Friday, October 14, 2005

CA propositions: same old religious exploitation

One of the main strategies that Republicans used to increase the turnout of their base voters in the 2004 Presidential election was to include state amendments on the ballot outlawing equal righrs for gay couples, especially in potential swing states like Missouri and Ohio. The logic behind this, of course, is that the presence of these amendments will encourage these single-issue voters to get to the polls, where they would then be more likely to vote for Republican candidates and issues on the remainder of the ballot, where they may not have even cared enough to go to the polls had it not been for the amendment on that one issue.

Well, now they're up to the same old trash with Schwarzenegger's "reform Sacramento" initiatives in California.


(click on image or this link to see full-size)

For those that are not familiar with them, the four propositions you see Schwarzenegger campaigning for in that photo--propositions 74 through 77--do the following:

74: lengthen the provisory period for teachers from 2 to 5 years and allow administrators to fire teachers with little process and no cause;

75: Hamstring the political influence of unions;

76: Give the governor new powers to cut budgets without legislative review or consent;

77: redistrict California in a way more favorable to Republicans through the use of retired judges.

The problem for this initial salvo in the war to turn California into a red state is one of popularity, turnout and special interests. For anyone who has been following, Schwarzenegger's approval ratings are in the tank, and special elections are renowned for their abysmal turnouts, and people have a tendency to vote no on propositions they don't really understand--and these issues are a little complicated for those who aren't political junkies. Furthermore, the California Teachers Association and the labor unions are spending a good deal of money and mobilizing heavily to defeat these propositions, while no Republican special interest group would have the motivation to send out the manpower to get them passed.

So what do the Republicans do? The same thing they did in 2004: get something on the ballot that will appeal to the religious right. Enter proposition 73. This measure would not only require parental notification prior to an abortion procedure, but would also define an abortion as "killing an unborn child."

As the L.A. Times reports, we once again have an evangelical-based turnout strategy for the Republicans to pass initiatives that would otherwise suffer from lack of familiarity and poor turnout--and it just might work. Schwarzenegger is not very popular with religous conservatives because of his moderate stance on social issues, but the California Republican party has by-passed him completely and gone straight to the churches to help get their political agenda passed.

We need to learn two lessons from what happened in 2004. The first is that any time there is anything on the ballot that will appeal to monomaniacal religious voters, we must mobilize with uncommon intensity. The second is that we need to work harder to stop these initiatives from appearing on the ballot in the first place--audits, signature challenges, information panels at the supermarkets where they get these petitions signed...whatever it takes. The Republican party is like a lightbulb that keeps on attracting moths. They'll keep flying into it, no matter how many times they get burned by it--but they do a lot of damage in the process. So it's time to turn off the switch.