The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Monday, October 17, 2005

In which TFM goes 100 miles to eventually tell you not to vote for it

The major lefty bloggers in California are split on Prop 77, the Ahhnuld-supported initiative to take the congressional redistricting process out of the legislature and assign the task to a panel of three independent judges. Given that redistricting was part of the Rove-Delay crosscountry plan to solidify Republican power for a generation, it is understandable that some Democrats are reflexively opposed to a GOP-supported change in California's redistricting process. However, on the merits most people seem to think that an independent redistricting process is a good idea, myself included. So, what forms does the disagreement take?

On the pro-side, there's Kos, who quotes Chuck Todd, saying that such an initiative could have a ripple effect elsewhere:
Bottom line, California initiatives are like colds, they're very catchy. If this reform measure passes in California, every other state with an initiative/referendum process would likely follow suit. And there are far more gerrymandered states in favor of the GOP right now than the Democrats. Redrawing the districts in these states would lead to Congress being much more representative of the national mood.
Todd identifies Ohio and Florida as states where the ripple could really take effect, noting that both states are currently gerrymandered to favor the GOP, "grotesquely" in the latter case.

Dead-set against Prop 77 is Mark Kleiman, who frames his opposition strategically:
If you want the Republicans to keep control of the Congress next year, you should vote YES on California's Prop. 77, the Schwarzenegger redistricting plan. Else, not. If Prop. 77 passes, the Democrats have virtually no shot at retaking the House or the Senate.

And that's not because a redistricting would cost us seats in California. It might have the opposite effect; honest redistricting puts more seats in play, and 2006 looks like a bad year for the Republicans.

But redistricting now means, inevitably, creating lots of competitive races for incumbents who would otherwise walk back to Washington. That means that tens of millions of dollars in liberal money that would normally flow from California to places where it's needed will instead stay right here. If you want to have, Howard Berman (for example) raising money for himself rather than challengers for GOP-held marginal seats nationally, go ahead and drink that handsome Mr. Terminator's nice Kool-Aid.

Without that money, there's no way the Democrats can stay competitive nationally. And that means no Congressional investigations of the Bush/DeLay/Abramoff/Norquist Kleptocracy in the run-up to 2008.

Seems to me like a rather high price to pay for a transint warm and fuzzy feeling for having voted for good government and against gerrymandering.
Kevin Drum puts himself on (or at least, near) the fence:
All of this dithering, however, turns on the notion that Prop 77 truly sets up a neutral system. If it doesn't, then it's a definite No vote.
He decides against the propositino based largely on the observations of Brad Plumer, who notes that the initiative as written (PDF here) would screw urban centers, as the guidelines tell the panel to try to condense large urban areas into single districts.

And from The Editors (check out the flier when you click over):
I agree that this is a great proposition, and I urge the voters of Texas to pass it.
And beyond the merits of the initiative, that's really the crux of the thing for me. For a long time, particularly in these last 11 years, the Democratic Party has carried on a proud, illustrious tradition of taking it. It's one thing to be a principled loser, but it's quite another to be one and not know that the very people you oppose -- Bush, Rove, Delay, Arnold, etc -- are taking direct advantage of it, in a completely premeditated fashion.

The current makeup of the state-level governments in the states listed by Chuck Todd is a roadblock to this sort of initiative gaining traction there, in spite of the recent problems Ohio Republicans have had, and in spite of Jeb being term-limited soon. And this is all if one considered 77 to be more honest and fair than it actually is. I'll be more willing to support redistricting reform of this nature when:

--we reach the end of the decade and have new census data.

--when discrepancies between urban and non-urban areas are dealt with in a more even-handed fashion than they are in the wording of the initiative. And most importantly, when...

--Bush, Rove, Delay and Arnold are out of office, and the baggage of their national strategy to hardwire Republicans into permanent power goes away. The aim of Prop77 is best scene through the lens of most of the other ballot initiatives (which amount to union-busting for teachers, firefighters, nurses etc).

Lastly, the way I've heard people talk about Prop 77 reminds me of the way moderate Dems talked about Arnold himself in 2003. "He's not so bad" . . . "It's completely arbitrary that he's a Republican, if he had the same background and a (D) next to his name we'd all love him". And now with his redistricting initiative we hear the same things. "It's a good idea regardless". Yes, it is, but THAT version of it has got to go.

If we pass it, there are no guarantees that it will have any effect on any other state, the least of which being those with ridiculously gerrymandered Republican districts like Texas and Florida. We got duped into Arnold (well I didn't, but a lot of people did), let's not get duped again. I'm tired of taking it.


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