Consumer advocate and left-wing activist Ralph Nadar has just written a book entitled “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.” In a Salon interview published on May 2, Nadar lists five areas where the left and right can agree on policy goals: (1) controlling security state overreach, (2) eliminating corporate welfare, (3) fighting military overspending and waste, (4) cracking down on Wall Street financial fraud, and (5) revisiting international agreements that undermine American sovereignty.
Populist right-wing commentator Patrick Buchanan has taken notice. In a column published on May 19th entitled “A Left-Right Convergence?,” Buchanan identifies the rift within conservative ranks that provides an opening for convergence with the left. He writes:
“Undeniably, there has been a growing gap and a deepening alienation between traditional conservatives and those Ralph calls the ‘corporate conservatives.’ And it is not only inside the conservative movement and the GOP that the rift is growing, but also Middle America.”
As for the left? Here are two easily identified, escalating rifts that are dividing liberals: The first, construction unions vs. environmentalists, as exemplified by their conflict over the Keystone Pipeline. The second, public sector union Democrats vs. progressive Democrats. As San Jose’s mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat, puts it:
“There’s a difference between being liberal and progressive and being a union Democrat.”
This second rift has immediate importance in California, and it has immediate potential for what could become California’s regional version of a left-right alliance. Here are three areas where California’s left and right can unite:
(1) Charter schools: California’s public schools have failed millions of students. Charter schools, unconstrained by union work rules, have become laboratories of innovation. They have consistently delivered better educational outcomes at lower cost. Their proliferation should be encouraged.
(2) Pension reform: California’s cities, counties and state agencies now face unfunded pension liabilities that – depending on what assumptions you make – total between $200 and $500 billion. Annual pension contributions now consume as much as 25% of the general fund budget in major cities. Reform is vital.