Aftermath Of The Proposition Battle: Listen To The Range Of Debate

Those who followed the proposition thread know the outcome, but in case you need a recap, Big Media’s got your back as well.

Efforts by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders to win voter approval of six budget measures on the May 19 ballot grew more difficult Sunday when a sharply split state Democratic Party declined to back three of them.

The mixed verdict by more than 1,200 delegates to a state party convention came after a nasty floor fight over the grim menu of proposed solutions to California’s severe budget crisis.

“We’ve got all kinds of divisions,” Art Pulaski, leader of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, said of the fractures among unions that drove the party’s internal rift. “It’s not unusual for us.”

Republicans, too, are split on Propositions 1A through 1F. The state Republican Party has broken with Schwarzenegger, its standard-bearer, and begun fighting the measures.

Taken together, the muddled messages from California’s two major parties threaten to fuel the sort of voter confusion that often spells doom for complicated ballot measures.

This is pretty on the money.  There’s a split within both parties, one that Democratic leaders aren’t coming to terms with.  Neither side has taken heed of its grassroots, at least in part.  With the propositions in trouble, we must take an eye to the message that will come out in the aftermath.  The truth is that Democrats have a principled policy difference here, and those legitimate concerns should not be discounted by the leadership in favor of a narrative that voters opposed the ballot because of 2 years’ worth of certain tax increases.  In fact, the word “taxes” was not used once on the floor of the convention by those opposed to 1A or any other measure.  We oppose these measures because we find them deeply harmful to the future functioning of the state.  We believe there’s a better way in the short term, with the majority-vote fee increase, and the long-term, with the end of the conservative veto and a more sustainable course, based on broader-based taxation to pay for the services all Californians desire.  We reject in whole the dumbed-down, simplistic framing that 1A would “reform the budget” and failure would court disaster.

As for the spin that delegates “supported” the measures on the “May 11 ballot” (Steve, you should probably get the date right if you’re working for the Yes side), and a “supermajority quirk in party rules” was used by opponents, I really don’t know what to even say to that.  First of all, the quirk has been on the books for a long time, and it was actually progressives like Dante Atkins who have been working to reform the endorsement process, so welcome to the party.  Next, with fully 1/3 of the delegates electeds and appointeds, most of whom negotiated and supported the deal, and another 1/3 elected by county committees, and another 1/3 grassroots delegates elected at caucuses, a 60% threshold, which again was never argued by these people when it worked for them, represents a fairly broad consensus of all three sectors.  Finally, if you went state by state, I would imagine you would find such a threshold in many if not most state Democratic parties, whereas the 2/3 rule for the budget, to which some are making a false equivalence, only finds parallel in Arkansas and Rhode Island.  I would be all too happy to completely reform the endorsement process and even question its use by the party outright, that would be a fine debate.  But whining about known rules sounds like Hillary Clinton’s staff bemoaning the fact of caucuses in the 2008 primary when they knew the facts for years.  The grapes, they are sour.

Now that the endorsement battle is over and the election just weeks from being done, let’s have a dialogue instead of a lecture, and let’s take the concerns seriously of those who reject the false messiah of a spending cap and raiding important voter-approved initiatives and balancing the budget on the backs of gamblers.  Let’s actually advocate for something rather than being forced to accept something.  Let’s not worry about “what the Republicans will say” and let’s not sniff that “pie in the sky solutions won’t work.”  Let’s reform the state and come out with a government that works.

14 thoughts on “Aftermath Of The Proposition Battle: Listen To The Range Of Debate”

  1. After attending the forum a week prior to the convention between you and Dean Florez, my mind was made up. I knew that the desperation coming out of Mr. Florez and this weekend, all of the other politicians was a bad omen to the ballot measures. These days there is no excuse for making an uninformed decision (though i noticed that many of the old guard dems voted the party line). I DID enjoy the glad handing I experienced while my elected officials were begging me to change my vote at the convention. It was funny as heck. I was the most vocal of opponents in my region and the dirty looks i got from the old timers, and the opinion changes I observed (hopefully some from my advocating)during the final debate was exhilarating. As a new activist, I felt empowered when I saw and felt the anger coming from the podium and the resolutions committee. I had a rollicking time participating in the democratic process. Thank you for the work that you do and i love the pics of you at the blog table in the convention center.  

  2. I actually think it’s a good thing, even if it means progressives lose some battles. If the state party is going to endorse measures on the ballot, they ought to have strong support from the delegation. A fifty percent plus one endorsement isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Doesn’t seem fair to the voters who would use the party endorsement when they decide how to vote.  

  3. Steve, you really think the 60 percent endorsement threshold is “supermajority quirk in party rules”? I'm sure it's not at all intentional or conventional to require that more that just a bare majority of the delegates vote to put the party's imprimatur on a measure.

    I remember someone else who tried making that idiotic argument. Oh yeah, it was Carole Migden. Remind me again, how did that story end?

  4.   The key question is whether we have reached a point that the majority of California voters now see the problems brought about by 2/3rds supermajority requirement in the legislature.  I think they are close to it.  Here’s how to seal the deal after the seemingly inevitable defeat of the May 19 initiatives.

    1.  Using majority rule, change the current gas tax to a gas fee.  Offset this with tax increases on oil severance, the top 1% (income tax increase), and redefining change of ownership on commercial property to when a majority of shares of the corporate owner changes hands, so this property can be reassessed at current market values.  This should bring in (I’m guessing) around 8 billion a year, but none of the taxes would effect 99% of California taxpayers.

    2.  Start a recall effort against Schwartz.  This is necessary because…

    3.  Continue qualifying the majority vote amendments (budget and taxes).  These can be ready for a special in the fall–but to make sure the special is called by Schwartz, we can threaten to turn in the recall petitions,

    which will force a special (and bring up the initiatives for a vote).

     This will require cooperation, and proaction on the part of our legislative leaders and various groups (labor, CTA, etc).  We had that in 2005, and conditions are much better for us now.  It is possible that we can get Obama’s backing for changing the 2/3rds rule (he must be sick of the 60% rule in the Senate and if California goes over the cliff then his efforts to revive the US economy will go over it also).  

     I just can’t believe that Californian’s won’t support the tax changes in order to fund education and health care.

    The above has an excellent chance of working, and while nothing is certain in politics, this is a pivotal moment in our country.  Let’s seize the opportunity.

  5. And we can get another 1.2 billion a year by going back to the previous federal rules on estate tax, where California had a tax that was fully deductible against the federal estate tax.

    We were screwed on this by the Republicans, and now that we have a majority and a President, it’s time to get this money back that was stolen from California.

  6. Epic FAIL by Maviglio, his use of right wing framing to bash the CDP because it was smart enough not to endorse the crap on the May 19th ballot just goes to show that the Sacramento crowd is utterly clueless.

    And his spin is just pathetic, really sad.

  7. Through this whole long budget process, the leadership of the Democratic party has done virtually nothing to make their case to the public.  They stayed sequestered as if the budget process was somehow meant to happen in secrecy and isolation and did nothing to build power or support in the general population.  This then has allowed the editorial writers to continue to treat this whole issue in a ‘plague on both their houses’ kind of way as if the Dems and Reps were being equally unreasonable in this fight and that the inability to pass a budget was a matter of the proverbial “political squabbling”

    When I go to the negotiating table for my union, I constantly hammer home the message that what happens at the table is the least important part of the negotiation process – it’s the support of the members that makes for winning a good contract.  And our negotiating team puts in most of their time and effort on building that support.  But where was the public campaign by the Democratic party leaders on the budget?  And where is it now?

  8. Who’s spinning here? Every single prop got a majority of votes, some a supermajority.

    I do love the defense of the supermajority vote though. I think the Republicans will find it quite effective when you flip-flop and start talking about why you hate the 2/3 budget  and tax requirements.

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