Politicians who hold power wield it, whether it’s in Sacramento, Madison or Washington, D.C.
They do what it takes to maintain their control. They cannot help themselves. And so we offer this pox on both parties.
In Sacramento, Democrats control.
Hoping to chip away at Democratic supremacy, the California Republican Party, egged on by Southern California talk show bloviaters and $500,000 from Chevron, is using the state constitutional power of recall in an attempt to unseat Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton.
Though it’s wrong-headed, it’s understandable. Republicans are peeved that they lost a seat they long held. Relegated to a super-minority in the Legislature, the GOP is taking electoral aim at a convenient target of opportunity.
No matter that Newman committed no misfeasance, and certainly no malfeasance. He merely voted to raise gasoline taxes to pay for road repairs, a rational act seconded by 25 other Senate Democrats and a Republican, Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres.
Recall is the Republicans’ prerogative, so they’re exercising it, just as Democrats have the right to come to Newman’s defense by jamming through a bill last week to alter recall rules in ways that would benefit him. The Democrats’ measure, Senate Bill 96, would not apply to other currently pending recalls. No matter. They only care about Newman.
Republicans get huffy that Democrats are overriding the Will of the People. But there’s nothing sacred about California-style direct democracy. Petition circulators get paid by the signature and have been known to mislead voters into signing petitions.
Still, California Democrats, confident that they will hold power for years to come, are resorting to heavy-handed tactics too often. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown was running short of time to qualify an initiative to overhaul part of the criminal justice system. At his urging, the Legislature appropriated $16 million to support county election officials who would speed signature verification. The initiative qualified.
Last November, voters approved Proposition 54, which requires that bills be publicly available for 72 hours before they are put to a vote. Democrats in the Assembly, facing a deadline to approve bills, proceeded to pass 89 bills that were available for less than 72 hours, as Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin wrote in an op-ed for The Sacramento Bee. The spirit if not the letter of the law notwithstanding, Democrats control Sacramento.
Republicans are masters of the majority, too. In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans are preparing to vote on what surely will be an unpopular if not dangerous bill to repeal the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. Rather than act in public, they are hiding details. Outrageous, to be sure, but the majority decides the rules.
In most states where one party dominates, politicians draw legislative and congressional district lines in ways that will ensure their party maintains power. The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it would hear a suit challenging Wisconsin’s gerrymandered election maps, which favor Republicans.
Justice Anthony Kennedy could be the swing. We hope he notes that in his hometown of Sacramento, Democrats were the masters of gerrymandering district lines until voters took matters into their own hands by approving an initiative that created an independent redistricting commission. Democrats and Republicans objected. They knew they would lose power if people reclaim that which is rightfully theirs.
No matter their party, politicians in power alter rules and push boundaries in the service of maintaining power. They do it because they can. That doesn’t make it right.