainbridge has apparently forgotten Machiavelli's old maxim that wars start when you choose, but they do not end as you please. Furthermore, as a one-time Angeleno myself, I believe I'm in a perfect position to counter Prof Bainbridge's argument that California -- California! -- ought have a big say in choosing the nation's Presidential nominees.

I mean, my God. What a horrible idea. California? That wretched, bloated bastion of criminality and corruption? The same California where, as the state's present governor once described it, the legislative process thrives on "dirty money, closed doors and back-room dealing?" The same California which has ungovernable cities, appalling schools and pollution so thick that in summer you can practically cut it with a knife? California should have a big say in choosing the nation's Presidential nominees? Why? So the rest of the country can be as unlivable as the Golden State?

For that matter, I am sorry, but I do not see how a state's prowess in agricultural and vinicultural matters should have any bearing on its place in the Presidential nominating process. Prof Bainbridge, in noting California's accomplishments in food and wine production, apparently thinks these things are important. But there are plenty of other states that do just fine in those fields. Plus, when it comes to cutting edge technology, there are other states that also produce lots of it -- and given California's miserable business climate, their importance is increasing even as the Golden State's declines.

Indeed, it is telling that Prof Bainbridge offers no political rationales for his argument other than to say that California has a whole bunch of people. That's not as surprising as one might think. After all, compared to Iowa and New Hampshire, where the citizenry are actively engaged in political matters and study candidates as thoroughly as Prof Bainbridge studies one of his precious cuvees, California's public is largely apathetic towards the political process. Since California's Government has arranged things so that each party has a lock on the state's legislative districts, and major public policy matters are decided through interest-group-backed referenda, this malaise is perhaps to be expected. However, even I was surprised that Prof Bainbridge would so cavalierly try to brush California's dysfunctional political environment under the rug.

Besides, to be perfectly blunt, California's political process hasn't exactly produced a lot of winners over the years. Generally speaking, the leaders who emerge from this vapid rathole are second-rate at best, and more often than not are enslaved to the interest groups who support them and the close friends who leech off them. I mean, a look at California's leaders throughout the years is to examine a Gallery of Political Mistakes, a bipartisan collection of mediocre and ultimately useless officials.


GOOD DECISION! Over the years, California has produced several politicians who, in retrospect, might not have been the best men for the job.


Of course, depending on one's point of view, history notes one California politician who governed the nation through a time of relative peace and prosperity, a time when our nation served as a city upon a hill to the rest of humanity. However, as this politician got his professional start in the unimportant state of Iowa, I am confident the people of California would not attempt to use his success as a way of bolstering their credentials.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at August 14, 2007 12:07 AM | TrackBack
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