Democrats Embrace Banana-Republic Tactics

California’s Democrats control just about everything in the state. They own every statewide constitutional office and have supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. Heck, a news report this week revealed that Republicans have a majority of voters in only 14 of the state’s 482 cities. In other words, the majority party can pretty much do as it pleases wherever it chooses.

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Yet the usually hapless Republican opposition has managed to inspire enough fear in the majority party that Democrats have resorted to the kind of cheating one would expect in some third-world backwater.

As this column has explained, one of the state’s savviest GOP officials, former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio, is leading a recall campaign against a Democratic senator, Josh Newman, who represents a GOP-leaning district in Orange and Los Angeles counties. The recall has legs because Newman cast a deciding vote on a massive increase in the gasoline tax and the state’s vehicle-license fees — something that will cost many Californians hundreds of dollars a year. (The roads here need help, but state leaders are too busy spending money on other priorities.)

Recall advocates seem likely to succeed at picking off this freshman senator, given widespread anger — even among many Democrats — at the tax hike. Losing Newman will mean that Democrats lose their legislative supermajority. In California, supermajorities are needed to pass every manner of tax increase. Furthermore, DeMaio and company have plans to use the latest tax hike to target other vulnerable legislators in other districts.

Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman speaks with supporters at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.  - ADDITIONAL INFO/// - ROD VEAL/CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER - 110916.Elex.Senate29 - 11/8/16 -  Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman hangs out at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.

State Senator Josh Newman

So far, we’ve seen the expected pushback — a particularly ugly hit mailer by Newman backers, and a tsunami of support from the majority party and from liberal interest groups. That’s politics as usual, but the latest gambit is particularly outrageous: Legislative leaders are pushing through a bill that would change the rules of the game for recall elections to assure that Newman can survive this challenge.

“The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot,” according to a Sacramento Bee report. “The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election.”

DeMaio and company are playing by existing rules, which would require the governor to schedule a recall election 60 to 80 days after the secretary of state certifies the number of signatures. They want to strike while the iron — or at least voter anger — is still red hot. They’re planning to hold the election shortly after gas prices go into effect. It’s a great strategy, especially given the large number of signatures recall backers already have submitted for verification.

But few expected Democrats to resort to this strategy. Senate Bill 96 and Assembly Bill 112 have been rammed through the Legislature as trailer bills — last-minute technical measures that are supposed to be reserved for budget issues. It’s a way for them to pass bills without the normal hearing process and legislative vetting.

For instance, the current analysis of S.B. 96 says that “this bill expresses the intent of the Legislature to enact statutory changes relating to the Budget Act of 2017.” But that language has been stripped out and the new, controversial non-budget-related language is inserted.

The bills will delay the signature-gathering process long enough to allow the governor to consolidate the recall election on the June primary ballot. That will give time for voter anger to smolder, and primary elections draw a much larger turnout. In this state, that means that far more Democrats will turn out, and the likelihood of the recall succeeding would be much slimmer.

Here’s the Bee again: “It would give voters who signed the petitions up to 30 days to withdraw their signatures, with county election officials reporting withdrawn signatures every 10 days. If there were still enough signatures to qualify the measure, the Department of Finance would have to issue a cost estimate for the election. Then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee would have 30 days to review and comment on the department’s cost estimate.”

The justifications for this rules-rigging are almost as outrageous as the legislation itself. Legislative leaders are upset that recall supporters tie the recall to a possible rollback in the gas-tax hike. Since when do legislators scuttle a long-established democratic process simply because they might not like the argument the other side may be using?

The idea that voters are being misled and need a chance to withdraw their signatures is condescending. I’d have more respect for the state’s majority party if its officials simply dispensed with these arguments and admitted that they simply are flexing their political muscle.

By the way, it’s a legitimate goal of the recall to get rid of Newman as a way to build political pressure for the Legislature to overturn the gas tax hike. One of the key reasons for recalling Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 was his support for a tripling of the vehicle-license fee. One of the first acts of his replacement, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a rollback of the fee hike.

“Recalls are designed to be extraordinary events in response to extraordinary circumstances — and it’s in the public’s overwhelming interest to ensure the security, integrity and legitimacy of the qualification process,” said a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, to a Los Angeles Times reporter. So now the official argument is that they don’t like the reason for the recall. And they’re doing this for the public’s interest, of course. DeMaio has threatened legal action, but this whole thing could further delay the election.

This isn’t the first time the state’s Democrats have rigged the rules for crass political purposes. Another Bee article noted that this has become rather common. For instance, it noted that in 2011 they passed a law requiring all voter-backed initiatives (as opposed to the ones put on the ballot by legislators) to appear on the November general-election ballot given that conservative-oriented initiatives have a tougher time on these high-turnout dates.

They also passed in 2012 a bill changing the order in which initiatives appear on the ballot with the obvious goal of making it more likely for the governor’s tax increase to appear first — and thus be more likely to get a “yes” vote.

And I wrote for the Spectator last week about the Assembly speaker’s decision to, apparently, just ignore the clear intent of a recently passed voter initiative that requires a 72-hour notice before a vote on all final versions of every bill. That good-government measure was supposed to stop the Legislature from sneaking through gut-and-amend bills without giving legislators, the media, and the public an opportunity to see what’s in them. The Assembly offered an alternative reading of the measure as a transparent way to get around it.

Meanwhile, I also wrote for the Spectator about how Democratic legislators are rewriting some county redistricting rules as a brazen way to flip some Republican supervisorial districts to the Democrats — something so heavy-handed that even Democratic officials in Los Angeles County objected.

Perhaps, this is what one can expect in a one-party state, but it certainly makes a mockery of the notion of democracy. But the latest ploy is particularly disturbing. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the anti-recall measure, we can at least dispense with the niceties. At that point, it will be official and California will join the ranks of banana republics.

This piece was originally published by the American Spectator


  1. You want to operate like a Banana-Republic, don’t be surprised when you have to deal with Rule-7.62!

  2. Skeptical says

    Socialist Progressive Sacramento thoughtlessly works to inspire future prohibition-style scofflaw glamour. Yes the progessive socialists have the political control to drive their utopian agenda, but not the wherewithal to do it. In the very expensive to live in state of California, most folks will balk with attempted tax and spend edicts, with political and economic consequences for California. Of course, a restructuring of the massive unfunded liability of public sector pensions, as well as the forsaking of ideological indulgances such as the “sanctuary” and “entitlement” state expenditures would begin addressing Californias deficit RIGHT NOW (their fear of federal revenue loss makes the illegal sancuary notion untenable). But for the stubborn, self-procliamed enlightened political class in Sacramento, that would means forsaking the ambition of having their cake to look at, and eating it too.

  3. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    Voting with your fingers (and mind) stopped working in CA the minute cowardly GOP leadership decided to sit on their hands doing nothing, instead of uniting with all the other (similarly screwed) minority parties to overturn the “Top 2” insanity that brought us to today’s horrible spectacle (to which they continue, for the most part, to be SPECTATORS). The only useful appendages for voting in CA are FEET, and extracting mine from my real estate is the only thing delaying my taking my own advice.

  4. Victoria Smith says

    This reeks of conniving usurpers of their authority. But then, this is what they have been, and will continue to be. They have zero ethics, accountability is nil, and they only seek power and wealth for themselves. They do not abide by the oath to uphold the Federal or State Constitutions, or any laws for that matter.

  5. California cannot be fixed. Time for the State of Jefferson.

  6. California is a failed state.
    I have the same feeling about California as I had about the US before the 2016 election. The US now has a chance to become a success again. California will not have this chance unless the sources of its failure and cures are succinctly stated, and repeated, and repeated again before the next elections. Here is a sample of what, in my opinion, the Republican Party of California should center on in the coming elections, and the time to start is now:
    A. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2015, taking into account local conditions, the poverty rate in California was 20.6%, right between Mississippi’s 22.6% and Louisiana’s 19.6%. This despite a world-class high technology industry, a world-class movie-making industry, and world-class shipping facilities. The California government is business-hostile and wants to make the state “green” by allowing only a few high-taxed industries. It keeps middle class jobless and on welfare to preserve the environment.

    B. The California Democratic administration is not concerned with creating jobs and increasing the tax base. Perhaps they have no intellectual ability to see opportunities. California unemployment is the 14th highest out of 50 states +DC. Central Valley unemployment is chronic 10.5%. Does the Central Valley vote Democratic? Agriculture has been impeded by lack of water. As the canal was being built fifty years ago, water was promised only to those who already had water rights, not to all potentially productive areas. Water has been since additionally restricted for environmental reasons. Water could be obtained by piping it from the north, or desalinating Israeli style. One such desalination plant works near San Diego. With its year-round growing season, California could have a fine business supplying vegetables to Europe, which lacks them, especially in winter.

    C. California’s education is poor. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of 2013 shows that California’s 8th grade was in 43rd place out of 50 states in reading. You cannot bring poor children out of poverty with such education. But where are vouchers or charter school programs? Under the Democratic stalwart Janet Napolitano, the University of California does not teach how to argue one’s point of view, but only how to intimidate others to cause its acceptance. A significant part of the curriculum produces nothing but future dissatisfied proletarians with practically useless degrees such as a Ph.D. in Victorian literature.

    D. California is run by the unions for the unions. Unions subsidize election of politicians out of mandatory dues who then negotiate with unions how much taxes can be raised to satisfy their demands. This may be legal, but it is graft. Unlike private enterprise, there is no limit to how unions can be satisfied without making business fail. More taxes are always possible at taxpayers’ expense. California taxes are the highest in the US. Sales tax is 7.5%, plus local taxes. Income tax is 1% on the first dollar, 13.3% on the millionth. No wonder 9,000 businesses left the state and unemployment is high. The prospect is higher taxes with more businesses leaving.

    E. The high speed train project demonstrates a total lack of rational thinking in the Democratic administration. First, there is the inability to make responsible cost estimates. Originally the cost for the project was estimated at 10 billion. Now it is 60+ billion. Making reasonable assumptions for the cost of capital, operations, and maintenance, the yearly operating income should be on the order of 4 billion to make the project profitable. An air flight one way from LAX to SFO is $250. At this price, the train will have to carry 44,000 passengers per day. This is not going to happen. Second, although not as fast as an aircraft, the train will require the same types of security as air travel, with waiting, identification, security checks, luggage search, etc. Worse still, this will not buy immunity against terrorist attacks because it is impossible to protect 400 miles of rail against sabotage. The high speed train, if completed, will remain a bleeding wound on California’s budget. Why not use this money for the failing dams, bridges and roads instead of asking for yet another tax for maintenance?

  7. Gary Von Neida says

    Limo Liberals and illegal aliens are destroying the Once Great GOLDEN STATE of California. By “choking” cities with “illegal aliens” and allowing them to vote the Millionaire/Billionaire Political rulers remain in power—

  8. I hope the Democrat voters that created this quasi-communist cabal enjoy what they voted for.

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