Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

GERRYMANDERING....Governor Arnold delivered his State of the State speech last night, and I came away deeply depressed. But not for the reason you might expect.

Sure, he as much as admitted that his upcoming budget proposal would be mostly smoke and mirrors. And yes, his teacher merit pay proposal sounded more like demagoguery to me than a serious proposal to make schools better. What's more, both his "affordable housing" spiel and his prescription drug discount card came across as garden variety political pandering dressed up in populist language.

Still, something good may come of all this, and maybe his proposals will sound better after he releases a few more details about them. You never know.

No, what depressed me was Schwarzenegger's proposal to end gerrymandering in California and that's hugely ironic, because not only is this is a great idea, but the scuttlebutt says that in order to get Democrats to support it Schwarzenegger will agree to extend term limits from the current 14 years (6 in the legislature and 8 in the senate) to 20 or 24 years. That's also a good idea, since the combination of safe seats and absurdly short terms means we have a legislature that's both extremist and inexperienced. It's a toxic brew.

So why am I depressed? Because the insanely partisan atmosphere of contemporary American politics means I can't support this proposal even though I think it would be good for the state. After watching Texas Republicans ram through a brutally gerrymandered mid-decade redistricting that gained the Republican party four congressional seats in the 2004 election, how stupid would a California Democrat have to be to agree to meekly support a goo-goo proposal that would have the effect of giving Republicans more seats in yet another state? Guys like Tom DeLay and Hugh Hewitt would be guffawing in their beers for days about our terminal naivete if we went along with this. Raw power would be their ally in red states and appeals to progressive idealism would be their ally in the blue states. That's quite a combination.

So as much as I hate myself for this, count me out. Gerrymandering is a national problem, and it ought to be dealt with nationally so that both blue states and red states are affected equally. If George Bush were serious about reform, instead of advancing hack ideology as a response to phony crises, he'd spend his time on this instead of Social Security and tort reform. But he's not and he won't. And so we're stuck.

UPDATE: I note from my trackbacks that many moderates and conservatives are unhappy with my stand on gerrymandering reform. I don't blame them. But how about if we make a deal?

Here it is: get Texas to adopt Arnold's reform. As soon as they do, not only will I support Arnold, I will personally gather signatures, raise money, contribute money, and blog endlessly for the cause. Any takers?

Kevin Drum 12:18 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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