The GOP Orphans Its Referendum

By Peter Schrag

So the Republicans have formally thrown in the towel on their referendum to block use of the new state Senate maps drawn last year by the presumably non-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The main point of the referendum, the Republicans said, was to block use of the maps in this year’s election cycle. When the state Supreme Court ordered the maps to be used, their campaign people said, there was no point in pursuing it. The measure, Proposition 40, will however remain on the ballot. It’s just that there’ll be no GOP campaign.

But that may not end the confusion since, given the peculiarities of the California referendum process, a “no” vote is in fact a “yes” vote. Any voter wanting to reject the referendum in November, increase the Democrats’ chances of gaining real control in the Senate, or punish the GOP for attacking a process that it had once supported will have to be wily enough to vote ”yes.”

The June Primary: This is Democracy?

By Peter Schrag

Contrary to first impressions, there were a few signs of sanity in last week’s Top Two primary election results.

(1) Orly Taitz, the mother of all Birthers, got just over three percent of the vote in her campaign to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein – or at least to run against her in the November election.  Elizabeth Emken, one of the 14 Republicans in the race, got 12 percent and will have that honor and spare the GOP the embarrassment of having a Birther as its standard bearer. 

(2) The voters passed Proposition 28, the tweak in the state’s legislative term limits law, though we may never know whether it was because they thought they were liberalizing it by letting legislators serve twelve years in either house or tightening it by reducing the current total of 14 years – six in the Assembly, eight in the Senate.  But we still have the anti-democracy of term limits – in essence a declaration of no confidence in ourselves as voters.

Why Is the Conservative Brain More Fearful? The Alternate Reality Right-Wingers Inhabit Is Terrifying

By Joshua Holland

Consider for a moment just how terrifying it must be to live life as a true believer on the right. Reality is scary enough, but the alternative reality inhabited by people who watch Glenn Beck, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or think Michele Bachmann isn't a joke must be nothing less than horrifying.

Research suggests that conservatives are, on average, more susceptible to fear than those who identify themselves as liberals. Looking at MRIs of a large sample of young adults last year, researchers at University College London discovered that “greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala” ($$). The amygdala is an ancient brain structure that's activated during states of fear and anxiety. (The researchers also found that “greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex” – a region in the brain that is believed to help people manage complexity.)

On Redistricting: The Court Gets It Half Right

By Peter Schrag

The California Supreme Court last Friday decisively rebuffed the Republican attack on the new state Senate maps drawn by California’s new independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. But the way it was done could invite as many future problems as it solved.

In so doing, Chief Justice Tani Cantil- Sakauye’s lengthy opinion in Vandermost v. Bowen was a perfect illustration of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter’s classic warning against courts wandering into the political thicket of the redistricting process.

In effect, while Friday’s unanimous decision kicked the Republicans out the door, at least for this year, it didn’t slam it against future attempts, even more frivolous ones, to manipulate a political process that the creation of the Commission was supposed to clean up.  

The Court: Caught In The GOP’s Political Games?

By Peter Schrag

It’s no secret that anybody with the two or three million needed to buy enough signatures can get even a dead horse on the California ballot.

But last Tuesday, when the state Supreme Court heard arguments in the Republican Party’s attempt to block the use of the new state Senate districts drawn by the state’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, that telling fact was never mentioned.

Maybe the grossly misconceived ballot provision that gave rise to the redistricting case wouldn’t have allowed it to be considered. In any case, the justices seemed blissfully ignorant of it and of a lot of other crucial political facts as well.

Flash Report Gets It Wrong (I Know - We're Shocked Too) On Redistricting Report

By Jason Kinney

I consider Jon Fleischman a friend and his Flash Report blog an important reminder to California's resident ivory-tower intelligentsia that right-wingers can read and write, too - sometimes quite thoughtfully.

But his piece Friday on the ill-advised attempt by Republican politicians to overturn by referendum the will of California's voters and the hard work of the bipartisan, Citizens Redistricting Commission was unique in its brazen disregard of, you know, obvious, widely-accepted facts.

ProPublica Redistricting Report: GOP Manipulation They Missed in Orange County

By Chris Prevatt

Last week, ProPublica released an investigative report entitled How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission. In their story reporters, Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson, alleged that Democratic elected officials, in particular the California Congressional delegation, manipulated the redistricting process. In a press release California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said; “The article charging California Democrats with manipulating California’s Redistricting Commission is pure fantasy.” His comments to the San Francisco Chronicle were less censured and in character calling the report;

 “complete bulls..t, an absolute f..king fabrication.”

ProPublica's Absurd Attack on California Redistricting

By Robert Cruickshank

California Democratic Party chair John Burton and I agree on many things (one reason I voted for him to be chair back in April 2009). One of them is that this ProPublica article attacking California's redistricting is complete bullshit.

ProPublica's argument is basically this: California Democrats organized to try and influence the Citizens Redistricting Commission to produce outcomes favorable to Democrats. Ultimately, the Commission produced outcomes favorable to Democrats. Therefore, California Democrats successfully manipulated the commission to produce that result:

Worries About Jobs, Economy Hit Record High


SAN FRANCISCO, September 21, 2011—In record numbers, Californians say jobs and the economy are the most important problems they face, and half are concerned that someone in their family will lose a job in the next year, according to a survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation.

The share of Californians (67%) who see jobs and the economy as the most important issue surpasses the previous high (63%) in February 2009. Half of residents are very concerned (30%) or somewhat concerned (19%) that someone in their family will experience a job loss. Reflecting these perceptions, 67 percent of California residents say Congress and the president are not doing enough to help create jobs.  

Ending the Republican Gerrymander of California

By Robert Cruickshank

I'll admit it, I wasn't a fan of the redistricting commission when it was proposed. I opposed Prop 11 in 2008, the initiative that created the commission; opposed Prop 20 in 2010, the initiative that extended the commission's jurisdiction to Congressional seats; and supported Prop 27 that same year, which would have abolished the commission entirely.

What explained my stance? The arguments that commission supporters made struck me as absurd and not reflective of reality. Backers claimed that the commission would create a bunch of purple districts across the state, giving voters choices and somehow forcing politicians to work together.