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With Tuesday’s election successes, it is time for Democrats to step up

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Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012 12:00 am

Lodi is Republican country, and so it's easy to forget how heavily Democratic the rest of California and America are.

Tuesday was a wake-up call for Republicans here and across the country. More importantly, it saddled Democratic politicians again with the challenge to achieve.

In California, we have Democrat Jerry Brown in the governor's seat, a heavy majority of Democrats in both houses of the Legislature, a tax increase in place and unrestrained influence of public employee unions at every level of government.

Proposition 32, aimed at limiting union political power, failed by a large margin. It might have indirectly provided spending reform. Now that job reverts to Democratic legislators themselves.

The challenge for Democrats is to earn the people's trust and not spend the tax increase provided by Proposition 30 on increased employee benefits. Brown sold the Prop. 30 tax increase as a shot in the arm for schools.

We feel he has a duty to lower college tuition, lower class sizes in K-12 schools and restore funding that was stolen from local governments. That will mean holding the line in negotiations with state workers and continuing his push for pension reform.

Brown's lasting legacy will come by proving he is as able a negotiator with the unions and the Legislature as he is a campaigner and political fundraiser

We will wrap up our look at state politics by urging Lodian Tony Amador to keep at it. He didn't win his quest for the state Assembly, but that should be no surprise. As a Republican in a district dominated by Democratic voter registration, it was an uphill battle from the start. Amador was heavily outspent by Dr. Richard Pan, the Democratic candidate. Through it all, Amador was earnest and knowledgeable. He brings a refreshing candor to politics, and we hope he continues to be engaged in the public life of our community.

On to Washington, D.C.

Even without the addition of Lodi Republican Ricky Gill, the House of Representatives remains in Republican hands.

Gill ran a smart, able campaign. But if he wants to run for office again, it seems clear he would benefit from some more life experience. Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney found Gill's thin resume an easy target.

Even so, the situation in Washington is more ambiguous than in Sacramento. Just as Mitt Romney ran very close in the popular vote, Democratic dominance in Washington is tempered by a GOP majority in one house of Congress.

So how are the Democrats in the White House and the Senate going to dance with the Republican-dominated House? Balancing the budget while lifting the economy is going to be a clumsy ballet.

The national debt is heading to crisis and the currency is heading to runaway inflation because of the Federal Reserve's "money printing."

It seems logical that to bring federal spending and revenue closer to break-even, the U.S. government has to raise taxes, cut spending on health care and reduce the size of the military.

But a drastic tax hike and precipitous cuts in federal spending risk a second crisis in the economy. It may be possible to carefully craft a compromise: an immediate but gentle nudge towards a balanced budget coupled with a locked-in plan to go further as the economy improves.

President Barack Obama doesn't have Gov. Brown's tax hike in place, but with the Bush tax hikes due to expire, he and Congress have tools to work with. And the "fiscal cliff" from last year's budget bill provides incentive to do the right thing.

Despite Obama's two accomplishments — a new health bill and the assassination of Osama bin Laden — he has not worked well with Republicans. Republicans spent last spring trying to push a conservative social agenda and then lost the race for the White House and several Senate seats.

It's time now for both sides to forget election rhetoric and deal with the real threat to this country.

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