The announcement by Senator Boxer, a true champion of the underdog, that she will not run for the Senate in 2016 will likely make a lot of other state officials rethink how they do their jobs. It's a lot like the moves you make playing musical chairs to make sure the music doesn't run out without you getting a seat.
I was reminded of the question on an early morning KFPA radio interview (starts at 8 minutes in) when discussing the choice faced by Attorney General Kamala Harris over whether or not to approve the sale of community hospitals in Los Angeles and the Bay Area to Prime HealthCare.
The California Nurses Association is holding rallies all week to support the sale and keep the hospitals open. SEIU-United Health Care Workers vehemently opposes it, seemingly more out of concern for its own political power than the communities involved. As a secret tape recording of the UHW union leader's conference call shows, SEIU-UHW is punishing Prime for not joining a $100 million political action pact it made with other hospitals.
SEIU-UHW has made it clear to state politicians, as part of its vendetta against Prime, that state officials who take contributions from Prime will be persona non grata. Attorney General Harris almost certainly knows that approving the deal would be bad for any senatorial ambitions she might have.
Will Harris call it like she sees it? There's every reason to believe she will.
There is no other real buyer for these Daughter of Charity hospitals and the community desperately needs them. At each hearing, the case for approval becomes clearer.
SEIU-UHW doesn't seem to care if the hospitals close. Communities would lose, but victory would mean more power for the union.
Harris's job is to protect the community. Does she hear the music of the chairs about to stop? Almost certainly. But Harris should be smart enough not to give into it.
Harris and every other state official facing tough decisions should ask themselves this: what would Barbara Boxer do? An unabashed champion for the downtrodden, Boxer did the right thing regardless of the consequences.
Boxer raged for justice. She made her name with the public for doing the right thing and calling it as she saw it. You can watch that rage for justice in her acceptance speech for Consumer Watchdog's Phillip Burton Public Service Award. "Follow your gut," she said. Her potential successors would do well to follow her example if they want to follow in her foot steps.