Second state of Schwarzenegger political reforms
By Bruce Walker
Pundits are predicting that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in trouble. His poll numbers are declining. He is facing serious competition in his reelection bid. Now he is pushing plebiscites which could easily fail: ending automatic deductions from labor union dues that fund the California Democrat Party and redrawing legislative districts in a genuinely non-partisan way.
Luck favors the bold, and few men in politics today are as bold as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who like Ronald Reagan had nothing to prove when he entered politics. What Arnold sees, I suspect, are opportunities and not obstacles. Consider, for a moment, what will happen if those two particular propositions pass.
First, Arnold will have proven his very real power to move the people of California behind him. That alone will create fear and trembling his political enemies and make it easier for him to genuinely accomplish things.
Second, the dramatic reduction of campaign funds for California Democrats will put them on the defensive across the board in the 2006 election. This will affect state government races, but it will also affect House and Senate races. Senator Feinstein, if she cannot use union funds to fuel her campaign, may not seek a third term.
Third, the redrawing of state legislative and congressional legislative districts creates a very real opportunity for Republicans. There is, of course, a danger. This reform could cost House Republicans a few seats in a bad year. But the popularity of Governor Schwarzenegger, along with his ability to get reforms through the legislature, would rise dramatically in California if he wins, which means that about half of the two party vote in the 2006 general election could easily go Republican.
What would that mean? Republicans would gain seven to eight seats in the United States House of Representatives, putting that body effectively out of reach of Democrats for the foreseeable future. Republicans could easily capture one or both houses of the California legislature, and half or more of the secondary statewide elective offices, which would deliver a body blow to Democrat power in California.
If Arnold wins in 2005 and that results in gains in 2006, then he should propose an equally important reform in 2007: allocate two party candidate electoral votes in California based upon the percentage of the popular vote each candidate receives.
California has been safely Democrat since 1992. With almost eleven percent of all the electoral votes in the nation, but completely predictable in the Democrat column, a significant percentage of the American electorate is disenfranchised in presidential elections.
A voter in Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, Wisconsin, even Hawaii is much more important in presidential elections than a Californian. Providing for a proportional division of electoral votes in California would make the interests of Californians suddenly very important in presidential elections. It would be very hard to argue against this change.
In fact, this is identical to the reform which Democrats pushed before the 2004 election in Colorado, with the difference being that Arnold could propose this a year before the presidential election (rather than contemporaneously with the presidential election, as the Democrats tried to do in Colorado) and the number of people disenfranchised in California is ten times greater than in Colorado.
What would be the impact? If President Bush received electoral votes from California in the 2004 election comparable to his share of the popular votes in California, then he would have received an additional twenty-five electoral votes (or a total of 311 electoral votes.) Only three states besides California – Texas, New York and Florida – have that many electoral votes.
Given the almost photo-finish in terms of "Red" and "Blue" states in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections – and the relatively easy margins in the vast majority of those states – giving Republicans a certain percentage of the electoral votes of California would make it impossible for any Democrat to win any close election in 2008 and hard to win with any candidate who was moderately conservative.
Add to that the much larger number of states which are "Red" than "Blue" (and the built in advantage that gives Republicans in the Senate), and the two Schwarzenegger reforms – one to help in keeping control of the House and the other to make it much easier to win presidential elections – and Republicans will force Democrats either to move away from the Durbin, Dean and Daschle dregs of the Democrat Party or to face permanent minority status.
Either way, America wins. Arnold has the chance to revolutionize American politics. And his has the guts to do it too.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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