California is a State of Emergency.
Not the usual costly, tragic consequences of natural disasters, of earthquakes, floods and forest fires that soon pass.
The present Emergency is open-ended and man-made, one for which many bear responsibility.
Democrats are to blame. Republicans are to blame. The voters are to blame. All of the above.
The last time California saw anything comparable was 1941, when lingering Depression merged into unanticipated War. The Governor then, a long forgotten Democrat, defined the daunting challenges of his day:
"To alleviate suffering, to provide employment, to streamline government in the interests of economy and to provide the necessary revenue to stem a rapidly rising State Treasury deficit."
Not exactly. What we face at present, with huge deficits, shrinking revenues, ballooning debt and double-digit unemployment, is the double-whammy of financial catastrophe looming in the near future, and political bankruptcy that's here and now, clear and present, a governmental system that just isn't working.
Re-write the Constitution!, some propose in desperation. Constitutional revision, of the tax structure, the budgetary process, and term limits that produce amateurish office-holders is necessary. But none of that will happen unless we first find political leadership to confront the Emergency -- above all, a Governor of vast and varied experience, armed with a mandate from "the people" to do whatever it takes immediately to fix the system.
I nominate Bill Lockyer.
In proposing California's current State Treasurer, former Attorney General and President Pro Tem of the State Senate as the best hope of saving the State from impending disaster, I admit I'm biased.
I've known Lockyer since we were both teenaged students at UC Berkeley. I've worked with him in political campaigns and on public policy projects. He's been a good friend for many years. I can remember bouncing his little daughter - now a NASA lawyer - on my knee; more recently, he and his family attended the Bat Mitzvah ceremony of my daughter, who sometimes baby sits at his Christmas parties.
So I don't pretend to be a neutral observer. But I write this entirely without his consent or knowledge, and I expect he may find my arguments a little irritating because he's already made up his mind, barring some unimaginable development, not to run for Governor next year.
His reasons are as much personal as political. Lockyer, at 68, is joyfully raising a 6-year old son with his beautiful wife, an accomplished Latina attorney who is about to seek office in her own right.
The father would very much like to see his boy grow to manhood, and he knows that being Governor these days is not the healthiest lifestyle on the road to longevity. Still, I think he might relish a four-year challenge -- if he didn't first have to spend a fifth grueling year running a double political gauntlet to get elected. Most distasteful for him would be a Primary battle with a fellow Democrat, a cannibalistic ritual marked by negative and vitriolic personal attacks that Lockyer once dismissed with disgust as "puke politics".
Whether from extraordinary luck or keen instinct, in forty years of holding electoral office, Lockyer has never run in a bitterly-contested State election. He's not likely to start now.