The secret force behind the propositions
WHEN President Bush came to Los Angeles earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger treated him like a rival Mafia boss crossing a turf line. Schwarzenegger didn’t want Bush raising money from the same right-wing Beverly Hills donors who the governor wanted to help underwrite his November ballot measure campaigns.
“We would have appreciated if he would have done his fundraising after the Nov. 8 election, because you know we need now all the money in the world,” said Schwarzenegger, who ran for office saying that he was so rich he didn’t need anyone else’s money.
By turning to those donors, Schwarzenegger has revealed a truth about his proposals. He presented them as nonpartisan, but they are unquestionably rooted in a gene pool of conservatism.
Some of the nation’s leading conservative thinkers and strategists are seeking, through Schwarzenegger’s initiatives, to alter the balance of power between the right and left wings of California politics. Their hope is to turn California red in ’08 and pioneer a new gospel that can spread across the country.
The grandest Republican architect is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, host of weekly gatherings of Republicans in Washington and, according to the Aug. 1 New Yorker, the current ringleader of the “Republican revolution.”
“He refers to Democrats as ‘the enemy’; he has described bipartisanship as ‘date rape’; and he likes to talk about reducing the federal government so much that he could ‘drown it in the bathtub,’ ” the article says.
Norquist is behind Proposition 75, the Schwarzenegger initiative that polls show is most likely to succeed.
It would prohibit the use of public employees’ union dues for political contributions without their explicit consent. It’s a Trojan horse whose larger purpose is to tilt the balance of power in politics by limiting union support for Democrats without cutting corporate sources of Republican funding.
“If it passes, it will be so significant, and the effects will be so dramatic, that you would see a dozen initiatives on the ballots [in other states] within two to four years,” Norquist said.
Texas Rep. Tom DeLay inspired Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 77, which would redraw political districts more to the benefit of Republicans and do so in 2006 rather than after the 2010 census. State and federal districts traditionally are redrawn every 10 years, consistent with the census cycle.
But like Schwarzenegger, DeLay did not like the Texas redistricting results after the 2000 count. Rather than wait for a new census, DeLay engineered a plan to redraw Texas districts mid-decade. Democratic legislators fled across the Texas state line in protest. DeLay’s fundraising tactics for that political coup d’etat is the subject of his recent grand jury indictment.
Fairer redistricting is vital in California, but drawing new districts mid-decade is frowned upon by good-government groups.
They recognize that plans tied to recent census figures are better than midstream revisions, which are prone to manipulation because they are based on older data. Those groups also favor transparent independent commissions rather than the type of unaccountable, unelected three-judge panel called for in Proposition 77.
Opponents of the initiative also say it could disenfranchise minorities by preventing the panel from taking “communities of interest” into consideration when drawing boundaries.
Proposition 73 is the red meat on the ballot, intended to bring the Christian right to the polls.
The initiative would bar most abortions by minors unless their parents are notified. But the fine print defines abortion in the California Constitution for the first time as the “death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born.” This definition sets the stage in California to undermine the protections of Roe vs. Wade.
To turn out Christian right voters, the Schwarzenegger machine hired Gary Marx, a protege of Christian conservative activist Ralph Reed. Marx led the get-out-the-evangelical-vote effort for Bush in 2004.
Proposition 76 is another Norquist special delivery, one he and other conservatives have pushed in many states. It gives Schwarzenegger extraordinary budget powers to cut spending. California voters turned down a similar attempt by former Gov. Pete Wilson in 1992, but Schwarzenegger is hoping to bring his star power to bear in the sequel.
The national conservative attack on public schools has also found voice in this election. Proposition 74 discourages teachers from working in public schools by limiting the awarding of tenure. The California Teachers Assn. considers the initiative a stalking horse for a voucher system of “school choice” favored by conservatives.
Most California voters are socially progressive and Democrats -- and they are not enthused about Schwarzenegger or his ballot measures. The governor is counting on them to stay home on Nov. 8, while motivated conservatives go to the polls.
If that happens, Norquist, DeLay and Reed will have the last laugh.