Tyranny? Give us a break!
August 31, 2013
I'm writing in response to Nancy Eubanks' sadly predictable Other Voices missive in the Aug. 10 edition of The Union entitled "U.S. system ruled by 'tyranny of the minority.'"
Nancy laments that the Senate Republicans, which we all know currently make up the minority in the Senate, are undermining the checks and balances that underlie our constitutional form of government. She claims they are using the filibuster to force a minority's view on the majority of the U.S. citizenry. She then goes on to summarize her usual laundry list of progressive accusations to support her conclusions.
I won't go through the list; there's very little new in its content. Most of it has been debated many times in this paper. There's no point in going through the same political debates over again. It would no doubt be as tedious to the majority of The Union readership as it would be for me.
I will point out, however, that according to an analysis on the historical use of the filibuster done by a political analyst in Florida for the SaintPetersblog, usage actually peaked between 2004 and 2008 when it was used by the Democrats. Its use has actually declined during the past four years. You can verify the analysis by going on the U.S. Senate website and checking the use of cloture. Cloture is used by the majority party to shut down a filibuster and is the only way currently to measure filibuster use. The numbers look right to me.
You don't get to have it both ways. You can't accuse the opposing party of being tyrannical for using it against your party but give it tacit approval when your own party uses it. That is disingenuous at best and certainly not an effective strategy if your goal is to win additional Nevada County voters to your way of thinking. Is that your goal, Nancy?
You mention your pride in our state and point out that the vast majority of Californians vote Democratic, which is certainly true. You then go on to suggest we all should vote that way, given that the rest of the state does. That's hardly a compelling reason, and it hasn't been a primary deciding factor for the majority of Nevada County voters to date. You want to win more local voters over to your party? Ease up on the shrill posturing and consider focusing more on local concerns.
One way to win over Nevada County voters would be to use your considerable energy and your contacts with the Democratic power elite in Sacramento (I'm sure you have many) to do something that can truly have a positive impact on our county. You could start by educating your Democratic allies in Sacramento on the real harm that the State Responsibility Area Fire Fee is doing to the most vulnerable in our community — the elderly poor.
The bill that instituted this fee was authored by Bob Blumenfield, a Democratic politician in the Los Angeles area who is now a member of the L.A. City Council. The fee was sold as a fee to pay for fire prevention, but that's not how it's been rolled out. A portion of fee revenue will go toward backfilling funds already taken out of Cal Fire's budget for other purposes. The rest, if there is any, goes into general state coffers. So we pay more for fewer services.
For many readers, the $150 annual fee may be affordable, but for many of the elderly, particularly those living in mobile homes, it's $150 they just don't have. A bill was introduced to at least exempt the very poor, but this bill did not survive.
No doubt most of the politicians who voted for this fee represent urban voters, so there's no political risk to them for voting as they did or to the California Democratic Party whose primary constituency is in the coastal areas. Can you imagine Sacramento politicians instituting an "earthquake" fee to be paid by all residents who live in a fault zone? No? Me neither.
You weren't asking for an example of the tyranny of the majority, but here's one for you anyway, and it couldn't be closer to home.
Nancy, use your influence within your own party to persuade them that preying on the rural poor to gain additional revenues for them to spend elsewhere is ultimately bad politics. If you can do that, that would have real resonance with local voters.
Rachel Helm lives in South County.