Abel Maldonado's Reasonable Demands

[ Posted Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 – 18:22 UTC ]

In the normal course of events, I try to avoid writing about California state politics. Our state government is so outrageous in normal times, that it requires an above-average situation of looniness for me to do so (Larry Flynt running for governor, for instance). Speaking of governors, I can tell you that we Golden Staters have been breathing sighs of relief as even-more-embarassing governors have topped our own Arnold Schwarzenegger as late-night comedians' favorite targets for quite a while now (Sarah Palin, Eliot Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich, etc.).

But I must put aside my reticence at lowering myself to talk state politics to support a local Republican's stance. His name is Abel Maldonado, and he is a state senator from a gerrymandered district fairly close to where I live. And, due to our insanely-high bar of having to pass budgets with two-thirds votes in both legislative houses, he is what could be the key swing vote to pass last year's budget (this budget, by the way, was supposed to be due this past June 15). Our statehouse has lots of Democrats, but to pass a budget they need a few Republican votes in the Assembly and a few in the Senate. They now have the votes in the Assembly, and they need one more vote in the Senate.

Enter Maldonado. He is demanding three things in exchange for his vote. The first is that, in future, if the state legislature doesn't pass the budget on time, they don't get paid. How's that for incentive to, you know, do the job you've been elected to do. The second is to deny legislators a raise when the state is in deficit. And the third is to hold "open" primaries, where anybody can vote in any party's primary without having to be an official member of that party (you get one vote, and you can use it in any primary you wish).

You know what? That all sounds pretty reasonable to me. As a matter of fact, it sounds downright populist in nature. You can bet that the budget would be passed on time (or pretty close to it) if lawmakers' pay stopped the minute the deadline was reached, and did not start again until the budget was passed. And why should they get raises when the state is having tough financial times? The open primary would allow more moderates to get elected (so the theory goes), so we wouldn't have intransigent party-line hacks unwilling to compromise on budgets. That last one may not work out, but it's certainly worth a shot, seeing what we put up with now.

The idea of shutting off the paychecks until the budget's done may even appear as a proposition on a ballot soon, meaning that the citizens will likely pass it anyway, exerting the direct democracy given to us by the initiative process. Both the initiative process itself and, unfortunately, the two-thirds requirement to pass budgets, were put in place by a wave of populism a century ago.

Democrats, both on the state level and on the national level, ignore the concept of populism at their peril. Because populism is not wholly-owned by the left in this country, unlike many political issues. Republicans are currently floundering around looking for a new wave to ride, and if Democrats don't address the growing support for such populism, these wildly-popular issues can get stolen away from them by Republicans.

Just a word of warning, to Democrats in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C.


-- Chris Weigant


5 Comments on “Abel Maldonado's Reasonable Demands”

  1. [1] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Open primaries have their advantages, but they have led to some unintended consequences. It happens that blogged about one of those consequences recently:

    The Strange Case of Guy Hunt

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    That's what is so great about this blog..

    CW calls 'em and he sees 'em, whether it's a Republican or a Democrat involved.. :D

    Can you imagine the likes of HP or Taylor Marsh actually cheering a Republican???

    Hell would have to freeze over first!! :D


  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OsborneInk -

    That is an excellent article, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

    Of course, the real solution to the problem is to fix redistricting in the state. The gerrymandered districts are the true problem, and BOTH parties are guilty of doing this. But until that gets solved for good, open primaries are a bludgeon to hold over the parties to clean up their act. While you're right, mischief may be the end result in a few elections, on overall balance I have to say I still support the open primary concept.

    Again, excellent article.


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    That's my motto: I calls 'em as I sees 'em!

    Breaking news is we may have a budget, and Maldonado at least partially got what he was demanding. But I haven't checked up on it yet, I've been answering comments instead.


  5. [5] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:


    Thanks for stopping by! While I support open primaries in principle, like any change to a state's constitution they can have unintended consequences.

    As for the redistricting option, I have read a few commentaries lamenting the gerrymandered districts, but no one seems to think it will change. The problem, of course, is that there is no such thing as an unbiased or impartial agency to draw the lines.

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