Tonight's forum hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, including nearly all of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, is indeed historic. And it's a nice change to have the candidates come to LA to do something besides fundraise.
But I'll bet all the pink money in the world that each of these candidates is sure that upon victory in our primary, the nominee can ignore California other than for fundraising or a post primary PR pit stop. Everyone knows that California is safely blue, that a Democrat always wins here for president, that after the nomination is sealed, we're off the map.
Not so fast, lady and gentlemen. Our brilliant, progressive Speaker of the Assembly, Fabian Nunez, made clear today on a blogger conference call that the right wing Rovians have other plans for the state. And this is no conspiracy theory. While you are in California, have a look around:
--A tiny minority of Republicans in the state Senate have thus far managed to halt the budget process, even though we are nearly forty days late for passage of that budget. That's right, fifteen or so recalcitrant right wing ideologues who believe that Grover Norquist is still in power, that the only good government is no government, have stymied the Republican governor and Republican members of the Assembly. 82 of the 120 members of the legislature have voted for the budget, but our state is one of only three in the country that requires a two-thirds vote to approve the budget, a vestige of the beginning of the right wing revolution that began, where else, in California.
--A group has filed for title and summary for an initiative to pervert our system of counting votes for the presidential race, changing from the national system of "winner take all:" if you win the popular vote in a state, you get all of the electoral college votes. That's true of all but two small states right now. But the same folks who are behind the budget belligerence in the state senate want to put an initiative on the June ballot that, if passed, grants Electoral College votes by each congressional district. So instead of Bush having lost California handily to Kerry and Gore, he'd have gotten as many as twenty two out of fifty five Electoral College votes, which means that a victory in Florida or Ohio would not have mattered. Without California, Democrats literally cannot win back the White House. If you can't win by conventional means, change the rules.
--And of course gay marriage will be back. Several groups have indicated their intention to put that issue back on the ballot for June and no doubt they will.
The dots are so thick that they form a bright red line. If the right wing Republicans led by such primitivists as Tom McClintock and Dick Ackerman can continue to hold up the budget, they will try to show the public that the legislature does not work, that it cannot pass a budget. They'll bellow away that if we had more of their ilk in the legislature, we'd not have this problem in future. The reality is that this is the same obstructionist pattern invented by Newt Gingrich to shut down the Federal Government and that is being used now in the US Senate to keep us in Iraq. Obstruct. The people be damned.
The initiative to change the way the Electoral College distributes its votes is cynical and insidious. It also follows the obstructionist policy of the do-nothings: First, they'll blame the lack of a budget on the Democrats (never mind that their own governor supports the budget that the Assembly has already passed). Then, they'll move to give "voice" to their few constituents by quite literally disenfranchising millions of Californians. Just by making us have to spend money to defend the status quo, the right wing again chuckles in delight because since they have the big bucks, they'll push us to spend to defend the status quo.
I can assure you that we at Courage Campaign will do all in our power to organize against these sly, rabid ideologues. And we'll ask for your help!
Finally, the gay marriage canard. The same gang of haters will make us spend money to allow every human being to maintain his or her inalienable human rights. We'll have to work hard, but when we defeat them, we'll at least keep the status quo. But at what cost?
So tonight, as the candidates answer tough questions, let's all think about the toughest one of all: how do we keep California blue and progressive? The simple answer is organize, be prepared and take the offensive. I hope the candidates start by asking why this outlandish, tiny minority holds up a budget instead of truly leading. Why should we allow this minority of haters to cheat the public out of its votes just by spending money? And I hope the candidates understand that we cannot take this state for granted. The plan (obstructionism) is clear and so is the solution (progressive organizing). We have to act now. We cannot be suprised or unprepared when they use their money and their cynicism to corrupt democracy.
Follow Rick Jacobs on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rickjacobs