Common Cause & Redistricting

Hi folks. We have been reading your comments here on myDD and also from our friends in the progressive blogosphere, and have been hearing offline from our friends in progressive communities concerning our redisticting reform efforts, which is a nation wide campaign, not just focused on what we are doing in California.

Chellie Pingree, the President of Common Cause posted her thoughts in response to some of our friends' concerns on our blog this morning.  Obviously since the Governor of California has such a high national profile, it has brought the issue in the national spotlight.

First of all before we get more into this discussion, I think it is very important if you can please read our Linked text guidelines and principles based on which we are pushing for redistricting in California and in about dozen other states.

More after the proverbial jump.
I wanted to refer to this post from one of our supporters in the comment threads from last night.  Bagfly nails it.  Here is his post in its entirety:
The Puritans (5.00 / 1)

Wow, most comments are really missing the point on this partnership with Arnold.

There seem to be 4 main reactions, all of which are narrowminded and/or incorrect.

1) Arnold is Republican, therefore the outcome of the redistricting initiative will benefit Republicans.

2)Arnold can't be trusted and will trick Common Cause into being a front for a Republican powergrab.

3)This plan is bad, misguided, doomed to fail, a contract with the devil, not as good as x alt., etc. etc.

4) Look what happened in Texas. I hate Tom Delay. I am ending my support of CC, etc.

The name Common Cause isn't just a cute throwback to a long extinct political concept. Common Cause means finding the political reforms that make the system work for everyone - i.e. how democracy is supposed to work. If Arnold is willing to pursue the initiative on the table and work with Common Cause on seeing it enacted, then there is common cause between us and there is no reason not to benefit from support from the executive of the world's 7th largest economy in pursuing a very necessary reform.

As to the 4 major comments here are my views.

1) Arnold is only proposing this initiative. It must still be adopted to ballot by the legislature. CA's Dems are not going to sign off on anything that will give all the power to the governor. This plan puts the redistricting process as far away from the politicians as is practical. If the plan benefits any party disproportionately (which I doubt) it will not be because of Arnold, since he won't be the one drawing the districts.

2) CC is no idealistic amateur when it comes to negotiating political reforms with entrenched, sneaky, doublefaced politicians - of any political stripe. CC has succesfully been navigating the treacheries of D.C. for decades and knows how the game is played.

CC is nobody's front or fig leaf. The second Arnold goes sour on this he can bank on CC dropping their support and telling the world about it.

3) No plan is going to make the world perfect. The point is to always move forward in a productive way. The puritan front among commenters would do much better to view the realities of this situation rather than wishing for something they will never get - a political reform passed only by ethical politicians of their own viewpoint.

4) This plan is not at all what happened in Texas. TX legislators decided to violate their state's constitution and redraw their districts again within the set period. Those districts were drawn by legislators. This plan is trying to fix that exact problem. The plan is not simply to redraw the districts. Go read the proposal. wG&b=368187

This plan is a starting point. If you are irked because you don't like it - make democracy work for you and urge your rep.s to change it to your liking before adoption. And be glad that Arnold has put it on the table for you. Would that have happened without Arnold making it a priority? Not with the 153 people sitting in the same seats for another term; seats given out by this broken system.

Moreover, for those who are so concerned how this redistricting reform intiative will have the same impact as the redistricting intiatives Tom DeLay undertook in Texas, should read this LA Times article on how redistricting in California could backfire on the GOP:
SACRAMENTO -- Worried about losing clout in Congress, influential Republicans in Washington are telling Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that he should drop his effort to redraw congressional voting districts in time for next year's elections and limit his focus to reshaping the state Legislature.


The fear is that tinkering with the California congressional boundaries could jeopardize Republican control of the U.S. House. By some estimates, the state's 20-person GOP congressional delegation opposes the governor's effort 4 to 1.

The Republican backlash underscores a reality of redistricting: What's most important to incumbents is ensuring their own survival. Even with California Republicans confined to minority status in both the legislative and congressional delegations, many members would rather keep the existing lines than gamble on a plan that could plunk them in unfriendly districts where they would have trouble getting reelected.
Once again folks please make sure to read our principles and guidelines based on which we are pushing for redistricting reform in California, and which we are going to use as model to push for same reforms in Texas and in Florida.  We are glad to see so many thoughtful responses on our blog, here on myDD.  Please keep them coming.  

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OK, now it get it
It doesn't matter if you do something bad as long as you do it for the right reasons?

IMO: Common Cause is being used like yesterday's toilet paper.

by Bob Brigham 2005-02-18 08:43AM | 0 recs
Re: OK, now it get it
Okay, but what happens if the reform works, is fair for all sides, and removes politics from the redistricting process? You're saying that Democrats can only reform the political system after taking complete control so that no other party or Party has input in the process. That's not entirely democratic.
by fng 2005-02-18 08:51AM | 0 recs
Which is more likely?
"the reform works, is fair for all sides, and removes politics from the redistricting process?"


The power-grab passes, giving the GOP a foothold in California, while increasing the GOP majority in congress

by Bob Brigham 2005-02-19 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Which is more likely?
Pretty cynical for a progressive grassroots type, isn't it? You're only allowing for the possibility that we would lose out. I'm allowing for the possibility that good gov wins out.

We have the most important piece of the puzzle in CA, that being the legislature. Your GOP reps in the House (by that I mean CA, not personal possesive) are pissed that they might lose out, and CC is there as watchdog. Not a bad place to start at all, I think.

You want to try starting a redistricting process in TX? In FL? Why not actaully start where there's a chance it will do some good?

by fng 2005-02-19 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: OK, now it get it
You respond to a detailed post with an insult?  I expected a little more from the contributors at myDD.  For a second I thought I was hanging out at the Free Republic.  Anyways.
by MurshedZ 2005-02-18 08:53AM | 0 recs
Re: OK, now it get it
Bob's a smart cookie who has good thoughts on grassroots and State parties, see the Swing State Project; but he's sometimes not willing to see the forest for the trees when anyone without a Cool Kids card is working on something.
by fng 2005-02-18 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: OK, now it get it
That is why I was so disappointed.  In fact if I have it right, he is the person who posted how we should not treat the netroots as an ATM machine.  We have adopted that post as the mantra here at CC.
by MurshedZ 2005-02-18 09:11AM | 0 recs
I can't claim credit for ATM
and likewise, I won't hand out credit for people who follow it. I mean, it is like recycling, it is expected, not something to be respected (I'm not going to jump up and down with glee if Exxon has a recycle bin).

But, at the heart, the matter is one of respect. If you respect and appreciate netroots supporters, you don't abuse them.

But who cares if Common Cause is not abusing netroots supporters while turning their back on most supporters?

The people I've talked in San Francisco think this is the final straw for Common Cause just like 2000 for the Green Party.

by Bob Brigham 2005-02-19 08:15AM | 0 recs
Murshed is a Cool Kid
Murshed is a Cool Kid - he had his card long before many others.
by Michael Bersin 2005-02-19 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: OK, now it get it
Blogswarm can be, shall we say, expressive about topics he is passionate about. We don't get hyper-sensitive about mild profanity here at MyDD and are generally understanding of the distinction between acceptable rude comments, like blogswarms, and the more strident rudeness of rude pundit.

Perhaps you should consider a little toughening of your emotional hide. Yesterday's toilet paper is a pretty tame insult to take umbridge at.


by Gary Boatwright 2005-02-18 12:38PM | 0 recs
There is nothing wrong with responding to a detailed post with an insult -- in fact, it is the tactic Common Cause should have used with the Governor.

Some things aren't that complicated.

by Bob Brigham 2005-02-19 08:09AM | 0 recs
Appreciate the post...
I appreciate the post, but I still don't see enough good reasons to want to contribute to support this bill.  Maybe as you add more, I might change my mind, but right now, I am against this.
by yitbos96bb 2005-02-18 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Appreciate the post...
Thanks so much.  Actually if you guys have specific questions on this bill, please post them in our blog.  I will do my very best to get Chellie and Jon Goldin-Dubois, who has been driving the effort here at CC to answer your queries.
by MurshedZ 2005-02-18 09:25AM | 0 recs
Political Wars
Redistricting reform is a good idea and this bill may even be a good one in theory.  My problem is why does reform start in a Democratic state?  Do you really think you are going to get reform like this in Texas or Florida?  

We are in a no holds barred political battle that the Republicans have shown they will do anything to win - including breaking the law or the "tradition" of redistricting every ten years.
We are talking pure political power here and the Democrats and progressives better start exercising some before they lose what they have left of theirs.

by BDBinPas 2005-02-18 09:36AM | 0 recs
Is this still the retarded plan that...
...has three retired judges, picked at random, pick the districts?  If so, I'll ask again-what happens if you get Clarence Thomas, Roy Moore, and a drooling Alzheimer's patient as the three judges?
by Geotpf 2005-02-18 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Is this still the retarded plan that...
For some reason my html tages got screwed up.  Here is our redistricting guidelines which I tried to link to in my post above.
by MurshedZ 2005-02-18 10:05AM | 0 recs
Well, yeah, that's what you want
But does Arnie's plan still do the three judge thing?  If it was, say, nine judges, I'd be less worried.
by Geotpf 2005-02-18 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Well, yeah, that's what you want
That is certainly a huge problem Geotpf. For example, I believe it was Judge Sentelle's three judge panel that appointed Ken Starr as independent counsel to investigate Whitewater. I don't see any protection against The Arnold setting up a similar three judge panel of retired judges, or even getting one by accident.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-02-18 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Is this still the retarded plan that...
I was wondering out that site under construction page. The details of The Arnold's plan compared to yours still require considerable deciphering. I'll take a closer look tonight after work. In the meantime, do you agree that Iowa's program sets the gold standard for redistricting or are there even better states?

I'll visit your web site later, but could you comment on the three planks of The Arnold's redistricting plan that Common Cause finds most objectionable  and how you would improve them?

by Gary Boatwright 2005-02-18 12:41PM | 0 recs
The New Gold Standard
This is a whole new bill.  The plan that Common Cause and Governor Schwarzenegger have agreed to is completely different than what the Governor originally backed.

First, the panel will be 5 retired judges to be selected at random by the independent and nonpartisan judicial council, not by the governor, and not by the legislature.

Second, those judges cannot have strong ties to either of the major political parties.  And, the pool of judges has to be diverse: racially, ethnically, in terms of gender and geography.

Third, had this amendment been law in Texas back in 2003, the Republican gerrymander led by Tom DeLay and Karl Rove never would have been possible. This measure sets up a truly independent commission, and prohibits the legislature from pushing through a plan without a vote of the people.

Finally on your question about Iowa.  Iowa is the gold standard for Iowa.  I don't think it would work in California, which is much more diverse.  Also, Iowa has a history of political cooperation on this that just doesn't exist in California, or most states for that matter. We have built in many of the protections that are included in the Iowa law, and taken the best of what's out there in other states.  There is no doubt in my mind that this will become the gold standard on redistricting.  I'd encourage everyone to look at what we have proposed:

by Jon Goldin Dubois 2005-02-18 02:55PM | 0 recs
Re: The New Gold Standard
Maybe, maybe not. I'll post the same thing I posted at the Common Cause blog:

OK, 5 judges are better than 3. There seem to be provisions for more transparency. One little problem is the "competitiveness" business. I'd like to see some clarification on how competitiveness is evaluated and what the impact is on how decisions are made.

One big problem is Governor Enron.  In D.C. Republicans have been accusing Dems of being the party of "No". I think Dems in D.C. and in California should be the party of "HELL No!" If Governor Enron wants to accuse Dems of being the "source of evil" they should reject any proposal he is remotely associated with. If The Arnold wants to go the manichean Bush route, then let's get manichean on The Arnold.

It's possible you've come up with a solid redistricting plan. The biggest obstacle is Governor Enron. I say redistricting can wait until after the next election. Governor Enron is going to go the initiative route anyway. Everything he does is just faux drama and all for show, to divide Californians and poison the political atmosphere.

In the meantime, I'm joining the nurses and teachers in the "special interest" category of Californians who categorically reject anything The Arnold proposes on general principle. My biggest dilemma is whether Governor Enron, Governor Scumbag or Governor Showboat is the most descriptive title for The Arnold.

The biggest problem with any proposal associated with The Arnold is The Arnold. He's intentionally poisoned the political climate for his own reasons. This bill is not going to fix that.

My suggestion is that Dems write their own redistricting plan and send it to The Arnold with a take it or leave it ultimatum.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-02-18 08:33PM | 0 recs

The few problems I had with your endorsement yesterday are as follows:

First, The plan you are supporting has listed as its last goal more comptetive districts. It seems that even though you've been able to scrub the original Republican plan in the legislature, the current plan is also lacking in regards that it may overtly rely on political boundaries and less on competitveness which is something I think is important for us.

Second, I'm not sure how this helps you're overall goal in states held by Republicans. Are you guys going to fly Arnold into Floridaor Texas? While it may be another endorsement in a book you pass out somewhere, I'm not sure how this really makes the case for change anywhere else, where Repbulicans who've redistricted to maximize the number of seats are in no mood to redistrict.

Third, While you have endorsed a specific plan, the general understanding is that you're supporting Arnold in his redistricting efforts. As far as I know there's no Common Cause endorsed initiative measure, and that you are against  the Ted Costa initiative which is likely going to be the initiative Arnold endorses. How are people going to know that clean election advocacy orginazations haven't endorsed the COsta initiative?

Lastly, Would you team up with another politican for election reform who is in the midst of corporate fundraising, and is being sued by other clean government orginazations? The other problem with Arnold is the recent lawsuits trying to stop him from using other groups to get past California's fundraising caps. And is Common Cause in support of mid-decade redistricting? I haven't read a clear answer.

by Kombiz Lavasany 2005-02-18 01:45PM | 0 recs


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