Joe Mathews dismisses my analysis that the redistricting initiative might pass with all the usual arguments as to why past measures lost: support by good government reformers and the media is irrelevant; the public doesn’t care, it’s biggest booster, Gov. Schwarzenegger, is unpopular, etc. etc.

Joe is pretty much like the stopped clock that’s right twice a day, and this may be his hour. If the politics of the past is prologue, he is right — it will lose.

So what’s different? Joe points to “good government” and media support for Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 77 in the 2005 special election. But Prop 77 got caught in the maelstrom that sunk it along with the three other initiatives on the ballot. It did call for an immediate election in the new lines that was interpreted (by me among others), as an attempted Republican power grab. These problems will not plague the 2008 initiative.

Joe also overlooks a key difference — that this measure has real bipartisan support, which the 2005 measure, and those before it, did not.

But the most important difference is the times. The electorate is angry, dissatisfied and open to doing very odd things. As I sit waiting for the Clinton-Giuliani presidential debate that will never be, I am reminded how wrong the conventional political wisdom has been. I fully agree with Joe that redistricting reform will not pass because media and reform elites love it, or the public suddenly wants a handful of marginal seats.

It will only pass if the public sees it as an assault on a selfish, arrogant, out of touch political class that cares only about perpetuating itself in power. Maybe they will never see it that way, but this year the public is certainly more engaged. If they have figured out that oil speculators in Riyadh are making them pay $5 a gallon for gas, maybe they can also figure out that an arcane ballot measure like this one really does strike a blow against the very people they rightly blame for so many of their ills.