As President Obama and lame duck Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have
learned the hard way, complete overhauls or transformations are rare in
American politics. Incrementalism is the general rule even here in California
despite our reputation for exporting revolutionary
ideas. California has been in
acute crisis mode for the better part of the last two decades as made stark in
two new books, Remaking
California and California
Crackup. That’s a
generation-load of opportunity gone to waste. Pundits Mark Paul and Joe Mathews close their
reform-blueprint book, California Crackup, with a reminder of the scroll on
display in the state capitol: "Bring Me Men to Match My Mountains!" It is call to arms for all reformers.
Often we Californians are presented with a Hobson’s Choice: Do we throw
up our hands and simply hope for a Constitutional
Convention to shake things up; or do we settle for something more modest and
trudge onward? In just over a week
and a half, Californians can do a bit of both. For the latter we can vote Yes on Prop. 20 and No on Prop.
27, and for the former we can take matters into our own hands and participate
in the ongoing political reform efforts at www.ReThinkCali.com.
Arguably, the three-legged
stool of political reform in California rests on open primaries,
redistricting reform and term limits modification. The first was addressed with the passage of Prop. 14 this
past June and the second can be reinforced with Prop.
20 on November 2nd. A version of the third stool was attempted with Prop. 93 in
2008 (aka The
Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act) only to go down in defeat. But like Lazarus, expect it to rise
Thanks to SBXXX, a bi-partisan gerrymandering flimflam that took place
after the 2000 Census, only one congressional seat changed hands in all those
years. It should have been called
the Incumbent Protection Act. The
political mandarins created "safe seats" whereby the winner of the primary was
all but ensured a victory in the general election. The passage of Open Primaries will change that soon but the
lines need to be drawn to create more competitive districts-especially when redistricting
is a once-in-a-decade occurrence.
Just two years ago, voters approved Proposition 11 which created an
independent commission for drawing the boundaries for state legislative races-starting
in 2011. On the ballot this
November is Proposition 20, expanding their role to include the districts of
members of Congress. As Bill Mundell
points out in a recent Daily News piece, not only is Prop 20 drawing heavy fire
from the foot soldiers of Big Poli, but there is also the cynical ploy of
Proposition 27, a competing ballot measure that would reverse the will of the
people and return all of the political cartography to-you guessed it-the Legislature.
Even with a new documentaries out about the dark arts of drawing
political lines like Gerrymandering,
redistricting isn’t the sexist issue for voters-especially those whose eyes are
already glazed over by the onslaught of candidate and issue campaign ads and
literature. The Sacramento
Bee does an admirable job breaking it down but fair elections has none of
the resonance of say legalizing marijuana or following how much is being spent
the Governor’s race. A lot of
column inches and cable commentary are spent on Mama Grizzlies and other supposed
Meta political issues-perhaps because they are more easily understood. But good government advocates of all
political stripes, "Goo-Goo’s"
to borrow a term from the Progressive Era, keep on fighting.
Whether we can become the men and women to match California’s mountains
is anyone’s guess. We certainly do
not lack for Brobdingnagian
drive, ambition and innovation. The least we can do,
however, is commit ourselves to fix a broken system, even by increments, through
open primaries, redistricting reform and term limits modification. Hopefully we can find that tipping
point for systemic change through a Constitutional Convention or seize upon the
opportunities the manifold crises before us. In the meantime, let’s vote Yes on Prop. 20 and No on Prop.
of this piece appeared in the Huffington Post. Headington is also helping with outreach for ReThinkCali.