This Monday’s news is simply not good for those of us battling Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stealthy set of ballot initiatives here in the Golden State.  

Mike Finnegan in the LA Times reports that labor leaders are very worried about the prospects for Proposition 75:

“We’re not winning on this thing, and we’ve got to step it up,” Steven Neal, a Los Angeles County Federation of Labor official, told scores of union leaders at a campaign breakfast last week in downtown Los Angeles. He likened the battle against Proposition 75 to a “sinking ship” in need of rescue.

Argh…more below…

On Proposition 73, Parental Notification, Bill Ainsworth of the San Diego Tribune does a great job covering the origins of the proposition (financial backers of 73 include Tom Monaghan of Domino’s and San Diego Reader publisher James Holman who has given $800,000 of the $1.2 million raised so far). Ainsworth also notes:

“Abortion rights generally have strong support among California voters, according to the latest Field Poll. But the nonpartisan poll early last month showed voters are split 45 percent-45 percent on Proposition 73.”

And Dan Walters must-read opinion piece in today’s Sacramento Bee sings the praises of Arnold’s Proposition 77, but with this interesting take on 77’s likely outcome (it will make CA politics more “decisively moderate“…not more “competitive”):

“Insiders who support the status quo will say it’s unlikely that a large number of districts will become competitive because of the state’s increasingly red-vs.-blue nature – and that’s true. But it also begs the question, because if only a handful of districts moved into the uncertain category – say a half-dozen of the 80 Assembly districts – the entire atmosphere of the Capitol could be changed by creating a decisive bloc of moderates more interested in policy than posturing.”

All these stories, on top of last week’s opinion polls (thanks to CA Observer), add up to a dismal picture. There’s so much to take on here.  Brian at Calitics highlights the critical divide in California:  Arnold is politically weak, but his agenda is winning.   The state of the November propositions is exhibit A for this effect.  Arnold, whose poll numbers remain in the toilet, has found more than one Achilles heel of California Democrats and is chomping away at all our our weak points like a dog on a bone.

Or, we should say, Arnold’s corporate backers are chomping away at these weakenesses.  Somehow, this critical piece of the puzzle, that these initiatives were set up by big business, has been neglected. Monied interests are pushing these initiatives, just like they did the candidacy of Arnold himself, to divide CA democrats right down the middle.  Whether it’s dividing our labor coalition from the rank and file, our pro-choice coalition from the “moderates” who’ve always said they support parental notification, or our reformers from our incumbants, let’s face it, we’ve been split by big money.  And when we’re divided we lose; and that, more than anything, explains the fact that Arnold is weak while his agenda isn’t.

Listening to KGO 810 AM last night it became clear to me that this piecemeal response is killing us.  If we split all these Arnold propositions up and debate them out of context as if they’re just these “sincere attempts” to make California better, we get bogged down…and imo, we will lose.  People just don’t see the corporate money flowing behind these initiatives; everyday Californians are seeing these propositions as being about “reform.”  Further, when our hard-core activists blast back on any individual proposition that is near and dear to their hearts, including Alliance for a Better CA’s talking about how 74 is “unfair”, we sound like “special interests” looking out for our own.  The big companies and fat cats love this.  

The way to oppose these propositions is the “one-two punch.”  We need to oppose the guy who pitched this expensive, unnecessary and trojan horse special election in the first place, and to create doubt about who’s really behind them.  Simply put, we’ve got to make Nov. 8th about Arnold and money.  But that’s just one part of our one-two punch, we also need common sense language on each of these propostions that makes our case to everyday Californians in straightforward and consistent terms.  We need to create reasonable doubts in voters minds about the motivations and outcomes of these ballot iniatives.

As we get closer to election day, this whole thing becomes about GOTV.  If we haven’t created legitimate doubts about these propositions by that point, and generated strong turnout I predict we’re in for a “smiling Arnold” on November 8th….and talk about his renewed chances for 2006.

This is a cross post from my blog, k/o.  Please check that link to read the dicussion we had there!

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