Spoon-feeding the public

Californians have no idea they’ve been corralled into fake ‘voting districts’

Even if by press time the courts have revived reformer Ted Costa’s Proposition 77, a measure that would end California’s long and shameful era of “safe seats,” the many sneaky opponents of Costa’s reform plan will have accomplished their goal: profound voter confusion.

Eight times since the 1920s, California voters have been slyly tricked into rejecting measures to stop this awful practice of political gerrymandering. The same trickery is afoot this year, with foes of reform clearly hoping that by November, we voters will have a nagging feeling that something is wrong with the fine print in Proposition 77.

After all, Proposition 77 wound up in court, didn’t it? If the courts approve Proposition 77 for the November ballot, foes will spend a fortune to make sure voters carry confusion to the polls.

How sick. “Safe seats” stole away our democracy in California while we slept. “Safe seats” are why none of California’s 53 congressional seats changed party hands last November 2 and why none of 100 legislative seats changed party hands. “Safe seats” are why these freeze-frame outcomes were predicted months before the actual elections.

Good-government expert Bob Stern told me last November that the “safe seats” scam gripping California “is worse than the Politburo.” He’s absolutely right, but to understand why this is so, you must understand the practice known as gerrymandering, or “redistricting.” And you must accept the fact that the California media—our very own Pravda—have kept you ignorant regarding the Politburo. Er, state Legislature.

Last fall, I explained how modern “redistricting” really works and what its true purpose is. After my column ran, I was swamped with e-mails from Californians thanking me profusely for offering the first explanation they had ever read—anywhere.

Please cut out the following four paragraphs and paste them on your fridge, and you will never be duped again.

(Snip starting here.) Most voters think that when they vote, they do so within a community of interest, based largely on geography, known as a “voting district.” How quaint. That was true once. But now, the California Legislature uses computer programs to painstakingly divide voters block by block. It no longer divides us based on communities of interest, but based on our party registration.

Republicans and Democrats are carefully separated from one another and stuck in bizarrely shaped “voting districts” controlled by just one party. Then, during the spring primary, the party that controls the rigged “district” carefully spoon-feeds its corralled voters a preselected candidate awash in campaign funds. In most primaries, this well-funded party hack beats any normal person who hoped to represent that party come November.

Then, in the November general election, because the fake and often strangely shaped “voting district” is stacked, the party hack who won the spring primary can’t lose. Voters are spoon-fed a hack, and with rare exception, it’s mathematically impossible for the hack to lose.

Think of The Matrix. You are being spoon-fed in order to support a creepy apparatus that wants to control your world. You don’t even know it. (End snip here.)

California voters have no idea that they are corralled into fake “voting districts” based on their party registration and then spoon-fed a preselected hack.

The mainstream media, big think tanks and “experts” rarely explain what is going on behind the curtain. Instead, these powerful insiders, who are supposed to inform the public, keep the public ignorant with a cacophony of diversionary information.

Let’s run through a few examples of what I mean.

Here’s how the League of Women Voters recently explained “redistricting” in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Every 10 years, the Legislature redraws district lines for our representatives in Congress, the state Senate and Assembly. But inherent flaws in our system have highlighted the shortcomings of the most recent redistricting plans. The maps drawn after the 2000 census are best described by the term ‘incumbent protection plan.’ Not one legislative incumbent lost in 2002 and 2004, and only three legislative seats (out of 200 races) changed parties. Of course, the problem isn’t always incumbent protection; in other decades, the unfair advantage has gone to the party that dominates the process.”

Read that to your best friend, and you’ll get a blank stare. Where’s the part about voters being corralled into fake districts? What about the Legislature using computers to falsely divide us based on party registration?

I’ve long said that the League of Women Voters is a largely useless organization, wildly overrated by a dutiful and fawning media. But the league is hardly alone in spreading pointless jargon about “redistricting” to already confused voters. Think tanks, the media and all sorts of good-government groups are doing their best in 2005 to create a thick mist of gibberish around “redistricting.”

For example, the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies sums up “redistricting” in this technically factual—and completely misleading—manner:

“Redistricting is the redrawing of boundaries for legislative districts to reflect changes in population. … Redistricting and reapportionment, the allocation of seats to states, help determine the partisan makeup of our legislative bodies, and strongly affect the representation of ethnic groups and geographic areas within the state. The high political stakes of redistricting and reapportionment have led to recurring struggles over control of the process.”

So, “redistricting” is in response to “changes in population"? Technically, yes. But the truth—a truth voters desperately need to know—is far different. Responding to population changes has become a strictly secondary part of the political game.

Why don’t the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and other think tanks, good-government groups and media give us the truth? Why, in short, aren’t voters told they are being carefully herded by computer programs into fake voting districts where they are spoon-fed preselected candidates who can’t lose?

See how easy that is to just admit?

The Los Angeles Times informed its readers a few days ago that redistricting is merely “the Legislature’s ability to shape its own voting districts, which Democrats and Republicans have both long used to maintain power and keep challengers at bay.”

Huh? How did the Legislature get “its own voting districts,” as the newspaper says? I thought voting districts were for the voters. Silly me.

And how do politicians use these voting districts to “maintain power"? And what in blazes is the newspaper even talking about? Insiders know, but most voters do not know. The typical voter, utterly confused, simply turns the page.

A July 29 story in The Sacramento Bee was incomprehensible to any member of the public trying to grasp “redistricting.”

The Bee informed us that redistricting is merely lawmakers’ “authority to draw political boundaries.” That’s like saying April 15 is a deadline for putting a check in the mail. Later, the Bee stated that former Governor Gray Davis signed legislation creating California’s current legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization boundaries in 2001 but that Davis now says “he doesn’t like the imbalance that has resulted.”

Is that like a sugar imbalance? If Davis doesn’t like these mysterious “boundaries,” why on earth did he create them in 2001?

The California media are way past caring if the public can wade through their babble. The journalists understand redistricting. Isn’t that enough? Must we worry about the public, too?

On July 29, the Associated Press devoted 579 words to the “redistricting” debate, informing us that redistricting is merely “the power to draw legislative and congressional districts.” Again, the public simply does not need to know the reality.

According to AP, critics don’t like an alternative the Democrats proposed to Proposition 77, because the Democratic alternative gives legislators “too much control over the design of their districts.”

Get it? Their districts. Not the voters’ districts.

Voters no longer are required to operate the democracy, as the media clearly keep hinting. There haven’t been “voters’ districts” in California for years. They are now the politicians’ districts. That’s why California has seen eight past attempts to fix this mess.

Years ago, during one of those eight lost battles to reform the scam, the late actor Jack Lemmon made a TV commercial to convince California voters not to repair the system. Like Proposition 77, the ballot reform opposed by Lemmon and many other powerful Californians would have handed the job of drawing voting districts to an independent panel of judges.

Sadly, voters were swayed by Lemmon. The safe-seats scam was preserved. Yet, almost certainly the judges’ panel would have created real “voting districts” based on communities of interest, just as in other states that use independent panels. Nor would judges have dreamed up sicko computer programs that corral voters by party registration in order to create fake districts that only benefit our legislators.

Now, once again, the forces of confusion are back in action. Unfortunately, the public can expect little help from the media, think tanks and good-government groups who, aside from a few standouts like Bob Stern, will publish and utter hundreds of thousands of words on “redistricting” in 2005, yet will say nothing at all.

My advice is simple. Arm yourself with information you need. Unlike our legislators, you don’t have to resort to sneaky computer programs. Just go get a pair of scissors, snip where noted above and paste it on the fridge.