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As much as we disagree, there is much to agree upon

A little tongue in cheek title to this diary, but here's a great column (or at least the start of one, you have to sign up at the SacBee to get the rest) on the political situation in California. We greatly resemble California, in all the bad ways, lately in terms of how our politics happen.

From the New America Foundation:

The political middle, disenchanted with the confrontational and ultimately meaningless tone of contemporary politics, has been growing. The number of voters who register as Republicans or Democrats in California has remained unchanged for a decade and a half while the ranks of independent voters have swelled to nearly a fifth of the total...

That's why, for instance, California's two major parties, which agree on practically nothing in the policy realm, joined arms to successfully challenge voter-approved open primary elections. Open primaries would allow cross-party voters and independents to make decisions on party nominees, thereby threatening the stranglehold of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans on their parties' dynamics.

And that's why leaders of the two major parties in the Legislature conspired after the 2000 census to redraw 173 legislative and congressional districts to designate each district's party ownership, minimize interparty competition and make the closed party primary the vehicle for electing officeholders...

Opening up California's political process by breaking up the partisan monopoly is not rocket science. Shifting redistricting from politicians to an independent commission, reinstating the open primary, removing the legal barriers to independent candidates, using "instant runoff voting" rather than winner-take-all for some offices, and divvying up legislative seats proportionately are all proposals to bring more small-d democracy to the process.

Think tanks and independent foundations such as the Irvine Foundation and the New America Foundation are making noise about reform, but there's a potentially fatal Catch-22. State legislators won't embrace reforms that threaten their own power, and groups with vested interests in the status quo would spend lavishly to defeat reforms on the ballot.

The only major difference I can find between this description of California politics and Washington is how we draw legislative districts. Our system is much less partisan with a bi-partisan, independent group. Though, in my opinion, this could be a horse trading type situation.

 Many of these reforms, like more open primaries, public funding of campaigns, have been argued against because "well, parties are good for politics." I won't argue with you there, in that parties are more than campaign committees. Political parties are good for politics in that they help people engage in politics, not just help people get elected. Here is my response to a column in the TNT making just such an argument against the IRV system that recently passed in Pierce County.

This is mostly a diary to start a conversation, a conversation that I think is worth having. I'm not making much of a point, just throwing this out there.

Update [2006-12-11 9:10:18 by emmettoconnell]:One of the points that the author makes is that as much as we congratulate ourselves for 60+ percent turnout, this only really represents about a third of the eligible voting public participating. And that doesn't really bother us. "Us" especially on this blog or in our local party organizations because we're focused on getting the most loyal, the most dependable voters to act, not on getting the most possible to engage. This is less true with Democrats than Republicans, but more true that any of us ever talk about. We don't care much about
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