As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, April 27, 2009

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.

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