Why AFT supports Angelides for Governor

Dear Colleagues,

Since the Governor’s humiliating defeat in last year’s special election, he
has worked hard to transform his image from that of a snarling union buster
and bully of nurses to harmless bipartisan moderate. He has replaced press
conferences used to rail against our “gold-plated pensions” with visits to
schools and financial largesse. He has gone from praising the Minutemen’s
border vigilante activity to condemning racism. He has replaced his veto of
a minimum wage bill with his signature on another version. The Bush 2004
election team he has brought on board to run his re-election campaign have
him running far further to the left than the compassionate
conservative-in-chief ever did. He has endorsed good environmental policies
and pledged to work with the legislature rather than run around them. All
of this leads one to wonder whether the source of his seeming turn-around is
a genuine conversion or a calculated political ploy.

Interestingly, in a recent public appearance, the Governor apologized not
for his special election agenda, but for “moving too fast.” A careful
evaluation of this statement should lead anyone with a political memory
longer than a few months to be suspicious of the Governor’s sincerity as a
new-born pussycat with regard to the public sector. Before he started his
moderate charm offensive last winter, he went to the state Republican
convention and held out the red-meat of “pension reform” to keep the right
of the party at bay during his lurch to the left. He also vetoed a
universal health care bill calling it “socialized medicine,” nixed part-time
equity funds and money for part time office hours, built one of the most
formidable fund raising machines in state history, and kept to his no new
taxes pledge hoping to address the structural budget deficit by borrowing
and banking on economic expansion. Hence, there is no guarantee that the
money we are seeing now for the public sector will be there in the future.
Indeed, when one looks to Schwarzenegger’s past affection for outsourcing,
privatization, and pension busting it should be clear where savings will
come from when the numbers ultimately don’t add up. His political base
won’t be quiet forever, either.

Arnold, armed with the political capital of re-election, has no reason not
to go straight back to his old union-busting agenda in a slower, more
effective fashion, pitting public sector workers against tax payers,
teachers against students, unions against “the people.” He has done it
before and we would be naive to think he would not do it again with better
strategic advice from his new advisors. In California, government by ballot
measure isn’t going away anytime soon and there is nothing stopping the
Governor from launching a single issue campaign against our pensions once he
is done being nice to get re-elected. We forget this at our peril.

With Phil Angelides we would get a governor who supports all of the
progressive actions that Schwarzenegger has taken, but also was the central
public figure fighting him when he went after our pensions. Angelides is
also better on the entire range of professional issues affecting us in the
community colleges. Together with a most likely democratic legislature, we
would have the opportunity to do much more with regard to student tuition,
workers’ rights, health care, and economic justice. Unlike the Governor,
Angelides hasn’t had to flip-flop on the issues, he has been there with us
all along. Don’t be fooled by the campaign-year cosmetics: we “join Arnold”
at our peril. While some polls are putting the race out of reach, two
recent national polling groups put the lead at 9% and then 7%. This race is
within reach as Angelides just recovers his base after a contentious primary
campaign. He may not be as pretty as Arnold, but a win for Angelides would
be a win for us.

In Solidarity,
Jim Miller, AFT political action VP