Recent weeks have seen television ads and mailers from a broad list of progressive groups and politicians urging a "yes" vote on Proposition 93, which revises the state’s term limits law. Progressive groups who work at the state level have little choice but to back a measure designed to keep the current Democratic leadership in place, and Prop 93’s passage will enable some progressive legislators to extend their careers. But Prop 93 is a disaster for progressive interests. Its primary impact is twofold. First, it would keep the politically ineffective and non-progressive Democratic leadership team of Fabian Nunez and Don Perata in place for another four years. Second, Prop 93’s passage would enable Governor Schwarzenegger to continue to escape blame for the state’s fiscal problems, as Nunez and Perata have proved incapable of rallying broad public support against the Governor. New leadership in Sacramento requires Prop 93’s defeat.
Although Republicans were the driving force behind the passage of California’s term-limits law, the measure has not furthered conservative interests. To the contrary, the California legislature has become more progressive since term limits took effect in 1996.
Despite making a colossal mess of the state’s economy, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s popularity ratings have not fallen to Bush levels. The reason the Governor has escaped being the target of popular rage is less his celebrity than the incompetence of the Democrats legislative leadership.
And the entire reason Prop 93 is on the ballot is to give these leaders another four-six years.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez came to power due to the backing of organized labor, particularly UNITE HERE. He has rewarded labor and UNITE HERE’s support by backing the anti-union Indian gaming compacts
that are now before the voters in Propositions 94-97.
As Paul Hogarth described
, Nunez has made a series of deals with Schwarzenegger aimed at continuing the Speaker’s political career through Prop 93’s passage. Nunez even got the Governor to endorse Prop 93--which speaks volumes as to the measures’ non-progressive impact.
Nunez was a shining progressive star when becoming Speaker, but his deal with the Governor on Indian gaming, his betrayals of unions, and his widely-publicized and questionable use of campaign funds for junkets and high-priced meals have left him incapable of rallying Californians for progressive causes.
Why in the world would any progressive vote to give Nunez another six years as Speaker?
Unlike Nunez, Democratic Senate leader Don Perata never had progressive credentials. Perata’s entire political career
has been designed to keep himself in power, and Prop 93 would give him four more years even though he was elected to the State Senate in 1998.
Perata has done nothing in the past decade to justify the voters giving him another four years in leadership.
And having worked on tenant issues at the state level under Democratic Senate leaders Bill Lockyer, John Burton and Don Perata, I have seen firsthand how leadership makes a tremendous difference.
Tenant measures that went nowhere under Lockyer became law under Burton. And after Burton was termed out and Perata came in, tenant issues again became politically difficult.
Burton’s departure highlights the critical political context of Prop 93. If extending term limits kept a solid and productive progressive like Burton in power, I would be all for it.
But Prop 93 keeps politically bankrupt leadership in power, at a time when new leadership is needed to build public opposition to the Schwarzenegger agenda.