In hindsight, maybe I was a bit rough on the guy. After all, he was just trying to make a few bucks. He’d probably lost his job and was doing what he had to do to put food on the table.
But he annoyed me when he stuck a petition under my nose in front of the County Courthouse and asked me to sign so that “the people” could vote on redistricting.
That simple plea no doubt netted more than a few scrawls, at $2 a pop. Who doesn’t want the people to decide things?
What my signature gatherer didn’t know (he knows it now) is that the people already have spoken – loudly and clearly - on redistricting, and what he was participating in was basically a costly sham being perpetrated on taxpayers by sore losers who have nothing but contempt for the citizenry.
And, yes, I do mean California Republicans who have spent $2.5 million to put this on the ballot. They call themselves Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, which creates the acronym FAIR - almost as insulting as the initiative drive itself.
With that level of cynicism, it’s no wonder the GOP has become the minority party in this state.
To recap: Every 10 years, the state redraws the district boundaries of those who represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and the state Assembly.
For many years, the Legislature drew those lines in a way that protected incumbents of the Democratic and Republican parties.
In 2008 and in 2010 the voters of California – the people, my signature-gathering friend – voted to create a statewide commission that would draw the lines in a nonpartisan way.
They went through a painstaking process of choosing commissioners, eventually narrowing the 30,000 citizens who applied to 14. Five were Democrats, five were Republicans, and four belonged to neither party.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission held hearings up and down the state for nearly a year and finally came up with their maps for Congress, Senate and Assembly. The votes were nearly unanimous, with only one commissioner voting against all the maps.
That commissioner, an Orange County Republican, was the only one who opposed the new maps for state Senate. The five Democrats, four non-party members and the other four Republicans approved them.
But that wasn’t good enough for some Republicans, who looked at the new lines and saw their political muscle shrinking. Democracy be damned, they said; we have to hold on to what power we have.
I personally believe that those who are pushing this ballot initiative are not mainstream GOP; they are imposters who have hijacked the party.
Mainstream Republicans don’t merely call themselves fair-minded – they are and always have been fair-minded, and they believe in our system of government.
They believe that we are a nation where the will of the people prevails. If, after the votes have been counted, it doesn’t go their way, they will say, “fine, the voters have spoken and it didn’t go our way. We’ll try to persuade folks to side with us next time.”
It doesn’t work that way for the jaded crop currently promoting the party.
A special word here for our state senator, Sam Blakeslee. Few office holders stand to lose as much as Blakeslee should the citizens commission prevail.
Blakeslee, a San Luis Obispo Republican, won a special election held during the dog days of summer last year, taking 48 percent of the vote during an election with a small turnout. Should the citizen-drawn maps be upheld, the district he currently represents would jump significantly in Democrat registration.
Is Blakeslee out there saying, “Hey, the voters and citizens have spoken and I’m good with that”? Is he urging his fellow members of the GOP to back off?
Or maybe he supports the ballot measure?
His answer has been “none of the above.” He is affecting to be above the fray – too busy serving his constituents to deal with such messy matters as challenges to citizens commissions by his peers.
You can choose to believe him, or not, and decide for yourself whether this is a profile in political courage.
Meanwhile, signature gatherers have apparently collected enough sigs to put the redistricting challenge on the ballot. You, the voter, will receive the bill next year.
Who knows, they might pull this off. They did in 2002, when they began a recall against Gray Davis days after the voters of California elected him. That gave us Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
To paraphrase that long-ago Republican of note, Abe Lincoln, apparently you can fool enough of the people enough of the time. In California, anyway.