The Supreme Court and Presidential Politics

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The Supreme Court became a political football…again… with its 5 to 4 decision stating that an individual’s right to bear arms is constitutional. Even though Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama generally accepted the court’s decision, there will be plenty of advocates in his party who will argue that one Supreme Court appointee of a President Obama could reverse this decision in the near future.

Of course, on the other hand, this issue is one that may bring uncertain conservatives to finally embrace the McCain campaign using the same logic that one vote could change the result.

Thus, the Supreme Court’s right to bear arms decision will join the abortion issue as partisans try to use potential Supreme Court appointments as a persuasive debating point in trying to sway voters.

I believe the Supreme Court made the correct decision. Justice Scalia made an extraordinary effort to interpret the seemingly inconsistent clauses in this 27-word amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Scalia argued that the opening clause dealing with a "well regulated militia" – what he called the prefatory clause – is a logical explanation for what he sites as the operative clause: that the people have a right to bear arms.

Scalia argues that the prefatory clause is not a limitation on the operative clause but rather it announces the purpose of the right to bear arms. As way of illustration, Scalia says if one word were added and another changed in the amendment it would be clear that the first clause is the stated purpose for the second clause.

BECAUSE a well regulated Militia IS necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

To have a needed well regulated militia, the people must have an individual right to bear arms.

Ironically, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, whose work is cited in the majority opinion by Scalia, states in his blog that he believes more conservative justices who sat on the court thirty years ago would have not accepted the individual rights view. Volokh argues that Chief Justice Burger was a supporter of the states’ right view of the Second Amendment and that most federal circuit court judges would have dismissed the individual rights view.

Now that the courts have spoken the issue will be handed back to the politicians and political activists.

Read the full decision here.

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How is our representative democracy working in California?

Allan Hoffenblum
Publisher of the California Target Book and owner of Allan Hoffenblum & Associates

How is our representative democracy working in California?

In a word, dismally.

The June 3rd primary election selected party nominees for congress and the state legislature.

While the number of registered voters in California continues to increase — 16,123,970 as of last May – fewer and fewer participated in the primary election, reaching an historic low this election cycle, with less than 29 percent of California voters going to the polls.

The consequences of this are the ridiculously low number of votes that the top vote-getters received while winning their primary nomination.

In a hard-fought Democratic primary election in the 23rd Senate District, a district that stretches from Fairfax Boulevard in Los Angeles to downtown Oxnard in Ventura County, former Assembly Member Fran Pavley defeated her opponent, Assembly Member Lloyd Levine with 42,719 votes, which was 66 percent of the votes cast.

That 66 percent number looks impressive, but there are 238,682 registered Democrats in that senate district, meaning Pavley won with only 19 percent of the district’s registered Democrats.

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January 20, 2009…When the World will be Right Again

Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait until January 20, 2009 and Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. That is the day when all will be right with the world again as we shed the dark and evil Bush Administration for the enlightened and visionary Obama Administration. Imagine the breathless pronouncements we will hear from the media as all things are made right in the First 100 Days of the return to Camelot.

Iran Drops Nuclear Program – Iranian President Ahmadinejad today announced that Iran will halt its nuclear program and dismantle all its facilities. The announcement was made after President Obama called the Iranian leader and requested that it be done. Ahmadinejad also said he wants to go to Israel so he can participate in Israeli Independence Day festivities in May. “I love the Jews. It was Bush who made me say all those crazy things. I am getting counseling now and it has really helped.” Secretary of State Joseph Biden hailed the news as the “beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Mullahs of Iran and the U.S”. The Mullahs have also agreed to take anger management courses to better cope with their “inner demons” and their “feelings” about Israel. In a related development, Hezbollah and Hamas laid down their weapons and recognized Israel, saying in a prepared statement that the last 60 years of terrorism against the Jewish state was all a “misunderstanding”.

Bin Laden Surrenders to U.S. Forces in Afghanistan – Public enemy Number One quietly walked into a U.S. Army Ranger base near Kandahar and gave himself up today.

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If… if… if…

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The arguments on redistricting offered earlier this week by Joel and Tony really amount to a series of hypothetical statements that don’t square with California’s political reality:

If the “yes’ campaign” were to convince voters that the redistricting ballot initiative is something it’s not (populist and anti-politician)….

If the redistricting issues were to attract detailed, thorough coverage from a shrinking California media that now shuns serious topics…

If Don Perata were the Easter Bunny…

I’m not a doctor, but I enjoy practicing medicine without a license. Recently, I’ve begun diagnosing a California disease called Redistricting Fantasy Syndrome. Most of the population doesn’t know enough about redistricting to be susceptible to the disease. But in certain elite precincts, RFS has become a minor epidemic, striking down otherwise sensible moderate “goo goos” who persist in the belief that good process is good for you.

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Why the Tenth Time could be the Charm

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Joe Mathews is wrong. The fact the state Democratic Party opposes the November redistricting reform initiative does not automatically doom it – unless of course the proponents make the same mistakes that killed the last nine chances at reforming this arcane process.

The first four efforts at reform really dealt with changing the way the old county based State Senate was districted. That ended with the one person-one vote Supreme Court decisions of the 1960s.

The modern efforts at reform involve five initiatives sponsored by the Republicans, beginning in 1982. Each went down primarily because they forced the voters to make a partisan choice, and each time the voters said no; it is not my fight I don’t want to get involved. Most recently, in 2005, they voted down an initiative written by the conservative activist Ted Costa and funded by Gov. Schwarzenegger and Republicans. It called for an immediate redrawing of district lines, a move intended to help the GOP.

So how is the tenth time different? First, the genesis of the measure is not a political party nor a politician, but reform groups like Common Cause. For the first time, this initiative has significant bipartisan support, including Schwarzenegger and his predecessor Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. It can expect major editorial board and media support; the California media has kept up a drumbeat over the lack of choice in legislative elections.

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Gay Weddings & Wedding Crashers

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

In a Forest Gump moment, I happened to be in Mayor Villaraigosa’s office waiting for a meeting with his staff yesterday when I noticed a gaggle of reporters in his press room and champagne glasses near the podium.

As it turned out, I was about to witness the mayor preside over his first same-sex marriage when I was escorted to a conference room for my meeting. Apparently, I missed the rude wedding crasher who calmly stepped up to the podium after the ceremony and announced her opposition to gay marriage and added some inappropriate comments about the mayor.

This self-described “angel of the Trinity” later informed reporters that California would soon be punished for our Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages through a series of earthquakes and floods. (Thankfully, my homeowners’ insurance covers both).

Unlike some of the “bridezillas” you see on TV these days, this happy couple laughed it off. Good for them in not letting this uninvited guest ruin their wedding day. Like anyone, I am sure that they were annoyed with the intolerant tone of the interruption, but they handled it with class.

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Closer to the Bottom

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

If all economic news is bad news, this item won’t disappoint.

April’s S&P Case-Shiller home price index was released yesterday, showing that home prices in 20 major U.S. cities have dropped a record 15.3% in the past year and are now back to where they were in 2004. But in what may be a small sign that things are at the brink of a turnaround elsewhere in the country, three of the major metropolitan areas studied — while still posting negative annual figures — did show some improvement over the declines reported last month. And eight of the 20 metro areas covered showed home-price growth in April from March.

No silver lining for major California metro areas; the drop was much worse than the national average, and worse than last month’s year-over-year report:

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Doomed to failure? Let’s not be so quick to judge.

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

In response to Joe Mathews’ piece today in which he concludes that Redistricting is doomed to failure, I think there are enough differences in this November’s redistricting initiative effort that it does have a chance of passing.

The Democratic Party has officially come out against the measure, but they’ll have their hands full explaining their position. On one hand, they are trumpeting the campaign of Barack Obama who calls for change and undoing the old partisan wars, and on the other, they are defending the status quo of a very partisan current redistricting system.

And, the campaign for the initiative won’t seem as partisan as some Democratic Party leaders will try to make it. A number of groups that often align themselves with the Democrats have endorsed this initiative. So have some visible Democratic politicians such as Steve Westly, and I don’t think he will be the only one.

Political scientists often say that when voters look around at measures they are not sure about, they often take a cue from endorsements they trust. In this case, many Democratic voters will respect the opinion of these groups and individual Democratic leaders who choose to endorse the measure.

History says that your conclusion is right, Joe, since so many redistricting reform measures have failed in California in the past. However, this year could be different. This redistricting initiative will be a good test to see if “change” is truly in the air.

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Does Obama’s Candidacy Mean we’ve Overcome?

Guest Author and Vice President of Community Advocates Inc.

Barack Obama, a self-identified Black man, is the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the upcoming presidential election in November. Despite all the naysayer arguments that he couldn’t win the nomination, either because he wasn’t black enough for black voters, or the he wasn’t experienced enough for white voters, he has in fact won the nomination. Does this make for a watershed moment in American history? Is it evidence of sorts that America has finally overcome its shameful treatment of black Americans?

The issue of the nation overcoming its past is no small matter. Many contemporary civil rights leaders, national as well as local, have hung their careers on the vitality of racism, and many have made the case that racism will always be with us. Some, like the New York University law professor Derrick Bell, a major force in something called “critical race theory,” argue that racism is the bedrock of nearly all that America is and does. Racial advocates such as Bell and others argue that racism has simply become subtle and has “gone underground,” all the while continuing to stunt the life opportunities of black Americans.

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Redistricting is doomed to failure

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Here are some immutable truths about California. The sun sets gloriously in the West. The Clippers lose more games than they win. And redistricting ballot initiatives fail.

The measure was doomed the moment the California Democratic Party opposed it last weekend. The Democrats will call it partisan, and it will go down in the Obama onslaught. To have any chance at succeeding, a redistricting initiative needs more than bipartisan support. It needs partisan acquiescence. And this measure doesn’t have that.

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