Thursday

December 14th, 2017

Insight

One-Party State, Meet Party of One

Debra J. Saunders

By Debra J. Saunders

Published Dec. 8, 2016

 One-Party State, Meet Party of One

Donald J. Trump did America a huge favor by winning the White House in November. If Hillary Clinton had won, there would have been little stopping America from turning into a one-party country, a national political equivalent of California. As it is, California is turning into San Francisco, where outsiders stand zero chance of penetrating the liberal-only wall that surrounds City Hall.

What does it mean to live in a one-party state? Donors and insiders decide elections and stack the decks.

Consider the only statewide office for which Californians voted this year — the U.S. Senate seat won by state Attorney General Kamala Harris. That race was decided in January 2015 when Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her retirement and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom phoned Harris to inform her he would not run for Boxer's seat because he plans to run for governor in 2018. Harris enlisted a crack team of political consultants (who also have worked for Newsom and Gov. Jerry Brown) and she owned the field.

Harris now likely owns that seat for life. Many tried to unseat Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein since they first won their seats in 1992, but no rival came close.

In a one-party state, elections are boring and fewer people vote. In 2014, with Democrats only running for top state offices, California saw a record low electorate turnout of 42 percent. Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis, crunched the numbers and found that only 8.2 percent of Californians age 18-24 cast a ballot in November 2014.

In a one-party state, there is no such thing as a "temporary" tax hike. In 2012, Brown brought before voters a ballot measure to raise income and sales taxes designed to balance a state budget burdened with a $25 billion shortfall. He promised the measure would not be permanent. This year the usual big government groups put Proposition 55 on the ballot to extend the 2012 tax hike for the state's 1.5 percent highest income earners. Because only a sliver of Californians make enough to feel that squeeze, it was no surprise that 63 percent of voters approved the measure.


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In a one-party state, the party in power stacks the deck in its favor. In 2011, the Legislature and the governor determined that ballot measures would no longer go before voters in June, but in November only. Voters have to wade through the ballot measures all at once because crammed voting benefits Democrats in the Capitol.

The air of unaccountability permeates everything. For example, this year Brown signed a bill that allowed felons to vote from jail while serving their felony sentence. Hmm. I wonder which party expects to benefit.

On paper, a Trump presidency with a GOP Senate and House may look like one-party rule — except that Trump has no problem messing with his party's leaders or cozying up across the aisle. He has written checks for the campaigns of Harris, Newsom and Brown. Before he is a Republican, you see, the showman is a party of one. And that's not all bad.

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