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The San Diego Democracy for America Meetup Group Message Board › FYI on Redistricting - Grist for the Mill

FYI on Redistricting - Grist for the Mill

A former member
Post #: 7

I thought it might be enlightening to see what Speaker Fabian Nunez is saying publicly about his stand on the issue of redistricting. This is an article by David Broder from the Washington Post today - a columnist and a newspaper I think you might find worthy of reading.

Don Hess
Crossing Lines in California

By David S. Broder

Thursday, March 31, 2005; Page A19

SACRAMENTO -- The hardest challenge in the state capital these days is to locate anyone who will defend the way California has drawn its legislative and congressional district lines in the past decade.

In this the largest and most influential of the 50 states, there are 173 major political subdivisions: 80 seats in the state Assembly, 40 in the state Senate and 53 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2002 exactly three of them changed parties. In 2004 none did.

This Soviet-style conformity was no accident. It was the result of a carefully negotiated deal between congressional Republicans and the legislature's Democrats to guarantee each side against any political losses.

Similar deals have been cut in many other states, which is one reason the House, which was designed by the Constitution to be the most sensitive barometer of short-term changes in the country's political climate, now has become the most rigid and inelastic part of the federal government.

Over the past three national elections, those of 2000, 2002 and 2004, when control of the White House and the Senate changed hands and the nation was treated to the spectacle of dramatically close national and statewide races between two highly motivated and mobilized political parties, the House has never budged. In the three election cycles, a grand total of 21 House incumbents were defeated. Most of the others were effectively unchallenged, vastly outspending their opponents and swamping them at the polls.

But now pacesetter California may be ready to change the pattern. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has thrown his support behind a move to shift control of the line-drawing from the legislature to a panel of retired judges.

On a visit here last week, I was surprised to find that -- unlike his other "structural reforms," involving the state budget process, pensions and education -- almost no one in the capitol building wanted to challenge the rationale behind the governor's move.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, perhaps the sharpest of Schwarzenegger's partisan critics, told Post reporter Dan Balz and me, "It is not in the best interests of democracy to have legislators drawing their own districts. We have to move [that power] to some neutral party."

Nuñez said he is opposed to Schwarzenegger's plan only because it calls for redistricting before the next census, in 2010, measures the changes in California's population. Schwarzenegger originally hoped that new lines could be drawn for 2006, but he now concedes that if that is impractical, it should be "as soon as possible," meaning probably 2008.

Despite the remarkable silence of the opposition, the Schwarzenegger plan could still fail. Most of the Republicans in the House delegation have urged the governor to abandon the idea because they are comfortable with their current safe seats and their House seniority. At a meeting in Washington, they told him that their powerful committee chairmanships were assets to the state and worth protecting. He told them to take a hike, but it remains to be seen if the public is as stirred by the issue as Schwarzenegger is. The first polls on an initiative to shift the line-drawing to judges showed only lukewarm support, and similar efforts sponsored by Republicans have failed in this Democratic state.

But no governor has campaigned on the issue as Schwarzenegger will. He is convinced that the districting deal has created the polarized legislature and made compromise on budgetary and governance issues all but impossible. Each party now plays only to its hard-core supporters, and the pragmatic center goes unrepresented.

The same thing has happened, of course, to the House of Representatives -- and for the same reason. Because the only threat most incumbents have to worry about is a possible challenge in a primary, they heed the importunings of any interest group that can make trouble for their renomination. That heightens the power of hard-core constituencies with uncompromising views.

Changing the way districts are drawn will not completely solve that problem. Because Democrats and Republicans now often live in separate areas -- urban or rural -- there is only so much "blending" that a neutral redistricting plan can accomplish. But at least at the margins, creating more competitive districts would probably help re-create a moderate center in Congress and the state legislatures.

When it happens, a shift by California to a nonpartisan commission on redistricting would lend powerful impetus to such an effort.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
A former member
Post #: 2
Dear Don,
I don't care for David Broder and I do not trust Arnold. This is not the time for us to be looking to Arnold for fairness, justice or plain common sense. I agree with Nunez; wait for the census.
Don't be fooled by Arnold; he sounds good but there is always a hidden agenda with him. He is a Narcissist who thinks the White House needs him.

Let's wait to redistrict when we are rid of Arnold. Never trust Arnold on any issue; never trust Arnold when "something" has to be done this year, this minute, etc. IIf the NeoCons ruled Kalifornia you would never hear a peep out of Arnold. Don't be misled by this NitWit.

f we progressives lose California to the NeoCons, God help us and all the other states. Best, Margaret
A former member
Post #: 8
Dear Margaret,

Thanks for your response.
I think you are probably right about Arnold's intentions to do things "in a hurry". But I don't think there is a chance of re-districting being done in the present election cycle - partly because Speaker Nunez opposes it.

Common Cause is an organization that has been around longer than many of the citizen organizations now popping up on the internet. They along with the ACLU have been fighting for fairness in the American political system for decades.

It is because their language is contained in the two bills on redistricting before the California legislature that I am interested in them. If the bills are crafted with the standards they propose, I think they will result in a system that is fairer than we presently have.

These bills will balance Democratic and Rebulican constituencies for each district as much as is possible, and, as David Broder says, eliminate a system where incumbents of both parties are "safe" as long as they do NOT challenge the big corporate interests.

If they DO, then the corporate interests fund their opponents in the primaries. This is true for Democrats as well as Republicans, and it makes us ALL subject to the wishes of the big interests, which intend to pollute at our expense, keep drug prices high, the minimum wage low, ditch their responsibility for worker medical insurance, and empty the pension coffers of those who have worked for them for a lifetime.

THESE are the real enemies in my view. And ANY proposal that has a chance of diminishing their growing power is one I want to listen to.

Whether or not you like David Broder, I think it is worth reading his piece for its logic. I also believe that it's worth listening to your "enemies" as well as your "friends", if for no other reason than to know what they are thinking and what they are planning to do.

Best wishes,

wink Don Hess
A former member
Post #: 4
Dear Don,
If we were living in the 1950's I would go along with what you are saying. But, we are not.

Believe me, Don, I know what the enemies are saying; I have been politically active for many long long years. We are not dealing with Everett Dirksons in this day and age. We are dealing with many sociopathic/narcissistic personalities that don't want to be fair on any issue for citizens. Oh, they sound good, but I can't, in good conscience, vote for anything that Ahnold wants.

The ACLU main goal is to protect the Bill of Rights.
Common Cause is a group I respect.
I know that all democrats are not people I would want on my side, like Zell Miller or Gary Condit.
However, this battle for redistricting is not something I will support in any way, shape or form at this time because it is a ruse NOT to be fair, but to control by putting more republican neoCons in control in California.

When we have a true Govenor again I will happily jump on this bandwagon.

But, not now; we are in a very precarious situation in this country. Cordially, MM
A former member
Post #: 10
Thanks, Margaret,

I respect your view. I also think that we should educate ourselves on all sides of all issues, WELL AHEAD OF TIME, rather than being in the crisis response mode that seems to dominate the thinking I've seen both in local politics and nationally.

There always seems to be a scramble to plug holes in the dike. It's OH MY GOD, THEY'VE DONE IT AGAIN. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO. There are NOT that many surprises out there if we just pay attention.

Why not get ahead of the game and be proactive instead of reactive. I personally intend to do just that, so that I can be a moderating force instead of more fuel for the panic. So, I will be studying these bills and following the issue until it is resolved fairly.

smile Don
A former member
Post #: 4
I want to thank Don Hess for originating this redistricting thread on thie DFA message board. It is one of the more intriguing ballot initiatives that is a part of the Governor's reform agenda. Lately, I have received a spate of e-mails from friends who have passed on to me information about Common Cause's efforts to champion redistricting in CA. I would like to explain why I do not agree with this organization's alliance with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on this matter.

First of all, I want to say that I have worked with the leadership of Common Cause for over 36 years and wholeheartaedly supported their efforts to identify, and publicize, the many cases of election irregularities, and outright fraud ,that took place in our last election. , In fact, except for this issue, I agree with the Action Plan that Common Cause has set forth for 2005. However, I strongly disagree with the support hat they are lending to Governor Schwarzenegger on his redistricting initiative, and Ihave been actively working to defeat it.

I have been involved with issues having to do with legislative redistricting since I spent a semester doing just that in graduate school at the University of Nebraska in 1968 under the direction of Professor Richard Rodgers who, simultaneously, happened to be the Legislative Counsel to Nebraska's Unicameral Legislature. We had an interesting time planning how to redistrict that state's congressional seats.

In the studies that I have seen related to the badly gerrymandered California Districts, very little change seems possible in this state unless we go to multi-member districts, the histrionics of certain democratic leaders, notwithstanding. The demographics of the state are the reason why. The groups of people who are mainly supportive of the Democratic Party are clustered around our major metropolitan statistical areas, and they predominantly determine the largest number of seats going to the Democrats.

Furthermore, redistricting, on a nonpartisan basis, has taken place in AZ, IA, and GA, in recent years, and no appreciable changes have taken place in the distribution of legislative seats between the parties in those states from the pattern that existed prior to the enactment of the new redistricting program.

To really redistrict CA on a fair, nonpartisan basis, which would provide a practical way for Republicans to gain many more seats than the single-member district system allows them in these urban areas now, my best information tells me that we would have to go to multi-member districts. This would give Republicans a much greater opportunity to win at least a minimum number of seats in those areas. Of course, the converse is true, too. Going to multi-member districts would, also, afford Democrats a much greater opportunity to win more seats than they now do in the rural areas of the state.

If redistricting, technically, cannot take place in time to affect the 2006 election, and most informed persons will tell you that it cannot, and if very few seats might change hands even if it were used then, why would Gov. Schwarzenegger, and his wealthy backers, choose to spend so much time, energy and money in getting the requisitie number of signatures
to put his Redisticting Initiative, which Common Cause has chosen to support, on the ballot for 11/05?

It is my strong belief that this socalled "nonpartisan" initiative has been chanmpioned for very partisan reasons. The Governor has introduced this cluster of initiatives as a "reform" package, and has advanced and supported it in expensive advertising as part of his reform agenda through so-called citizens groups like Fair Districts Now, the front group for Peoples Advocates, Inc.

The Redistricting Initiative, particularly with support from a well established group like Common Cause, provides a strong cover of nonpartisan reform for all of the other initiatives he is championing. This comes across to me as a very well thought out ploy to confuse the public about the real nature of these initiatives.

The powerful financial interests who have been behind Arnold Schwarzenegger from the start have reasons for passing this cluster of initiatives, since they each cut at the base of the strength of the Democratic Party and some of its strongest interest group supporters in this state--the teachers, the nurses, the public employees, etc.

I believe that this is all part of a well-orchestrated series of steps, which began with the Recall of former Gov. Gray Davis, and included the extraordinary effort to oust former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, that are all intended to help win this state back from the Democrats. After all, the Democratic Party, until last year had been in control of all of the major executive offices of the state, and they are, currently, in firm control of both houses of the state legislature. For some time they have also won a huge majority of California's seats in the U.S. Congress.

When Gore and Kerry can take this state for granted, in presidential campaigns, and do most of their campaigning elsewhere, you know it will take a considerable upheaval to change that around, and that, my friends,is exactly, what the Republicans are attempting to do. Make no mistake about it!!

Yours for a more positive future, John Falchi
A former member
Post #: 1
Bravo Margaret-----This fawning over Schwartzenegger simply because because he's not a right wing nut case like the toxic Texan, leaves me un-sympathetic. Let's begin in California to take the country back!
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