I think Jon Fleischman might be a California Crackup-style reformer, even if he doesn’t know it yet.
The FlashReport publisher had a piece in the Orange County Register last week that was a Yosemite Falls of beautiful, wet, flowing truth.
The headline said it all: “Don’t Do Deals With Democrats.” And Fleischman offered two reasons for not doing deals.
The first reason was that since Democrats have a majority, they only want to do deals with Republicans on things that require two-thirds – like taxes.
The second reason is that Democrats renege on these deals without consequence. Once they have the tax or revenue that requires two thirds, they can reverse whatever action they did for Republicans as part of the deal with a majority vote. And Fleischman offered a long list of examples where Democrats broke deals in just this manner.
Right on both counts, Jon.
But sadly, that’s where the piece ended. Fleischman didn’t take the next step and recognize the implications of what he had just said. That may be because those editors at the Register didn’t give him enough space, so let me try to help out here.
Taken together, the two reasons why the GOP shouldn’t do deals with the Democrats show how utterly stuck Republicans in California are. Let’s look at the first reason. Fleischman is saying his party is only relevant on matters that involve doing the sort of things – raising revenues mostly – that Republicans don’t like to do, because those things involve supermajority votes. So they are relevant only when they betray their values.
And with his second reason, Fleischman convincingly argues that Democrats can break deals and renege on understandings without any consequence. Because there is no credible threat to the Democratic majority; Republicans have no hope of winning back the legislature and punishing Democratic misbehavior under the current governing and election systems.
I feel like we’re having a mind meld here, Jon!
I sense in Jon Fleischman a love, a deep love, a hungry love — a love he feels so deeply he has not yet articulated it — for a different California governing system. In this new system, Jon’s fellow Republicans can refuse to make deals. In this system, the Democrats won’t have any incentive to do a deal with them on taxes or revenues. In this dream system, Democrats can be punished for poor governance or broken promises – by a Republican party with the juice to win back the legislature.
Fortunately, I have a way to give Jon his system.
First get rid of that 2/3 business for all kinds of policies, including revenues. As Fleischman writes, “Thanks to Proposition 13, it takes a two-thirds vote of the state Senate and Assembly to raise taxes. Because Democrats literally can do anything with a majority vote except raise taxes, the only reason they enter into “deals” with Republicans is to raise taxes.” So let’s get rid of that incentive – the 2/3 vote for taxes — for Democrats to lure Republicans into bogus deals.
But that won’t be enough to give Jon what he wants. Republicans need to be able to win the legislature when the Democrats break their word and produce poor results for the state. The best way to do that would be a different kind of election system, in which legislative seats were allocated proportionally. Since Republicans get a much higher percentage of total votes in legislative races than their numbers of representatives in the legislature, a proportional system would bring them within striking distance of a legislative majority. And if the Democrats misbehaved, it would be much easier for the GOP to gain seats and win control of the legislature.
All this could be yours, Jon. But alas, there is one small matter first. These changes would require making a deal with the Democrats. But the Democrats would go along in getting rid of 2/3, an obsession for them. It would be harder to get the new election system – Republicans shouldn’t do a deal without it. And by the way, Jon, such a new proportional election system would be a constitutional amendment, so a Democratic majority couldn’t reverse it.
Imagine if they could pull it off. Republicans would no longer be stuck permanently in the minority, relevant only when they might betray anti-tax principles for a few deals Democrats can break with impunity.
This is what Fleischman’s piece was really arguing. And the above solutions, from California Crackup, directly address his concerns and would free his party. The only question I have is: when will he start fighting for these changes?