California canards rise again in the media 

It’s utterly amazing at times how brain-dead the East Coast political media, both partisan and independent, can be about California’s politics.

The canards about California abound and become more entrenched with every election, such as the so-called Bradley effect.

Some liberal East Coast pundits love to believe that Tom Bradley, then the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, was the victim of a secret anti-black bias when he lost the governorship to Republican George Deukmejian in 1982, because pre-election polls favored Bradley.

Bradley lost because he believed he had it won and stopped campaigning about a week before the election, and although he was ahead in Election Day voting, the GOP mounted a strong mail-in ballot drive that put Deukmejian over the top.

The Bradley myth was resurrected when Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008 and then, albeit more briefly, when he ran for re-election this year.

But this cluelessness about California politics is certainly not confined to those on the left, as Human Events, a conservative magazine, proved this month with an article bemoaning the loss of Republican congressional seats in California and, in effect, blaming Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield congressman and third-ranking GOP leader.

The tale, as told by John Gizzi in Human Events, is that McCarthy embraced a California congressional redistricting plan adopted by a new independent commission even though liberal groups had influenced its map-making, and failed to support a referendum that, Gizzi claims, would have blocked use of the plan for the 2012 elections.

He’s dead wrong on two counts.

The commission plan was much fairer to Republicans than any boundaries that a Democratic-controlled Legislature and a Democratic governor would have drawn.

Instead of losing four seats in California, Republicans would have dropped a half-dozen or more as they did in 1982, the last time Gov. Jerry Brown had a chance to sign a Democratic gerrymander.

Furthermore, had Republicans spent millions of dollars on a referendum challenging the plan, it almost certainly would not have blocked its use in the 2012 elections, as Gizzi claims.

Republicans did spend millions on a referendum on the state Senate maps, hoping that the state Supreme Court would block their use until the referendum was settled by voters. But the Supreme Court ruled that the commission’s Senate maps be used in 2012 anyway, mirroring its decision on a GOP referendum challenging that 1982 plan.

Republicans lost some congressional seats in California this year by very close margins, which reflects high voter turnout and heavy spending by Democrats.

Some apparently want to make McCarthy a scapegoat, but that doesn’t square with the facts.

Dan Walters covers state politics for the Sacramento Bee.

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Dan Walters

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