California Democrats appear to have picked up a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature Tuesday night, a surprise outcome that gives the party the ability to unilaterally raise taxes and leaves Republicans essentially irrelevant in Sacramento.
Democrats were long expected to gain a two-thirds advantage in the Senate, but Assembly Speaker John Pérez had downplayed expectations that the party could win a supermajority in the lower house. The party's apparent capture of 54 seats in the 80-member Assembly and 27 in the 40-member Senate would mark the first time in nearly 80 years that one party controlled two-thirds of both houses, according to Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg.
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A two-thirds majority would not only hand Democrats strong control of the executive and legislative branches, but give them far more power, including the ability to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, bypass legislative rules and deadlines and put constitutional reforms before voters.
When combined with the passage of Proposition 30, the governor's budget-balancing tax measure, the results offer lawmakers "a great opportunity to begin a new chapter in California," Steinberg said. He called a supermajority "a tremendous responsibility," and one that is "humbling to have."
"California is back on track ... we have come through this very tough period. When I started the deficit was $42 billion," he said. "Now we've made the awful cuts, and the voters have given us not only the tools to say no more cuts, but also to begin to focus on some positive agendas ... It will be very different to govern without a constant crisis."
The win for Democrats comes the first year that two major changes to election rules, both approved by voters, took effect in California: A new primary system, which allowed the top two voter-getters to proceed to the general election, regardless of their party; and the creation of a an independent citizens' commission to redraw Legislative and Congressional district lines, a change that made many races more competitive.
Democrats believe that a third change, the implementation of online voter registration - the system was rolled out in late September - was key for Democratic victories.
Elsewhere, baseball blogger Rany Jazayerli posted an extended essay, drawn from his own personal experience as a Muslim in the United States who once voted Republican, describing how a Republican Party run by Christian fundamentalists and nationalists managed to alienate a demographic that once voted strongly Republican.
The Muslims who immigrated to America in the 1970s, like the ones who immigrate to America today, were not lazy. Lazy people don’t leave their homeland 5,000 miles behind to move to a foreign country where they speak a foreign language. For these Muslims, the Republican message of self-reliance and entrepreneurship, the exaltation of small business owners, the emphasis on cutting taxes to encourage industriousness, was catnip. So too was the vilification of people sucking from the public teat and asking for handouts. There were no Muslim welfare queens, and Muslims joined the Republican stampede against them.
The immigrant Muslim community remained a reliable pillar of support for the Republican Party throughout the 1980s and 1990s, even as the party underwent a gradual but very significant change. Ronald Reagan’s platform when he ran for president in 1980 was largely an economic one; social issues were only an ancillary part of his message. Twenty years later, when George W. Bush ran for president, his platform revolved around social issues: his pro-life and anti-gay marriage positions were front and center. His platform reflected the massive influence that Christian organizations had had on the Republican Party over the previous two decades, intertwining Christian religious beliefs with politics, and co-opting the Republican message on issues of great concern to devout Christians.
Believe it or not, Muslim support for the Republican Party did not waver in the face of its gradual Christianization. On the contrary, Muslims saw common ground with Christians on most social issues. While the topic of abortion is not nearly as cut-and-dried for Muslims as it is for many Christians, the Muslim community certainly agreed with the goal of limiting them as much as possible – and more to the point, in limiting unwanted pregnancies in the first place by stigmatizing casual sexual encounters. Muslims shared with their Christian neighbors their belief in the sanctity of the nuclear family, and their belief that a household headed by a married mother and father was the best household in which to raise children.
By 2000, the Muslim community in America was several decades old, and had started to mature as a political entity. Muslim organizations almost unanimously endorsed George W. Bush. I voted for Bush that year. I would have voted for Bob Dole in 1996 if I weren’t so busy with medical school that I forgot to vote; I would have voted for Bush Sr. in 1992 if I weren’t still 17 years old.
In the 2000 election, approximately 70% of Muslims in America voted for Bush; among non-African-American Muslims, the ratio was over 80%.
Four years later, Bush’s share of the vote among Muslims was 4%.
(Jazayerli ended up voting for Obama this time around.)