The land may have been ours before we were the land's, as Robert Frost wrote, but not in California. The Progressives saw to that. When people arrived in my home state, there were no political institutions to reach out to them or provide an orientation; there was nothing they could join. Whether they came from the Midwest in the years before World War II, enticed by the glossy brochures with the pictures of orange groves that the chambers of commerce put out, or in desperation from Mexico during the past two decades, in flight from an economy in collapse, they found themselves in a peculiar vacuum: Politically, at least, there was no one around to welcome them.
At summer's end, after Conan the Conqueror had confounded all his foes and slain them on Leno, he came back to his fortress and was told he would have to debate.
"I crush my tormentors," snarled Conan the Victorious. "I psych them, I smash their bones. When my own people are jaded and bored, I journey to distant lands and new markets and sell my product to all who wish to feel my power."
But the people, he was told, were not bored. They wanted to know what Conan would do to restore their dream of a golden state.
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.