Old Californians Say The Darndest Things


First it was an 82-year-old Northern Californian talking to a chair. Then it was a 79-year-old Northern Californian referencing Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels in accusing the Republicans of the "big lie."

O, those older Californians! They say the darndest things. Particularly at convention season.

The chair talker was, famously, the famous Clint Eastwood at last week's Republican National Convention. The speaker of the odious and thoughtless Nazi comparison was California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, who accused GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan of the "big lie."

Burton has apologized, which was the right decision. Eastwood has kept his powder dry as he's been criticized for his performance. But damn the critics, both men remain beloved, by their fans and by a press that loves interesting people.

And if you thought these comments were silly and the reaction to them pointless, well, you better get used to it.

California's leading political voices are old. Really old. And getting older. Heck, 90-year-old actress Betty White,  instead of speaking at the Democratic National Convention as some are begging her to do, might think about running for office in California; she'd fit right in.

Beyond Burton and Eastwood, California's two U.S. senators (Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer) and governor (Jerry Brown) are all north of 70s. So is former Speaker of the House and current Democratic Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi.

Old people often don't care what anyone thinks, and sometimes say batty things. And given the ages of the most powerful people in California, you should expect to hear batty things.

So if you want less of this, you should be rooting for a younger generation of California figures to seize power. Sometime soon, before they're old too.

This would seem to be the right time, since no one can say they lack the necessary maturity, given the way their elders are behaving.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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