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The Byrne Report

Bobble Vote


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Have you seen the "Governator" and "Girlie Man" bobble head dolls that are for sale? Pushed in one direction, the plastic head of Arnold Schwarzenegger bobbles up and down, "Yes, yes, yes." Pushed the other way it bobbles "No, no, no." Contemplating the bobbling head of the real Schwarzenegger is the fastest, most effective way of deciding how to vote in the Nov. 8 special election. When the man's head bobbles "yes" on the campaign trail, vote no. When it bobbles "no," vote yes.

It is no secret that Schwarzenegger concocted this extremely expensive extra election to divert attention from his inability to manage the fifth largest economy in the world. The actor-governor cannot point to a single substantive accomplishment in office. He inherited a dismal situation, but he made it worse by pandering to various chambers of commerce while California's environmental, educational and economic infrastructure disintegrates apace.

His administration is paralyzed by conflicts of interest and ineptitude. Instead of accepting an iota of responsibility for his failure to govern, he tries to shift blame to the Legislature and public employees, including nurses, teachers, firefighters and cops. (Remarkably, he left out his own mother!)

Meanwhile, his Roveian public-relations machine works overtime to divert attention from our real problems: excessive debt, government contracting waste, industrial pollution, skyrocketing energy and medical costs, illiteracy, white collar crime, the racist backlash against immigrants, and omnipresent corporate control of government.

Not content to fiscally, morally and environmentally ruin California during his term‹or, heaven forbid, terms--in office, Schwarzenegger wants to enshrine his reactionary essence into the state constitution. Three of his "signature" initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot propose to amend that foundational document by variously undermining women's biological rights, increasing gubernatorial authority and attempting to undemocratically break the Democratic Party's lock on the legislative branch. This is not good. The constitution should not be used as a clothesline for wet-brain ideas that cannot survive scrutiny by the Legislature, the judicial system and common sense.

Whether or not parents should know that their minor child is having an abortion, for example, is not a weighty constitutional question. Proposition 73 seeks to invalidate a law that was enacted in 1953 to protect children from abusive parents. Since pregnant children are often the victims of incest, there is a good reason for allowing them to decide whom to tell. This amendment is not about protecting children, anyway. It is about gradually inserting a theocratic, sexist, homophobic frame into the constitution. Keep in mind that an amendment to ban same-sex marriage--which has already been upheld as a constitutionally protected civil right by the legislature and state courts--is headed for the ballot in 2006.

Proposition 76 allows the executive branch to usurp the will of the people and the legislature. In the words of the legislative analyst, "[It] grants the governor substantial new authority to unilaterally reduce state spending." This includes spending related "to contracts, collective bargaining agreements or entitlements." It seriously weakens Proposition 98, which mandated a certain level of educational spending each year. It allows the governor to slash spending on social-welfare services, while leaving huge tax breaks in place for business corporations and wealthy families. It is a recipe for defunding environmental protection, healthcare for the poor, elder care and programs for disabled people. This constitutional amendment is a naked grab for executive branch power.

Schwarzenegger is touting his redistricting initiative, Proposition 77, as a way to "drive special interests out of Sacramento." In actuality, this constitutional amendment is a ploy to use out-dated census figures to re-gerrymander California in favor of the Republican party just in time for Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign in November 2006. Not that the current redistricting system is efficient, or even all that democratic, but the perpetual gerrymander is, under the status quo, periodically renegotiated by the people's representatives. Schwarzenegger wants to permanently turn a marginally democratic process over to the tender mercies of a club for retired judges. Spare us from absolutism, please.

Most people know by now that Schwarzenegger is a faux populist--a cleverly branded political product with zero reform credibility who serves the interests of financiers and industrialists. It was in nobody's interest to call this special election, not even the increasingly desperate, flabby bodybuilder's. He usually says nothing that is not scripted, but on Oct. 19 he revealed his true nature, remarking off the cuff that President Bush should not raise campaign funds in California, "because you know we now need all the money in the world." Off with the bobble head!

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From the November 2-8, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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