California: the legislators’ whines are like music to my ears

**Posted by Phineas

Fixing the many things broken about the state of California will be a long, hard struggle, often a battle over inches than a vast breakthrough to victory. But those little gains can be meaningful, making subtle changes that have substantial effects, long-term.

One such was the passage by the voters of Proposition 11 in 2008, which took away the legislature’s power to draw its own district boundaries and gave it to a non-partisan citizen’s commission. This reform was extended in 2010 by the passage of Proposition 20, which took away the power to draw congressional districts from the legislature and gave it to that same commission. And we defended those reforms that same year by defeating Proposition 27, a blatant, cynical attempt by Democratic oligarchs in Sacramento and Washington to trick the people into giving those powers back.

The commission is scheduled to release a draft map for congressional districts tomorrow; from the howls of pain and outrage coming from entrenched progressive legislators oligarchs, the commissioners did their job well:

Pols who have become fixtures in the state and on Capitol Hill and who have skated to reelection are preparing to face a political Armageddon. Decades-old seats will vanish. Some members will retire. Others will be forced to run against fellow incumbents from the same party.

“To say every politician in California is holding their breath would be an understatement,” said Jim Ross, a Bay Area-based Democratic consultant, who pointed out that a rough blueprint the commission released last week “sent some people into a fit.”

This day of reckoning has long been on the horizon. The independent citizen-led commission, initially proposed by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and approved by voters in a referendum last year, has been meeting for the past two months with an eye toward demolishing each of the state’s 53 incumbent-coddling districts.

“I can almost guarantee you no one will be happy with the maps that will be drawn,” said former Democratic state Sen. Don Perata, who chaired the panel that oversaw redistricting a decade ago and who has been consulting with a handful of Democrats in the state delegation. “There’s a lot of concern.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, an outspoken Marin County liberal who in the preliminary plan loses much of her Sonoma County base, released a scorching statement hammering the commission for performing “invasive surgery” on her seat. A Facebook group called “Uniquely North Bay — Save the Sixth” has already popped up, backing Woolsey in her crusade against the proposal.

The apprehension extends into the southern portion of the state, where Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez approached California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton at a dinner party last week and complained about the preliminary blueprint, which pushed her into a GOP-leaning district with veteran Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

“It didn’t seem to make sense to me,” Burton, a longtime party boss, said of the draft. “Some of the districts seem kind of bizarre.”

You have to have been a resident of California for a while to catch the black humor in that quote. John Burton, who had been a powerful state senator at the last redistricting, and Perata both played a major role in drawing the current boundaries. For them to feign concern over “bizarre boundaries” is to make a crocodile’s tears seem sincere by comparison. These are the same two who had a hand in creating the gerrymandered farce that is congressional district 23, just one of many examples. And they’re worried about odd-shaped districts?

And you can bet I smiled when I read of Loretta Sanchez’s fears. Readers of this blog know of my contempt for her: she is a race-baiter, a bigot, and a woman willing to kick a Democratic colleagues not just when she’s down, but when she’s in the hospital recovering from being shot in the head. Watching her face off against a powerful Republican congressman like Rohrabacher will be a pleasure.

To come back to why this is a good and important reform for California, however, one has to understand the “safe seat deal” that was struck during the 2000 reapportionment: the Democratic and Republican leadership at the time agreed to a permanent “majority/minority” arrangement that practically guaranteed both unbeatable incumbents and a Democratic majority at the state and federal levels. This was done by drawing boundaries in such a way as to create districts with strong majorities for one party or the other. It also meant that the state legislators and congresscritters could afford to be less responsive to their voters, particularly those not of their party, because they were almost guaranteed reelection.

I believe you can see the problem with that.

What these reforms promise to do (and apparently do, given the squawking) is to end that corrupt deal and make almost all congressional seats more competitive, forcing candidates to pay attention to their voters — as it should be. And I trust the same thing will be happening to the state legislature, too.

And it’s a bipartisan Good Thing; the Politico article notes Republican concerns, too, to which I say “good!” The Republicans made themselves junior partners in this corrupt bargain back in 2000, something they should never have done. Let them compete for seats, too; our ideas are the good ones, and I’ll bet we gain seats.

Meanwhile, I’m going to sit back and savor the tantrums going on in Sacramento and Washington.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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