There’s No Political Risk in Backing HSR

Jun 25th, 2014 | Posted by

A new Field Poll is out showing that Governor Jerry Brown leads Neel Kashkari by 20 points. Governor Brown is going to win a fourth term, the only question is just how badly will Kashkari get beaten.

That isn’t stopping some pundits from trying to find drama in a race that is a foregone conclusion. Dan Walters today argues that Kashkari’s chances depend on HSR.

Except they don’t. Kashkari is toast, and HSR is actually one of the reasons why he is doomed.

Contrary to what the media tells you, a majority of Californians still support HSR. They approve of Governor Brown’s job performance, and are going to re-elect him. These are related factors. If HSR was the ultra-controversial millstone around the governor’s neck that Walters and Kashkari would like it to be, Gov. Brown’s approval rating would be lower and so would his poll lead.

Voters have already taken Gov. Brown’s and Kashkari’s positions on HSR into account. And Gov. Brown has a 20 point lead. If HSR was unpopular, then Kashkari might have a path forward here. But it is popular, and so he is done. Stick a fork in him.

This logic applies to other races as well, including for Congress. Earlier this month, four California Democrats – all first term members of Congress – sided with Republicans in a vote to prevent federal funds from going to California High Speed Rail.

The four California Democrats are Ami Bera, Raul Ruiz, Scott Peters and Julia Brownley. All four of them should know better, but especially Julia Brownley. In 2012 Republicans funded attack ads against Brownley citing her vote for HSR. Brownley won anyway.

Walters has argued that 2014 is different because high Democratic turnout isn’t guaranteed, and that Democrats need to stoke their base. Here I agree with him – which is why it’s so utterly stupid of these four Democrats to side with the GOP on HSR.

Swing voters and the Democratic base do not vote for vulnerable Democrats when they embrace GOP policies. They do so when the Dems embrace progressive policies. So Bera, Ruiz, Peters and Brownley haven’t done anything to help themselves with their anti-HSR vote, and have instead alienated their base.

So when you see someone say this:

“If you’re facing a competitive election in California,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont-McKenna College, “opposition is probably the smart move.”

Feel free to roll your eyes, because it’s nonsense. California voters either back HSR, or oppose it but don’t place much priority on it. Neither Governor Brown nor these freshmen Congressional Democrats have anything to fear from Republicans on HSR.

  1. Observer
    Jun 25th, 2014 at 12:56

    Mr. Walters says that Mr. Kashkari’s chances depend on HSR! As if voters will not take into consideration that Mr. Kashkari’s background is wall street; that alone may sink him. Can Mr. Kashkari possibly be considered progressive enough to win in California? On the other hand, say in the future a progressive republican like Ashley Swearengin (who supports HSR by the way) runs for governor; will voters support a republican like that for governor? Who would attract for votes?

    Observer Reply:

    Last sentence: make that” Who would attract the most votes?”

    Observer Reply:

    Perhaps Mr. Walters thinks that someone like Darrell Issa could win the governor’s office simpley by being against HSR?

    Observer Reply:

    Mr. Issa of course or any other smart politician would know that it takes a hell of a lot more than one issue to get elected governor. I am surprised at Mr. Walter’s viewpoint.

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is just political theatre, the government version of professional wrestling. The putative commercial conservative establishment quietly backs LAHSR because it is a patent real estate development scheme.

    Sprawl is the biggest and most lucrative racket in California, bigger than vice, be it sex, drugs, gambling, loan sharking, even outranking influence peddling, bribes and kickbacks. They plant to pave the State from border to border; and both parties are in on it.

    EJ Reply:

    Much as I make fun of you, I gotta agree on this one. Why didn’t I buy property in Los Banos back when it was cheap??

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Because CHSRA Board affiliated entities got a jump on you.

    Reedman Reply:

    Prop 1A has a provision which specifically forbids a CAHSR station in Los Banos. The Sierra Club would not support Prop 1A until that was added.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Its more like it will be development of retirement cities border to border. California’s population is aging with much lower ratios of working-age adults to retirees in many counties soon to be the norm.

    JCC Reply:

    The only theater going on is the mudslinging that takes place as your typing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    the world population would have to be 100 billion for California to be paved over. From the looks of it we are going to stabilize and then begin to decline at 9 or 10 billion.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Not quite. Synonymouse’s is quite accurate in that sprawl has been a California characteristic since the mines died out in the 1870s. First it was about selling farm land adjacent to railroads, then housing plots next to streetcars, then planned counties near freeways, then smart growth housing near transit, and now we get selling farmland near railroads again.

    The State will never get paved over, however, and will likely see it’s urban footprint shrink in the 21st century. The cheap oil and cheap water of the past are gone and there will be a premium on development through density. Add in the impact of electric cars and hybrids and the sprawlgasm of te last decade won’t cut it. Expect to see a European pattern of wealthy people living in downtown or on the fringe with the suburbs enduring the most poverty.

    jimsf Reply:

    On the other hand you could see the suburbs urbanize and become more city like, offering an alternative to living in the old downtowns. It would not surprise me at all toeventually see andother bout of urban decay come round again like we saw in the 1970s rust belt and nyc

    You never know

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    We have to put lead back in the hi-test according to some.

    jimsf Reply:

    people might get a stick up thier butts and decide they are sick of being so crammed together.
    Most of america was rural, with cities, then the first suburbs came, then cities were hip again, then in the 70s everyone went back to hippe communes and granola and back t0 the land. Then DAllas and Dynasty made cities hot again. Tehn after reagan bush everyone was living in cardboard boxes under bridges for a while. Then sex in the city made urban in again.

    you already see back to the earth movements in the food business. Don’t a lot of new yorkers try to move upstate and raise goats or seomthing?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    When they retire maybe. 40% of the people in the state live in New York City itself, another 20% live in the suburbs of the city and the other 40% of the state’s population spreads itself like it’s Kansas with more rain and mountains. New York City is one of the faster growing parts of the state. Buffalo not so much.

    jimsf Reply:

    I always wondered if upstate new york is in some ways like northern california.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not really. It shares Oakland’s deindustrialization, but in no other way do the Upstate cities resemble Oakland, and the Upstate suburbs are also very different from the any of the major NorCal suburban areas.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You may say that the upstate NY population “spreads itself like it’s Kansas”, but the upstate cities are still MUCH denser than Wichita or Kansas City… or Fresno.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Demographically, you can compare upstate NY to Connecticut or western Massachusetts. Honestly, I’m having trouble finding other points of comparison in the US; everything outside New England has the wrong settlement patterns.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People organize themselves where it’s easiest to move things around. If it’s hilly that’s more or less along the river valleys. Where it’s flat it’s more or less any place you want to put the railroad.

    EJ Reply:

    Yes, you’re right, in the 1970s everyone became a hippy and lived on a farm. Industrial activity ceased.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Those of you on this blog WHO WANT TO RAISE GOATS. please raise your hands!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I am sure there will be dynamic changes over time, but unless we bring back Bretton Woods, I expect a trend of more density.

    TomA Reply:

    Is ther eany other choice. Either start new cities, or make the existing ones denser – because for the most part, the large cities in the US have kind of reached the logical limits of sprawl or are approaching them.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yes, I would agree that 1950s style sprawl had more to do with Bretton Woods making oil an other raw materials artificially cheap. Add in the end of racial covenants and you had the perfect storm of development. Today there’s simply not enough money floating around to keep building subdivisions in car dependent suburbs. Still, FHA needs to get more aggressive about financing condos and keeping financing open.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    there are few flies in your ointment. We didn’t import much oil until the mid or late 60s. We didn’t import much other stuff either.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The US became a net oil importer in 1948. Bretton Woods was in 1944.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Though being a net importer was a deliberate policy to not burn through all of our own reserves, and also to reinject US$ into the world economy, where they would inevitably come back to the US because, hey, everyone wants to buy US made stuff if they can afford to (in 1948).

    We still set the price in oil in the 50’s through the 60’s … it wasn’t until the 1970 that the Texas Railways Commission raised the production quotas on the big West Texas oil fields to 100% and left them there, and we saw the market making price move overseas …

    … and of course three years later saw our first big oil price shock.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sure, but by 1953, the US was already instigating a coup in Iran in response to Mossadegh’s nationalization of oil.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Bruce there you go cluttering things up with facts again.

    Donk Reply:

    Maybe Walters is right that Kashkari’s chances depend on HSR. The only thing many people know about him is that he is against the “crazy train”. The crazy train sound bite is getting the same play as the “car tax” sound bite when Arnold ran for governator.

    joe Reply:

    Arnold huh.

    Where is the “crazy train” sound byte getting traction? I’m at a disadvantage since I don’t listen to much AM radio or watch late night TV. What’s Rush saying about this?

    We’re going to see a replay of the last election where the GOP high water mark was in the summer while Brown holds back until the late summer and fall.

    He destroyed Meg Whitman’s lead and handed her an embarrassing loss and got Prop 30 passed despite the competing education proposition and “HSR-is-eating-your-education-dollars” crap in the mainstream media.

    This time it’s different because HSR will drag him down except it was supposed to drag him and Prop 30 down.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …Romney in a landslide..

    nslander Reply:

    Not a strong analogy. “Car tax” was personal, immediate and impugned (incorrectly) an unknowable technocrat passively witnessing a spiraling fiscal crises; HSR is an abstraction with, minimally, divided support, and Jerry’s Brown California is ascendent. Brown’s inevitable victory will be yet another popular ratification of high speed rail. Bring it, Kash.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Also, Gray Davis was the least charismatic governor I’ve ever seen. Brown is charismatic.

    nslander Reply:

    Brown with a 20 point lead. PLEASE make this yet another referendum on HSR. We need to have this out, and I want to see the paleo-losers flounder until all we see of them are bubbles in the tarpits.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Jerry does not have the stones to place the LA Water Grab Act on the ballot let alone a re-vote on LAHSR.

  2. Keith Saggers
    Jun 25th, 2014 at 15:43

    What is a CHSRA affiliatated entitied ?

    StevieB Reply:

    It is difficult to keep current with all the conspiracy theories.

  3. John Burrows
    Jun 25th, 2014 at 17:14

    I’m sure that you are right about Kashkari ending up toasted on election day–But let’s find a way to get record numbers of Democrats to actually vote. It’s not over until the votes are counted, and even if Kashkari does better than expected he would have a victory of sorts.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If the turnout in the general is as low as the primary, Jerry could break a sweat. But so much of the problem for Neel is that the top-two system really helps out moderate Democrats who can clog the middle that GOP candidates desperately need.

    If DeLeon gets Republicans behind him, he can push Brown on HSR effectively. But within the Dem caucus, the decline of blacks and Jews in the Southern California voting bloc has increased the strength of the Bay Area considerably.

  4. morris brown
    Jun 25th, 2014 at 17:27

    Robert’s attempt to make anyone believe that HSR is popular is hilarious. He keeps saying this in numerous threads when all the evidence points to the opposite — Robert , this project is very very un-popular, just your continual saying otherwise doesn’t change the facts.

    Robert knows better than the campaigns of the 4 Democrats running for their political life, and now therefore oppose HSR. AMAZING!

    Now Senator deLeon wants to abandon the Central Valley and pour funds into his So. Cal district. Apparently he either doesn’t know that this will cause the loss of the 3.2 billion in Federal funding, which was dedicated to the Central Valley, or perhaps he has inside info, the FRA will change that provision of the Grant.

    In any event, deLeon will be brushed aside by the Governor. He lost all his leverage, when the Cap and Trade funding was passed. Gov Brown could care less that deLeon wants to spend funds in deLeon’s district, he has the appropriation in hand — this is unless Cap and Trade is declared a tax or whether it is declared illegal to use such funding on a project that for at least the next 50 years will result in a net GHG increase, not a decrease.

    Joe Reply:

    Jerry Hill Senator for Menlo Park supports Blended HSR.

    The Bay Area congressional delegation doesyo.
    You’d have to move to Bakersfield in McCarthys district to find a like minded representative.

    Eric M Reply:

    So now the most current survey doesn’t count? I bet it would in your eyes if it came out against HSR because you have tried to throw that $hit against the wall to see if it sticks before.

    Hypocrite: Morris Brown

  5. Alon Levy
    Jun 25th, 2014 at 21:03

    To be fair, there’s no political risk in anything for Brown. Some people are just going to cruise no matter what.

    Just like Cuomo. There’s no political risk for him in opposing HSR, spending billions on a highway bridge that isn’t really necessary, screwing the unions, and allowing fracking.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The highway bridge needs to be replaced before it falls into the river.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not going to fall into the river; it’s structurally sound.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Wooden pilings aren’t the most durable of building materials.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s a difference between highway engineers would like jobs designing and building a new bridge, aka “obsolete”, and the bridge is in danger of falling into the river, aka “structurally unsound”.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The bridge shouldn’t even be located there (at the widest point in the river). It was put there in order to prevent the Port Authority and the MTA from getting the tolls. If you want to build a new bridge, it should be located to the north or south of the Tappan Zee.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s those pesky Palisades in the way, there aren’t a lot of places to put it. A new bridge that doesn’t connect to the old highway isn’t particularly useful. Building a new highway to the new bridge wouldn’t be cheap at Westchester County real estate prices or even at Rockland County real estate prices.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Well, they’re “Tappan” “Zee” dollars BIG-TIME to build that new bridge, that’s for sure!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Cuomo actually has some serious political risks ahead of him.

    He’s not in a position to lose re-election this time, but if he actually wants to have his career continue after that, he’s making a lot of very big mistakes. He’s alienating the people whose support he needs; rather than crusing with supermajorities he’s now working with razor-thin majority of his own party.

    (Cuomo’s biggest mistake was supporting the Republican gerrymander of the state Senate. It doesn’t matter what your policy views are, if you’re a Democratic politician, that is the worst thing ever, and so there are a whole lot of Democratic politicians who would like nothing better than to put a knife in Cuomo’s back.)

    You know, everyone thinks he’s running for President. If he wants to do that, or if he wants to be re-elected a second time as Governor, he’s going about it wrong.

    If he’s just planning to retire to consult for Goldman Sachs, of course, then there is no political downside to anything he’s doing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The main squeeze lives in Manhattan so consulting for whoever in Manhattan would probably work out well.

  6. Resident
    Jun 25th, 2014 at 22:23

    – In California – there’s no political risk in backing HSR because frankly Californias vast majority is dedicated to their human rights – marriage equality, reproductive rights, right for transgender kids to use the bathrooms in school, right to medicinal marijuana – they’ve fought too hard for these rights to hand them over to idiot republicans that can’t seem to figure out to keep their politics off our body’s and out of our bedrooms. Like, NONE OF THEIR FRICKEN BUSINESS. The strength of those moral positions are like a Teflon shield for selfish, arrogant, moron democrats like Brown and his crook developer/union buddies to hide behind. They can push any sort of stealing, cheating and lying, lying about legislation, taxing business under the guise of reducing pollution, giving themselves every inch of high value property in the entire state, they can vote to raise taxes to dig holes in the butthole of Bakersfield for the sake of jobs, IT DOESNT MATTER! The absolutely invasive moral position of the republicans virtually guarantees democrats win. Either the Republican party going to figure this out (and if Kashkari is smart it will be him to prove it out), OR we’re going to see the growing movement of “democrats” start to move against the party line crooks – they’ll retain the best of their liberal positions on moral issues, and adopt fiscal responsibility “no on the crazy train”. Either a new republican party or a split of the democratic party. Wonder if we’ll get a new republican party in our lifetimes that will figure this out. God help California this will happen before the crooks steal California blind.

    jimsf Reply:

    Or Californians might just agree thatplanning in advance for having a high speed transportation system to help move lots of people around a state with a high prjected population is good idea.
    They might just think ” well we can’t just keep widening freeways indefinately, and while planes and cars will always serve a purpose, it wouldn’t hurt have another option to serve the growing number of people who can use that option. An option that connects all the regions together along a line, offering faster travel times than driving, and more convenience and comfort than flying.” Hmm maybe californians just have that much common sense.

    Resident Reply:

    Its a question of cause and effect. You and Robert seem to agree that Yes on HSR is powerful enough to draw all democrats to support Brown. The other positions says, once democrats in California are comfortable enough with an alternative that won’t rape their civil rights, they’ll switch to the sane one. So we’ll see. But just keep being stupid in love with CAHSR.

    jimsf Reply:

    Please send me a text alert when the republicans regain sanity. Assuming texting is obsolete by then.

    by the way. its not a love of hsr. what it is is what I said.

    It makes sense for californians to have another option for travel to fill the intermediate gap – serves a lot city pairs, faster than driving – simpler and more comfortable than flying.

    its common sense. it not revolutionary. its not crazy. its fairly common practice around the world. there is no mystery.

    Resident Reply:

    no one said its crazy, its a very clever plan for real estate development/union jobs creation on tax payer dime. Its what they specialize in. Since you’re quoting what would otherwise be sound and logical high speed rail objectives (but which have nothing to do with CHSR), tells us you’re drinking the kool aid. Be happy in your oblivion.

    jimsf Reply:

    oh boo hoo. stop it.

    Larry Scheib Reply:

    There is a certain element that wishes California forgo modernization and aspire to a 3rd world status. If I had a mule I would gladly loan it to them, or better yet if possible I would buy them all 1-way tickets to Guatemala where elementary school buses rule public transportation. Being void of vision, Guatemala would suit them fine. Granted visionaries can over due it at times but this is a lot better than putting ones head in a hole.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sprawl equates to modernization?

    Jerry’s California the worst of Manhattan and LA – vertical and horizontal sprawl. But ultimately welcome to Cairo.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Favelas in Caliente.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    you either have horizontal sprawl or vertical sprawl there won’t be both,

    flowmotion Reply:

    One can easily see Fresno & Bakersfield going horizontal with new back-offices, and then vertical with new suburbs to house the workers. HSR solves a lot of problems and one of them is “no more developable land in SF and LA”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    HSR solves a lot of problems and one of them is SF and LA’s complete unwillingness to replace single-family houses with multifamily apartment blocks.


  7. joe
    Jun 26th, 2014 at 07:28

    Kashkari’s base.


    Aaron Fukuda and Shelli Andranigian: California high-speed rail fairytale

    Alan Reply:

    I can’t wait to see a bulldozer rip through Fukuda’s house. Hopefully one of the news stations will be there to save the moment for history.

  8. John Burrows
    Jun 26th, 2014 at 23:02

    Something for California Democrats to crow about and maybe good news for high speed rail in future years—

    Moody’s has upgraded California’s bond rating from A1 to Aa3. We now have a better rating than Illinois and New Jersey and we are in a tie with Connecticut and Arizona. The “failed state of California” seems not to be failing any time soon—In total defiance of Republican economic theory.

    Economics is not my strong point, but I assume that as California’s bond rating goes up, the interest rates on bonds authorized by Prop 1-A will go down, and in the long term this could end up saving the High Speed Rail Authority a substantial amount of money.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But if the economy finally pulls out of the labor market depression we’ve been in since December 2007, that would increase the cash rate, so a smaller premium over a higher cash rate could be a wash.

    joe Reply:

    I’d assume an asymmetrical labor recovery favoring CA. CA kept ARRA money, Walker gave Wisconsin’s ARRA (800+M) back. We get the stimulus of construction and infrastructure. WI gets a Talgo Lawsuit.

    Nathanael Reply:

    CA continues to have structural advantages as well, including cheap solar energy.

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