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State's Economy and Wilson

January 22, 1993

Fear not, California Democrats, the political fortunes of Pete Wilson and Bill Clinton are not inextricably linked; notwithstanding the intriguing argument made by Sherry Bebitch Jeffe in "Wilson's Hope for Second Term--a Clinton Success" (Opinion, Jan. 10).

First, California's economic recovery, induced by federal policies or not, is likely to come too late to save Pete Wilson from defeat in '94. Clinton has almost twice as long to make good on his campaign promises than does Pete Wilson. Wilson needs a quick fix to save his political bacon, Clinton doesn't.

Second, let's assume a quick fix for what ails California is possible and that Clinton plays a role in bringing it about. It is a mistake to assume, as Jeffe does, that Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and California's Democrats in the House will sit by passively and allow Wilson to take credit for "saving" the California economy. They won't. Feinstein and every House Democrat also running for reelection in '94 will make credit-claiming for whatever economic recovery has occurred a top priority.

Finally, it is highly myopic and parochial to assume that Clinton's political fate is hostage to the health of the California economy. Wilson's clearly is. Clinton, however, could survive a continued recession in California, if recovery around the nation is reasonably robust.

Wilson will get what he's expecting in dollars from the Clinton Administration, but it wouldn't be enough to curtail another budget crisis. Absent an uncharacteristic display of leadership skills by the governor between now and 1994, Wilson will soon join George Bush, Dan Quayle, et al., on the lecture circuit.


Associate Prof. of Political Science

UC Irvine

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