The love-fest between Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic majorities in the state legislature officially ended on June 16, 2011 when Brown vetoed the budget.
After months of nuanced warnings about a threatened relationship from both camps, the struggle for power between Democrats in the two branches is now in the open and becoming uglier by the news cycle.
For the moment, Republicans couldn't be happier. Some are downright giddy over Democratic fratricide. Meanwhile, Californians once again are scratching their heads (and perhaps, in some cases, shaking fists) over the latest chapter of dysfunctional government in the not-so-Golden State.
What went wrong? The same thing that always goes wrong. The state has an incredibly weak party apparatus that undermines the traditional separation of powers concept found here as well as just about every place else.
Solid Democratic majorities in the legislature labored to overcome countless different approaches to the budget but still weren't able to satisfy Brown who complimented his fellow Democrats for a good try but told them that kicking the gimmick-filled can down the road wouldn't work this time.
So it's back to square one, only this time with a lot of anger on the part of legislative Democrats. Trust, never in large supply to begin with, has joined the endangered species list.
None of this should be too surprising to those who regularly watch Sacramento antics.
It wasn't so long ago that the now-humiliated Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger entered Sacramento to a hero's welcome, only to fall into protracted battle with fellow legislative Republicans because of policy differences and leadership squabbles. Like Brown, Schwarzenegger believed that as governor, he was the leader of his party and that legislative Republicans should follow accordingly.
Predecessor Democrat Gray Davis earned similar enmity from fellow Democrats when in a candid moment, he pronounced that the job of the legislature was to implement the governor's vision. No wonder why so few legislative Democrats defended Davis in
the successful recall election that ended his career.
In other better organized states, partisans in both branches find ways to reach agreement on major issues and go forward.
But California's weak party system and surplus of egos discourages such accommodation.
So we are back to the beginning. Jerry Brown's future increasingly depends on wooing Republican support while legislative
Democrats fume over feeling marginalized and insignificant.
Who needs Wonderland when you have California? Things just get curiouser and curiouser.