If you had to pick a time and a place where the 20th century (as a distinct historical epoch) began in America, you could do a lot worse than 90 years ago in Highland Park, Mich. It was there, in 1913, that Henry Ford opened his new Model-T plant and announced, a few months later, that he'd pay his workers a stunning $5 a day on the revolutionary theory that the men who built cars should make enough money to buy them.
What's wrong with this picture? California's Democratic congressional delegation, meeting behind closed doors, decides that the state's lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, should be the Democrat whose name appears down-ticket on the pending recall ballot. Party leaders successfully lean on the state's Democratic insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, to withdraw from the race.
Meanwhile, over on the Republican side, party honchos from county chairmen to big donors to House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier are doing all they can to pressure two conservative candidates to drop out of the race so that Arnold has a cleaner shot.
It was one of those awkward meetings that nobody looked forward to, and it produced an outcome nobody really liked. On Tuesday, Aug. 5, the executive council of the AFL-CIO turned its attention to the vexing question of what to do with the Carpenters. The union had withdrawn from the labor federation in 2001, with its maverick president, Doug McCarron, complaining that the AFL-CIO was frittering away his members' money on projects other than helping unions organize. The rift had widened in recent years as McCarron kept showing up alongside George W. Bush, finding virtues in the president that eluded his fellow union leaders.
CHICAGO -- Loyalty, a virtue largely confined to the working class these days, was alive and well this week among the union presidents gathered for the AFL-CIO executive council meeting here. On Tuesday they not only pledged their support and funding to California Gov. Gray Davis in his effort to stave off his recall but warned other Democrats to stay out of the race. On Wednesday they scheduled a mid-October meeting at which it's a slightly better than even bet that they'll endorse Dick Gephardt for president.
LOS ANGELES -- The Republicans here are performing a ghost dance, hoping that through the magic of the pending recall election, the buffalo will again roam the plains and the GOP will regain its status as a player in California politics.
They're dreaming. While it is possible that Gray Davis could be recalled and a Republican installed in the statehouse until 2006, there are profound and irreversible reasons why the California of Richard Nixon, Howard Jarvis and Ronald Reagan has vanished, and why California has become just about the most solidly Democratic state in the nation.