As we close in on election day, we can see in successive polls that the popularity of Proposition 28 is dropping — with the Los Angeles Times/USC poll showing that the measure no longer enjoys a support of a majority of likely California voters. Will the measure ultimately pass on election day? We won’t know until the votes are tallied.
I believe that the measure is losing support as the public becomes more aware of the fact that they are being fed a line of baloney from proponents of the measure who try to assert, with a straight face, that this measure “strengthens” term limits by reducing the total allowable time for an individual to serve from a possible 14 years to a lower number of 12. With all due respect, while technically true, the very practical reality is that if Prop. 28 passes, legislators will almost all be spending more time in office, not less. A study commissioned by the No on 28 campaign reviewed all of the legislators that have served since Proposition 140 went into effect that found that only around eight percent of them actually served 14 years. In other words, this argument is a “Trojan Horse” designed to try and appeal to voters, who still strongly support term limits by a wide margin.
Proponents of this measure are made up of self-appointed “good government” groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. The former has a standing policy position of opposing term limits all together, and in the landmark battle to pass Proposition 140 to impose term limits in the first place, the League of Women Voters would not help in the fight. These groups know that this measure is all about bringing back career politicians, who will value more their relationships with Sacramento special interests and their lobbyists, rather than a legislature of citizen politicians who <gasp> are worried about what the voters they represent think about the issues.
Despite the claim by proponents that lobbyists are empowered by the status quo, I find that the opposite is actually the case. Proving my point, almost to a person, every lobbyist to whom I have spoken has said that they are hoping/praying/anxious that Proposition 28 passes. That’s right, the lobbyists for the special interests want this — right now they all complain that before they can “get to know” (translation: influence) a politician, they are gone and are replaced with a new one. That’s the point. At some point the politicians “go native” and start becoming Sacramento’s representatives to the people, instead of the other way around.
I could go on about the total scam of a ballot title and summary given to Prop. 28 by former attorney general Jerry Brown, or how much of the millions of dollars that has gone into this measure has come from labor unions or through crony capitalists, as political payback for getting sweetheart exemptions for their proposed football stadium plans. But all of that information would only serve to remind my friends at Common Cause of their own hypocrisy, as they only seem to frown on this kind of behavior when the purpose of it isn’t towards their parochial objectives.
Is the work product of the legislature today better than it was in 1990 — I cannot say that it is. But I feel confident in saying that if we didn’t have term limits, it would be a whole lot worse. And if the voters fall for the ruse put forward in Proposition 28, and weaken term limits when they think they are strengthening them, look for ill effects on the Capitol, and for a backlash from the electorate when they figure out that they’ve been had.