MySanAntonio : Metro & State: GOP senators adopt penalties for AWOL Demos, By Guillermo X. Garcia and W. Gardner Selby, Express-News Staff Writer - Web Posted : 08/15/2003 1:32 PM
Parking privileges, cell phones and supply purchases for the offices of absent senators would be cut under a plan adopted today by Republican senators as a way of enforcing thousands of dollars in fines on 11 Democrat colleagues who remain defiantly in New Mexico. Those fines began accruing Thursday against the 11 senators who fled to New Mexico to derail a congressional redistricting effort by denying the Senate a quorum.
Californians abuzz over recall (Christian Science Monitor, August 15, 2003): ..... From El Centro to the northern coastline, citizens tick off deficit estimates like seasoned CPAs and run down the list of major candidates as confidently as political reporters. Whatever their opinions of this unusual political process, frustrated Californians are tuning in and sounding off. "Voters are serious about the process," says Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll in San Francisco. "There is a renewed interest [in politics], and it's leading to more discussion about California and the future of its leadership." Specifically, he points to surveys that indicate that an unusually high number of respondents intend to vote in the Oct. 7 election. A recent NBC News poll put the figure at 78 percent.
Would that so many of them had actually voted in the last statewide election. Then they wouldn't be in this mess, because the threshhold for signatures that they needed would have been prohibitively high.
But seriously: what the hell is going on in our two most populous states? Have they both completely lost their collective minds?
Looked at more simply, it's all partisan politics, and frankly, citizens in both states really ought to be entirely disgusted and alienated by the entire thing. California is blaming Davis for the energy mess -- somehow, it's his fault that the state got gamed by Enron and its friends -- and the collapse of the technology bubble. Granted, there may have been things that he did that didn't help, but the rolling economic disaster that is California is hardly his fault.
Of course, the fact that the recall was actually possible is, in fact, the fault of those Californians who were so uninspired by their choices that they chose not to vote in the previous election. And, to be sure, if it seems like your only choice is between bad and worse, maybe sitting it out doesn't seem like such a bad deal. But sitting it out can have consequences, as we're seeing; the number of signatures to force this recall only needed to be a percentage of the turnout of the last statewide election, and not a percentage of all registered voters. And, of course, it was all started by a millionaire Republican from the House, who nonetheless wound up being so unpopular himself that he decided not to run. And now Californians are going to be confronted with a ballot with 135 names on it. Katharine Harris and the folks in Florida must be doing a dance of joy, anticipating the disaster that this election will be; they will no longer be in first place in the national elections hall of shame polls in the future. (Although, that said, it may not actually be that badly conducted, procedurally speaking; just because you don't have a clue who anyone besides the Viennese guy is doesn't mean that the state has done anything wrong. And apparently, California's punch ballots never had the whole "chad" issue. On the other hand, several of the districts had surrendered their machines, as part of a statewide plan to get updated more modern voting machines, and now suddenly they have to scramble to not only get the machines back, but get them ready and get ballots for them.)
Pundits have been saying that legislators and governors in other states will be scrambling to make certain that this type of thing doesn't happen there. That's an awfully wrongheaded sort of analysis. For one thing, there's no way to make that type of thing look other than desperately self-serving. But the more important reason is: they don't need to do anything anyway. Other states don't have a recall provision like that; the only reason to remove a seated governor is through actual malfeasance or a physical or mental inability to perform the duties of the position. North Dakota is the only other state with a recall provision quite so loony -- and they're also the only other state to have ever used it.
Texas, of course, is a case of partisan politics to the max. Somehow, the Republicans have decided that all these voters who sent Republicans to the state legislature should be represented by Republicans nationally. This despite the fact that most of the districts involved seem to have consciously chosen to send Republicans to the state legislature and Democrats to the national legislature. After all, it's not as though someone went up to those people, said, "Vote Democrat or Die!" and now these people are renouncing their votes. The people of Texas have apparently been making known their opinion of this process, and they don't like it, no sir, not one little bit. Yet somehow, the governor of Texas and the Republican majorities of the bicameral legislature have decided to continue serenely along their way.
(Unfortunately, the redistricting lunacy has already spread to Colorado. Even more unfortunately, the stupidity may be spreading to New Mexico's Democrats. Heaven help them if it does. Although I can't imagine why on earth they should bother. They have three congressional seats. THREE. For seventeen seats, I can see the point. But for three?)
And now Texas is proposing to fine its absent Democrats when/if they return. And if they don't pay, then all sorts of privileges will be taken away until the value of the fine is cleared. It will be fascinating to see if all of these penalties actually stand up in court. At the very least, assuming that the legislators ever return -- at the rate they're going, they might as well just move to Albuquerque; they'll have fullfilled the city's residency requirements soon, and the state's not long after -- the fines will be challenged in court for ages. The other interesting thing will be to see exactly who pays the most for this at the polls. After all, this is the sort of ongoing mess that voters not only don't forget, but will have ever-so-helpful reminders lobbed at them during the electoral silly season. "Vote for this guy! He tried to keep the Republicans from taking away your right to vote! No, vote for this other guy! He tried to make sure that you were able to get the person you really and truly wanted to better represent you!" (Although they will have to be very careful about the phrasing on those commercials; if they don't do it just right, it'll sound like it's about the right to choose, and that'll just confuse everyone.)
For some reason, in the name of democracy, both states have undertaken profoundly anti-democratic processes. The people in California who actually did bother to get out and vote in the last election are now having that vote invalidated. Texans who made the deliberate choice to send a Democrat to Congress and a Republican to the state legislature are now being told, "Well, we know that's not REALLY what you meant to do, and if there'd just been a nice safe Republican district, you'd have sent a Republican! We just know you're not benighted enough to have meant to send a Democrat!" In the name of democracy, democracy itself is being abandoned.
At least here, in the Land of Lincoln, all that's happening is that the governor is playing a game that's likely to come back and bite him in the ass, next budget cycle, pissing off all the elected executive officers AND the legislators.Posted by iain at August 15, 2003 08:01 PM