Cal Politic

A weblog dedicated to California politics. A thriving democracy depends on an informed body politic.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Why Arnold's Redistricting Plan is a Disaster for Democrats

Did you really think Arnold Schwarzenegger was pushing a mid-decade redistricting in California out of the goodness of his heart?

Make no mistake about it, redistricting is nothing more than a power struggle. It's about who has power, who wants power, and who is going to do whatever it takes to get power.

Read the fine print.

Much has been made about the fact that Schwarzenegger's plan takes redistricting out of the hands of the State Legislature and puts it into the hands of three retired judges. But the real power in Schwarzenegger's plan is not the panel of judges; it is the fact that the judges can only draw maps after following a set of strict and powerful criteria - criteria that hurts Democrats and helps Republicans.

Schwarzenegger disguises his initiative as a plan to take politics out of redistricting, but in reality, it is cleverly designed to draw neat, compact districts that pack Democrats into heavily Democratic seats. This strategy leaves the remaining seats stacked in favor of Republicans. Steven Hill, a fellow with the New America Foundation explains it well.

The urban vote is more concentrated, and so it's easier to pack Democratic voters into fewer districts. As Democratic redistricting strategist Sam Hirsch has noted, nice square districts are in effect a Republican gerrymander because they "combine a decade-old (but previously unnoticed) Republican bias" that along with a newly heightened degree of incumbent protection "has brought us one step closer to government under a United States House of Unrepresentatives."

Schwarzenegger's Compactness Criteria:
Arnold's redistricting criteria in Prop 77 sounds non-partisan:

1) Judges must maximize the number of whole counties in each district, and minimize the number of multi-district counties.
2) Judges must maximize the number of whole cities in each district, and minimize the number of multi-district cities.
3) Districts must be as compact as practicable. To the extent practicable, a contiguous area of population shall not be bypassed to incorporate an area of population more distant.

Fair and balanced, right? Wrong! These redistricting rules will have devastating effects on the power of Democratic voters. Here's how it works.

Schwarzenegger's plan takes advantage of the geographic phenomenon that voters in urban centers vote heavily Democratic. In contrast, outlying suburban and rural areas lean Republican. In almost direct proportion, the further away from the urban core of a city, the more conservative the voting behavior.

Couple this with the fact that in recent years, local migration patterns have been steadily away from expensive liberal coastal areas, sending more people into more affordable suburban areas in the Central Valley and Inland Empire, where voters become more conservative, just like their neighbors.

In the next two decades, populations are projected to increase by 45 percent in inland counties, compared to 17 percent in coastal ones, the state's historical population centers. Inland counties will also have more absolute growth, 4.8 million compared to 4.4 million for their coastal counterparts. The fastest growth rates will be in the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties), the San Joaquin Valley, and the Sacramento metropolitan areas...

By requiring judges to draw a redistricting map that emphasizes compact districts incoroporating entire cities, the criteria in Prop 77 literally corrals Democrats into urban districts. These districts could be as much as 80% Deocratic. Districts will be so liberal, candidates will be munching on granola, wearing tie-dye and debating over whether condoms should be distributed to students in 4th grade or 6th grade.

Where does this leave the remaining districts? They'll be rural and suburban, and stacked in favor of the Republicans.

It's a classic Republican gerrymander. Pack all the Democrats into a few heavily Democratic districts, leaving Republicans with slight edges in the majority of seats.

Look at California on the map of Purple America. California has blue strongholds in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, but is purple everywhere else.

There is no way to predict with any certainty what a new map of Prop 77 Congressional districts would look like. Judges could draw lines north-south, east-west, in infinite variations. However, the Schwarzenegger compactness criteria are present in every possible plan. This presents a statistical nightmare to ordinary citizens, but a wildly interesting challenge to mathematical geniuses and political junkies like Micah Altman at Harvard who wrote a dissertation on almost exactly this topic.

Compactness standards, rather than being the neutral standard that the court envisions, are likely to have distinctly partisan effects. These simulation results contradicts the view of compactness advocates and bears out Lowenstein's (1985) assertion that compactness is not a partisan-neutral standard because of the way that Democrats are concentrated geographically.

In other words, most compactness standards will give the GOP an advantage over Democrats.

Maybe this would explain why the Chair of the California Republican Party, Duf Sundheim, is so adamant about supporting Prop 77.

I ask that every Republican elected official in California whether he/she holds a municipal seat or a seat in the United States Congress support the fundamental principles of fairness and competition and not provide financial aid to defeat Proposition 77. These are principles that the Republican Party holds dear and principles that the CRP will not turn its back on - no matter whose job is put at risk.

When Republicans start using terms like "principles of fairness", it's time to be worried.

California's Congressional Delegation is currently composed of 32 Democrats and 20 Republicans, a 61%-39% advantage.
In 2004, Kerry only beat Bush by 10 points in California, 54%-44%. A 2006 redistricting with Arnold's pro-GOP "compactness criteria" would make the Congressional delegation worse off than 54%-44% (28-24 seats). That means the loss of at least four Democratic seats in the House - exactly what Tom Delay stole from Texas last Fall.

If Democrats ever want a chance at taking back our government, we need to stop the whining, stop the in-fighting, and concentrate on the things that actually change elections. Again, I turn to Steven Hill.

But has this stark reality of our political landscape made a dent in liberal or Democratic understanding of "what to do?" Hardly. Instead, moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party have been cannibalizing each other over the no-win debate about the base versus swing voters. Or else they have been fiddling to the latest fad about Lakoffian reframing.

How convenient, to think you don't have to engage in the hard work of enacting fundamental electoral reform, city by city and state-by-state, all you have to do is find better speechwriters and produce slicker TV ads and then the left can go back to its poetry nights.

The biggest battle for control of Congress won't be happening in Ohio or Texas or Colorado. And it won't even happen in 2006. Control of the US House of Representatives for decades to come hinges on an arcane redistricting initiative on a special election ballot this November in California.

There's a campaign on, and it's time we got involved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Arnold's Money Problem. Part I

While Washington is spell-bound by the scandal involving Karl Rove's inability to keep a state secret, Arnold Schwarzenegger is having a scandal of his own. It seems Arnold has a bit of a money problem.

Let's walk through the timeline. First, it was reported last Wednesday, July 13th in the Sacramento Bee that Arnold is being paid at least $5 million by a fitness magazine which advertises performance enhancement "supplements", while at the same time he vetoed legislation which would have restricted sales of these "suplements" in California. State Senator Jackie Speier, the author of the vetoed legislation, was a little suspicious.

"It calls into question the veto of my bill last year," said Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough. "If you recall the veto message, he went out of his way to say that dietary supplements are safe.
"It was an unusual statement that standing alone an elected official would never make. One, because he's not a scientist and two, because of evidence that some dietary supplements are very dangerous."

Then on Thursday July 14th, the LA Times got the story and revealed Arnold's pay is entirely based on the amount of advertising revenue the magazine gets. And just who advertises in these magazines?
Schwarzenegger's two muscle magazines are crammed with ads for performance-enhancing dietary supplements promising chiseled bodies and surges of energy. The 257-page August issue of Muscle & Fitness contains 110 pages of ads for supplements, from creatine ethyl ester to anabolic/androgenic "absorption technology."
That sounds to me like a catalog not a magazine!

So, the Governor of California is paid millions of dollars by a company who sells performance enhancing "nutritional supplements". Then, he vetoes a bill restricting the sale of those same performance enhancing "nutritional supplements". Did he veto the bill because he was getting paid? Or did he get paid because he would veto the bill?

More later...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Schwarzenegger Pimps For Bush

Governor Schwarzenegger won't be caught dead with George W. Bush here in California, but he will do it halfway across the country. The LA Times has the story here:

The governor, popular in California, had expressed some reluctance earlier this year to campaign for Bush outside the state, saying he needed to tend to state business. But Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that he wanted "to be a support system to him."

Schwarzenegger is far too much of a political weenie to be calling anyone else a "girlie man". The guy will not take a public stand on anything that isn't already popular in California. If he's for something unpopular, he will only support them if he's 2,000 miles away.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Who's the stupid, dirty, girlie-man?

Democrats came to the table on Propositions 57 and 58.

They helped negotiate a better deal on the pension obligation bonds--saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Democrats were instrumental in negotiating the gaming compacts and re-working the dysfunctional behemoth of the Californians Worker's Compensation system.

And what did Democrats get in return for listening to the people of California by negotiating in good faith and doing their jobs? A two-faced governor who smiles and thanks Democrats at one point, then in a wink of an eye turns to his populace bully pulpit and publicly trashes them minutes later, calling them schoolyard names and setting back his alleged bipartisan agenda to square one.

What this amateur actor-cum-politician doesn't understand is that every time he goes out and talks about gridlock, he creates more of the same. Read what George Skelton had to say:  

"But as the latest California budget war escalated Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed — as if reading from an old movie script — that "I will stay here and I will stay here and I will stay here and I will fight like a warrior for the people…. And anyone that pushes me around, I will push back, including the Democrats and the special interests. Trust me."Then, instead of "staying here" in the Capitol and trying to negotiate a budget agreement, the governor flew off in his jet to do what he seems to enjoy best about this job: hold rallies, soak up atta-boys and pump up public pressure on Democratic legislators."

We've all known Governor Awnuld has a glaring insensitive side. Whether it be calling gay men "fags," groping and humiliating women, or trying to embarrass members of the State Legislature into implementing his "vision." Sound familiar? It didn't work for Gray Davis, so why would Awnuld think it would work for him?

Republicans laugh off the "girlie-man" comment as Gov. Schwarzenegger poking fun of himself. What they conveniently ignore is that these childish comments directed at the legislature from the Chief Executive of the world's sixth largest economy--California--does have an impact on the everyday workings of the State. Had a Democratic-elected member of the legislature made similar comments, Republicans would be calling for their heads. Again, the duplicity of the California Republican Party is alarming--and sad.

Awnuld and his right-hand right-wing lackey Kevin McCarthy repeatedly charge that Democrats are in the pocket of special interests. So why are California Republicans holding up the budget on two issues that have nothing to do with the State budget? A recent LA Times report uncovered a direct link between the Republican Party and one of those issues, contracting school bus service with non-union out-of-state companies. Who is in the pocket of special interests, now? Dan Weintraub makes this point on one of Schwartzy's backroom deals:

"Finally, Schwarzenegger confronted the prison guards, demanding that they come to the table to renegotiate a five-year contract they had signed with the state when Davis was governor. The old contract promised salary increases now expected to total 37 percent. When Schwarzenegger was done with the guards, though, their raises under the revised deal were expected to total - yes, 37 percent. The guards agreed to take the money a little bit more slowly than they otherwise would have. And the governor, in exchange for this almost meaningless gesture, melted like butter on a Sacramento summer day. He promised them better health benefits, gave more time off to union bosses and expanded the use of seniority, rather than managers' judgment, in setting work schedules. So it's about time Schwarzenegger started demanding a tougher stand against the interest groups. Maybe that should start in the governor's office."

Yeah. Good luck.

Awnuld's Education Secretary, Richard Riordan, recently made another of his usual public gaffes when he told a six-year-old child her name, Isis, meant "stupid, dirty girl." The only excuse Riordan has is that he's older than the State of California and he apparently never learned tact, manners or the appropriateness of bad jokes. Awnuld has the same problem, but he has less of an excuse. He touted himself as a smart man, a business man, who directed his multi-million dollar empire with sound judgment and solid business skills. So, to prove that, Awnuld regularly meets with legislators, asks for their help, portrays himself as a humble servant of the people, then turns around and kicks them in the ass.

Nice going champ.

You're doing a bang up job so far.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Schwarzenegger Starts Summer Slamfest

Let the Games Begin!

Governor Schwarzenegger officially renegged on his campaign promise to end "politics as usual" in Sacramento by pouring gasoline on an already smoldering fire of political rhetoric over a state budget that is over one month late. Just days after comparing state legislators to kindergarteners, Schwarzenegger offered the following at a late afternoon press conference yesterday.

The LA Times has the story:

"I will stay here until 2006. I will stay here, and I will fight like a warrior for the people," he said. "And there is no one that can stop me. If anyone pushes me around, I will push back, including the Democrats and the special interests. Trust me."

Trust him? Trust the guy who said he would change the tone of politics in Sacramento? Trust the guy who said he would bring in a new era of cooperation and bipartisanship?
I don't know about you, but trust is not something I'm willing to give this governor anymore. How many more promises will he break before his popularity starts to suffer? I think we need to start a list of the Governor's broken promises. Maybe we can convince Pacific John over at Gropinator to start a running list. He's done an excellent job of detailing every step and misstep made so far by Schwazenegger.

In your opinion, what is the worst broken promise made by Governor Schwarzenegger just 8 months into his term?

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Budget Guru or Budget Witch Doctor?

The people of California unceremoniously and zealously tossed out their democratically elected governor in an unprecedented and wildly successful recall campaign.

Fair enough.

That's what democracy is all about. Bill Clinton gave a consenting adult a blow-job and the country impeached him.

Consider them spanked.

Really hard.

But did we get what we asked for? Has Awnuld performed? Or do we have much of the same, tired ol' thang?
Even the stalwart, extremists have a word for the actor-turned-politician.

Hey, voters, ya happy?

Ultra-thin ego Gropinator takes a bow at every possible turn, imagining the Oscar red carpet that will never be. Even fellow egoist Dan Weintraub finally took a break from his adulation...

Schwarzenegger says he has a three-year plan to bring the budget back into balance. But if he keeps making progress at this rate, it will take him more like 30 years to get the job done.

Don't get me wrong. Weintraub, the "political expert," softened his blow by explaining (on behalf of Schwarzenegger) his motives. However, making excuses for an ingenue is OK in the theater. When thousands of students, parents, children, members of the disabled community, and middle-class taxpayer get the shaft, frankly, there are no excuses.

The 2004-2005 State budget is out very soon. Everyone will take a hit, especially those who can least afford it. Let's hope Democrats are really listening, not to the bogus polls that say voters hate them, but to their consciences, where ideas flourish and decency rules.

By the way, Awnuld has his day coming soon.

Welcome to politics, Gropinator.

Schwarzenegger's Honeymoon Over?

Republicans Squirming on Budget

Today's LA Times reports today on what many in the Capitol have been speculating for weeks. Will Republicans vote for a budget full of gimmicks and accounting tricks? Not that Democrats like to vote for a fiscally irresponsible budget, but if that's what Arnold wants to do, Democrats are more than willing to give him as much rope as he needs to hang himself.

Republican lawmakers, frustrated with the direction of talks over the $103-billion budget, are threatening not to vote for whatever plan emerges from the governor's office. They complain that he is yielding to too many Democratic demands, and that the budget is starting to resemble the kind of spending plan — marked by overspending, irresponsible borrowing and too many fees — that former Gov. Gray Davis would have crafted.

State Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno) said "there remain for many of us some very serious questions about where we are." He praised the spending reforms contained in the governor's original January budget, but said those proposals "for the most part have been jettisoned in the process of the last several weeks."

Another veteran Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, was blunter: "If this budget had the name Gray Davis on it, it wouldn't be supported. It walks on the wrong side of the issues relative to the Republican Party."

We always know when a Governor is losing his invulnerability when members of his own party begin to criticize him. That's what happened to Davis during the Energy crisis, and it may be happening now with Schwarzenegger's budget. Stay tuned for conservativbellwetherer, Tom McClintock's speech on the Senate floor when the budget passes sometime next week. McClintock is a true fiscal conservative (wouldn't spend tax money to save his own grandmother from a life of poverty and misery) and this budget of gimmickry stands for everthing McClintock hates. But McClintock is in aawkwardrd position because Schwarzenegger recently held a fund-raiser for him, and this is his party's governor's first budget.

Is it bad that I like to see Republicans squirm?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Schwarzenegger's Indian Gaming Compact A Dud

New Compact Expands Gambling, Will Not Help Budget Crisis

Once again, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (GAS) is touting another compact that really isn't good for anybody. Yesterday, Schwarzenegger took a couple of hours out of the day (when he's supposed to be working on the budget) to hold a major press conference announcing his new Indian gaming compacts.

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) the compacts are not a good deal for California. Basically, in exchange for a massive expansion of gambling, the state will get $100 million a year for transportation projects. This is well short of the $500 million Schwarzenegger said he would get, and it does absolutely nothing to fill the $14 billion hole in the state budget.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but perhaps Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee says it best.

In theory, the compacts would generate another $150 million a year for the state treasury, but that, too, is a relatively tiny sum when the state's general fund is running more than $75 billion and the deficit is $14 billion. Those funds, moreover, would materialize only as the tribes expand slot machine operations, which tribal officials say will depend on judgments about the gambling market. And the sum, whatever it may be, would be fixed - a per-machine fee, rather than a percentage of casino revenues - and thus would be diminished by inflation over time.

While the financial benefits to the state would be minimal - unless many more tribes agree to similar compacts - the tribes could gain a strengthened monopoly on casino gambling, what tribal attorney Howard Dickstein called "the promise of exclusivity." Schwarzenegger is pledging to vigorously oppose a measure on the November ballot, sponsored by non-Indian card rooms and horse racing tracks, that would allow them to operate lucrative slot machines, and also a measure sponsored by some tribes that would remove all limits on tribal slot machines.

At least Walters is calling out Schwarzenegger on yet another failed campaign promise. Maybe some more writers will grow some cajones as the budget debate boils over in the next week.