On April 29, 1992, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American man, triggered riots in Los Angeles that resulted in more than 50 dead, thousands injured and some $1 billion in property damage.
Sitting here in Paris, where I am spending a month as a visiting professor at the Université Paris 8, Institut Français de Géopolitique, I’m struck by how, once again, American presidential candidates are denigrating their opponents simply by calling them “French” or “European.”
Raphael J. Sonenshein is chair of the Division of Politics, Administration and Justice at California State University, Fullerton. Remember Osama bin Laden? Anyone who thought his death would determine the 2012 elections only had to wait a few weeks for the story to disappear and the bad new job numbers to remind us that the economy is still the main issue in American politics. The 2012 election is certainly looking more competitive.
Watching Jerry Brown’s low-key but curiously dramatic press conference on the state budget Jan. 10 reminded me that the central task of Democrats, once they are in power, is to prove that government can work. Without that, all great ideas about equality and justice go nowhere. A Democratic leader has to be able to sell his or her own base on the idea that government can’t do everything in order to have a chance to prove to the rest of the electorate that it can actually do quite a lot. Today, with hatred of government running rampant and some being goaded into violence by reckless and irresponsible public figures, governing with reason is a hard but critical task. Furthermore, the federal government has largely abandoned the states to their own devices during this economic downturn. We’re basically on our own.