Tuesday, September 27, 2005

This Is What Happens When We Skip Our Roundup Reading

As noted in the comments to this previous post, the Capitol is a-twitter reacting to the latest Rose Institute Report. The Roundup deems such a glut of redistricting info "a slow news day." Here at Phoblog, it's pretty much what we live for.

And, personally, the Roundup's highlights capture views from friends and former co-workers on both sides. No, really, it's nuts. And fun. Except for that "the Rose is a front for the GOP" talk. Granted, I made fun of my Reep-leaning coworkers for that all the time. But, as with most think tanks, it's a matter of one organization setting force policy proposals finding favor with one party over the other. It's a far different Institute than it was in the 80s, as well. For one thing, in the late 90s, it hired me - so, really, how GOP can it be?

It's not Heritage, guys. Not even close.


doughnut70 said...

Ward Elliot a teacher at Claremont College talks on his web page about how Alan Heslop a former director of reapportionment for the Assembly Republican Caucus founded the Rose Institute to fight against the liberal wing of the Democratic Party led by Phil Burton and Howard Berman (whom your father was a supporter of).

Heslop also talks in his papers in that are on file with the state archives about the founding of the Rose Institute coming about in part from his wanting to come up with a counterweight to Democrats whom he felt were using the resources of the state in their partisan fight.

He also talks about using Republican donors to fund the Institute. Sorrry, but even though they hire a few good students along the way who happen to be Democrats, the Institute is clearly a Republican front and shows it in the stands they take. At least in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Berman - both of them I think, but Michael for sure - supported my father (though I'm sure he supported Berman back).

You're entitled to your opinion and your history isn't incorrect. Not wholly, anyway.

But Alan Heslop retired in 2000.

The Rose's historical "oomph" is a faulty analog to its current situation, I'm sad to say. Nowadays, given the college's leadership, stricter partisan prohibitions, and a change in leadership, charges of the Rose fronting for anyone are likely vastly overstated.

The Rose's current director is a great and kind man. Alan Heslop, however, was an iconic figure - larger than life and very scary. He still is, but he's not in charge of the Rose. Last I heard, he's enjoying a flock of grandkids, though I rest easy knowing he still supports redistricting reform.

But my assurances are lost on you, doughnut70 (though I sincerely appreciate you not posting as yet another anonymous commenter). So here's another angle:

Let go of the Rose, who bankrolled it in the 80s, and who was in charge of it during its glory days, and focus instead on these two things: first, the Rose does not cook data. Second, reform is necessary. Period.

But the politics will likely disallow progress until the voters get pissed off enough to scrap the whole legislature. Who wins then?

And they hire more than a few good students. They hire all good students (with scant exceptions). Even the Republican students are committed to good policy above all. That's what makes Claremont wonderful. It's conservative in the small c sense - reasoned, deliberative policy discussions seeking the best result. There's a healthy, spirited amount of pure partisan bickering too, but at the end of the day, we're looking for good ideas and we're willing to recognize them in the enemy.

doughnut70 said...

But i think the cure is worse than the disease. To believe you can take the politics out of reapportionment just doesn't stand up to past history. The only places where reapportionment reform has been popular is where it has reinforced the existing power structure and the upper class. The reason Republicans want retired judges to draw the maps is that they are A. Very Political, but with a veneer of nonpartisanship for cover. B. More Republican than Democratic because we had more Republican Governors back when the current retirees were appointed to the court C. Upper class people who won't take the necessary steps to ensure fairness in the process D. Those that happen to be nonpartisan and get appointed will be more likely to be swayed in drawing lines by the rich lawyers Republicans can hire and the studies Republican funded foundations (Like the Rose Institute at least in its past history) can come up with. There may be an answer that works, but remember if our seats represented the political views of California Residents then after the last election Democrats would hold something close to 60% of all seats because that was the margin Kerry beat Bush by in this state and I think most people on both sides would agree that the Presidential nominees were very representative of their parties mainstream. Given the choice, Californians will not accept mainstream Republicans in most seats and they are using reapportionment as an excuse while they try and rig the system.

Anonymous said...

First off - your point C. is SO offensive. What if someone argued that poor people needn't be involved in public policy planning because they don't take the steps necessary to better themselves?

"Upper class people who won't take the necessary steps to ensure fairness in the process?" What the hell do you mean? Upper class people are heartless cads who are, by definition, incapable of fairness?

You've just capture an aspect of the American psyche I will never understand.

Also - "rich lawyers" get that way because they are paid by BOTH PARTIES. Each party in California has a law firm and/or lawyers at various law firms for various issues. There is PLENTY OF MONEY ON BOTH SIDES FOR LEGAL BATTLES (both the righteous and self-righteous kinds).

Also - your closing argument presumes - I would argue falsely - that the majority of Legislators represent the mainstream of their respective parties.

On your earlier points, I have posted extensively on the folly of presuming retired judges will be handmaidens of Republican evil. For one thing, look at the districts that have come from previous slates of special maters (judges). They passed judicial muster and were better than those passed purely by legislative action. The Rose didn't fabricate that history to satisfy a Republican donor - that's the facts. As far as I know, even Bruce Cain from Blue-As-Holy-Hell Berkeley agrees with that.

And how, exactly, are the non-partisan appointed judges more likely to be swayed? They are just nonpartisan because they lack back-bone and are confused - thus subject to the wiles of fanged, wild Republican lawyers, prowling the halls of justice for juicy independent thinkers?

At one point I too championed the "you can't take politics out of a political process" position. That's true - it will never be an apolitical process. But you know what happened? I went to work for the State Legislature and what I saw - both from my own party and from the other side - scared me straight.

Savvy observers know that redistricting reform is as much about saving the soul of either party as it is about screwing the other one out of seats. Mainstream we ain't right now - look at the CA-GOP candidates absolute failure to garner statewide support. That's because their candidates are off the right-deep-end. There but for the grace of God go the Dems. The GOP's crazy, righty obstructionist legislators get there because they are elected from packed districts. This helps no one. Not the reasonable members of the CA Republican Party. Not those seeking compromise and deliberative legislating in the Democratic Party. No one.

The cure is NOT worse the disease here because you fundamentally mis-diagnose the illness.

doughnut70 said...

Sorry, but I do think it is a fair point to say that a board made up of retired judges who often are representing corporate clients as attorneys (or who are hired as arbitrators by these same large corporations) are going to be fair in drawing lines to the underrepresented. I am not trying to make an ad hominem attack, many of the people who would serve I am sure would be honest and diligent, but I don't think overall such a board would fairly represent California voters.

As for the point about judges being fairer than members of political parties, I would make two points. First we have examples from other states which show that these types of reapportionment panels lead to politicizing the judiciary and also to politically strengthening the status quo.

Second, the idea that the 1990 reapportionment was some type of wonderful thing is not a given. Certainly Democrats added a few seats, but if you look at statewide returns, they were clearly in an up cycle in general. The 1990 reapportionment had more inaccuracies in count than previous plans even though computer technology had improved and it certainly didn't do a good job of reflecting the rising latino population in the state. Democrats chose not to challenge it aggresively because they figured they could wind up with worse under an all Republican Supreme Court at the time and in the end, they made out okay. But it didn't have to be that way and again it has not been in other states.

As for the comment about both parties not representing the mainstream of voters, clearly we needed an Open Primary measure to pass, but that didn't happen and may not in the future.

Right now elected officials represent the mainstream of their own parties and if someone thinks otherwise, they can run in a primary.

Anonymous said...

Oh my lord, where do you get this stuff? That's both a rhetorical exclamation and a question: seriously, do you have any source material on this?

All judges are not corporate hacks. And, you may remember, we have theoretically democratically elected judges in this state - you have a problem with them, find yourself a 10 year member of the bar and run him or her.

Also - judges are not supposed to be representing California. They represent the law. That we elect them confuses the issue and may lead us to believe, wrongly, that they are "representative" like legislators. They are not. More importantly, they should not be. And there's that "activist judge" notion that has led to the idea that judges should be making and setting laws. And though the Right has claimed the "activist judge" line - liberals are EVERY BIT as against activist judges when it suits them, and are for them when it suits them. (The courts should preserve a woman's right to choose and defend us from courts imposing the administrations shitty civil liberties violations VS. the courts should protect our kiddies' right to pray in school and - according to Arnold, decide the legality of gay marriage and give states back the right to ban abortion as they see fit.)

I have never said judges are fairer than members of political parties as individuals. Judge-drawn districts, because they do so based on the requirements of a law (a law written by those who should be writting our laws - the ones who REPRESENT US, if they were representative right now). The judge himself can be, on his own, as staunch a Republican as he likes. If the law is drafted correctly, however, he is far freer of partisan influences than legislators.

Your grab-bag of objections to the using the 1990 lines as an example of a good process isn't sourced and is too scatter-shot to be effective.

We don't need the Open Primary to change political parties. We need a fairer line-drawing process and/or the active participation of those who disagre with the party. If someone doesn't want to be a member of one of the parties, then guess what, under our system, they shouldn't get a say in that party's choices. You hate 'em? Change the party, don't muddy the waters with "open" or "blanket" primaries.

Not all electeds represent the mainstream of their parties. And the nature of the current redistricting process ensures that - especially for Republicans - the fringe gets elected and the moderate gets the boot.

doughnut70 said...

First, on the open primary question, parties were set to make it easier for people running for office to communicate with the voters. In other words to make them more accountable to the people, not a rigid orthodoxy that our current political parties constitute which is starting to pass for religious belief. We are supposed to elect individuals not parties and the party label is simply supposed to help make it easier to find out what an individual stands for. Instead it is becoming a pressure point to keep everyone in lockstep.

To change the purpose of party registration from a way to help a candidate identify what he stands for, into the equivilent of joining a clubm cheapens the idea that elected officials work for the voters and helps get their ego's completely out of whack.

On the reapportionment question, I will attempt to source my comments, but I think anyone interested can find sources without too much work. None of my statements were new.

As for the point about judges, most are not elected, most are appointed, although we do have both. However, the vast majority have long histories of political activism and as quiet as it is kept, that is how they became judges in the first place.

I would also hazard a guess that less than 1/3 of all judges that have run for the office were rated well qualified by the Bar Association when they first ran. That opinion is based on observation because I do follow judicial elections.

As for the comment that judges will just interpret the law as written in drawing the lines, which would be different than what those sleazy politicians do, all I can say is that I don't think so.

First, the legal guidelines affecting reapportionment are pretty negligible with only a few important one's like balancing the number of voters in a district and ensuring that any districts created because of civil rights considerations don't change the overall political lineup in the state (Lee Atwater came up with the idea of using Civil Rights laws to pack minorities in Districts and then draw what was left in an even manner which had the impact of being a Republican Reapportionment and the courts have ruled you can't do that intentionally) but in general a committee doing reapportionment can find legal reasons to do almost anything they want to without a lot of extra effort.

Now some judges will be honest and fair minded, just as some legislators would also be in drawing lines. But the potential for corruption is no less available in one group of human beings than another, just because they have a different job. Either group is likely to engage in a political power play for selfishness, ego or a dozen other possible reasons.

On a side note, every retired judge I know has done some work as what is called a "rent a judge", so yes, they all have very large potential conflicts in serving on a committee like this and in fact I would suspect that most of the nonpartisan unbiased retired judges would find that they were too busy to serve. The ones that will serve will be the partisan hacks.

On the last point about your comment on activist judges, right wingers have used this phrase for years to describe opinions that they don't agree with. I don't think in most cases it has been a fair appelation and in fact I think conservatives have been the worst at changing the original intent of the constitution. JMO!

Anonymous said...

Clearly you and I have had vastly different government and/or political science classes. I disagree with your evaluation of the purpose of party ID tags on the ballot. Not to mention: the Democratic party these days is hardly in lockstep about anything except being directionless.

Most judges are appointed, yes, but each and everyone could face opposition on the ballot if anyone bothered to run against them. That they do not appear on the ballot is an indication of how foolish electing judges is period. It's the worst kind of sham democratic process for the branch of government that is, by design, not supposed to mimic the legislative branch. When you say "most are not elected, most are appointed, although we do have both," it might imply to less-knowledgable readers that these appointments are how things are supposed to work. They aren't.

As far as past political activism goes: I am of the mind to support anyone political activity - as open and passionate as they'd like to be, go for it. What mucks it up is our lowered-expectations view of the world that says people can't be passionate about both their extra-judicial activities and their intra-courtroom dispassion. It's a horrible limit on the human mind that only gets us into rhetorical and practical quagmires.

If we stopped this "oooh, gotcha" way of looking at active judges, maybe we could move on to things that matter. And I hate most everything about the legal system, so for me to advocate giving them a break on this is no small thing.

As for how judges were rated by the Bar, eh, who cares? They were good-standing enough to get on the ballot or get the appointment, after that, do I really care about the opinion of an organization the sole mission of which is to protect the flock and keep the numbers down at all costs? Hell, the State Bar and the ABA are responsible for the idiocy that is the modern legal education - do you really want to give them that much weight in judicial selection?

Were it left to them, they'd likely do away with that pesky first branch of government anyway.

Legal guildelines for reDISTRICTING can be as precise or ambiguous as we write them to be. If we could return some republican government to our republican government, things would run much better: legislators write unambiguous laws, governors don't advocate leaving things to the courts, Californians actuall get a representative government that represents something . .. .