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A Primer on Command Democracy

We have been informed that proper attention is not being paid to the reapportionment business. We have been informed, in fact, that some citizens are refusing to read further articles on the reapportionment business, claiming they would sooner help with their teen-ager’s trigonometry.

This is understandable. But regrettable. Helping with the trigonometry is simply too dear a price to pay for reapportionment avoidance. So today we offer a quick and easy guide. Read this and never fear reapportionment again.

First, you must understand the nature of the beast. A Soviet metaphor might be useful here. You know how the Soviets employ--or once employed--a command economy where the Moscow bigwigs tell everyone exactly how many tractor tires and baby bottles they will need for the next 10 years?

OK, so think of reapportionment along the same lines. Only, instead of a command economy, picture a command democracy. The Sacramento bigwigs want to jigger the districts so they can tell us exactly how many Democrats, how many Republicans, how many whites and blacks and Latinos, how many men and women we will elect to public office over the next 10 years.

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Simple enough, eh? But perhaps you have wondered why it seems that only California gets enthusiastic about this kind of political fun. Why you never hear of, say, Nebraska or Maine getting worked up over reapportionment.

At first glance, the answer may seem obvious: Nebraska and Maine don’t have Willie Brown running their legislatures.

But no! The real reason lies elsewhere. California, you see, is the only state where the population reconfigures itself every decade. Each and every day, 37,600 new citizens arrive here, upsetting the political equilibrium.

Eventually, the equilibrium must be restored. And how? By command democracy! The Legislature sits down in an atmosphere of cooperation and sweet reason to decide whose political careers will be ruined. Everything about this process is rational.

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Take the case of the Westside sacrificee. When the Democrats, who control the Assembly, were forced to “collapse” or eliminate one district in West L. A., you would figure they would sacrifice a Republican, correct?

Why, no, they picked leftie Tom Hayden, a Democrat. Is this the first case of a politician having his career scuttled because his colleagues did not like his ex-wife? We do not know.

There are many such stories in command democracy. We cannot tell them all. We have to save some room for the big stuff.

Here’s what I mean: In Sacramento all the small stories eventually add up to one, big general plan. And this plan gets submitted to the governor.

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But wait! The Legislature has not submitted a plan to the governor. It has submitted three. There’s Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

All three have been duly passed by the Legislature. Each one contradicts the other. Each has its own story to tell.

Plan B--we think it’s Plan B--is designed to maximize the possibility of an override if the governor vetoes everything. The maximizing part stems from its appeal to certain Republican legislators as well as most Democrats.

Plan A--we think it’s Plan A--cast its appeal to neither the Legislature nor the governor. It is fashioned as a tasty morsel for the courts should no approved plan emerge from the Capitol.

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Plan C--we’re sure about this one--is the one designed to have the greatest appeal to the governor because it would give the Republicans the greatest chance of winning parity in the Legislature.

Here’s how the three-plan scheme is supposed to work. We think. Gov. Wilson stares at all three sitting on his desk. Plan C is the only version he would even consider signing. But if he refuses to sign C, then he must consider whether B will so attractive to the targeted Republicans that it would win an override. Since Wilson hates B worse than C, an override would be bad news.

And even if B fails to win an override, he must also consider A. Would the courts go for A rather than a plan the governor likes, since A, after all, carries the imprimatur of the Legislature?

Wilson will think about it. He might wish he could mix ‘n’ match among the plans so as to find a palatable compromise. A little A, a little B, a little C. But he cannot. He must swallow one of the plans whole, or veto them all.

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Command democracy. Our 10-year plan, our great leap forward. In the richness of detail, it equals anything that might have been produced by, say, the Moscow Ministry of Tractor Tire Valves.

And we should know all about it. But, on second thought, I think trigonometry would be more fun.


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