In conversations with my friends, I've been very confident that Democrats will win the Presidency in 2008. Our candidates are far stronger, we're far more energized, the environment is too favorable, and the running disaster that has been the Bush administration marks 2008 as another perfect storm year for the Democratic Party. It's obviously too early to declare anything a lock or rest on my laurels, but things are looking very optimistic.
One thing that could derail a Democratic victory before the campaign season even starts is a faux-reform proposal by partisan Republican activists in California seeking to change the way the state allocates its electoral votes. Currently, like every state but Nebraska and Maine, California gives its 55 electoral votes in a winner-takes-all fashion. The ballot proposal would change that so the winner of each Congressional District gets one electoral vote. So, even though California is a pretty safe Democratic state, this shift would change its electoral vote allocation from 55-0 to something like 36-19--a free 19 electoral votes for the GOP. Since the effort (needless to say) isn't being pushed in red states like Texas or Indiana, it basically is an effort to rig the election playing field for Republicans (incidentally, even if the plan was adapted nationwide, it'd still be a bad idea--gerrymandering Congressional Districts is bad enough without it implicating Presidential politics). It's worth noting that a similar proposal was pushed in Colorado in 2004, but Democrats refused to support it and it didn't pass.
One thing that continues to amaze me about this country is just how little disorder there was in the wake of the disputed 2000 election. It can be difficult to remember just how raw emotions were then. Democrats genuinely felt cheated out of an election they won, fair and square. The Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore aroused some of the most bitter emotions that institution has ever seen--apparently, Justice Souter was ready to resign over it. And yet, aside from the "Brooks Brothers Riot," there was no real violence, and the concept of our democracy never truly felt threatened. Folks just regrouped and got ready to fight again. Many--most--other democratic nations would not have been able to accomplish that. And that is an incredible testament to the power of our constitutional covenant.
But 2000 was the year we cashed in our democratic credit, accrued over centuries of building representative institutions that, though sometimes flawed, were widely seen as fair, open, and most importantly, reflective of neutral procedures that produced the actual, legitimate winner. We drew on that credit to move past 2000. But if something like that happens again, in the form of this bogus and nakedly illegitimate California referendum, to swing the election away from the winner of the popular vote (and unlike in 2000, if the California proposal passes a Democrat could win a popular landslide and still lose the electoral college), I genuinely don't think our democracy will be able to handle the stress. There will be disorder, and protests, and potentially rioting.
The California proposal was deliberated placed on a June ballot where turn-out is expected to be low--the better to sneak it in under the noses of voters for whom it is made out to be an innocent election reform. It cannot pass. There have been a lot of political dirty tricks in the past couple of years; a tragic many of them done with the explicit or implicit support of the governing party. But none has the potential to threaten the very foundations of the republic the way this scam does. It cannot be allowed to pass. And while I applaud Governor Schwarzenegger for coming out against in, the national Republican Party needs to call its boys off and either get this thing off the ballot, or make sure it goes down in crushing defeat. This is their baby, and thus their responsibility.