Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and
He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to
Assembly Member Haynes
website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]
the real world you have to choose...
complaint in the media and at community meetings I attend in
is that we legislators are “too
partisan”. Every mention of a party label seems to make
some people uncomfortable, as if we are suddenly over-politicizing
a conversation or meeting.
I will admit there are times when legislators will do things
for the sake of party unity that otherwise would not have been
done. There are things President Bush has convinced Republican
Congressmen to support that they probably would not have otherwise,
just as President Clinton was able to do on occasion with Democrat
Members. There are also times where both parties agree on a single
solution to a problem. These really are exceptions to the rule.
of the legislature have not chosen their political party because
they think the
elephant logo is cuter than the donkey
or vice versa. They have worked and campaigned within their party
because of the basic set of principles and policies they share
with their party. Republican legislators don’t oppose burdensome
regulations and higher taxes because they are Republicans---they
are Republicans because they oppose burdensome regulations and
higher taxes! The Democrat members have their own principles
and policies to which they are equally committed.
In the Capitol, almost everybody understands this. In our home
districts, it is far less obvious. The average constituent is
far less political, far less ideological, and far less wedded
to their party registration than their representatives in Sacramento
and Washington. I have some very conservative Democrats in my
district and some very liberal Republicans. In the Capitol, there
is much less diversity amongst party caucus members. The most
liberal Republican in the caucus is still markedly more conservative
than the most conservative Democrat member, as annual report
cards from conservative and liberal interest groups alike will
Why does this matter?
Because there are not just two distinct parties in Sacramento,
but two distinct philosophies. If you
look at most of the important bills that were heard over the
last decade in Sacramento, they have been passed or killed on
what is called a “party-line vote,” meaning all the
Republicans voted one way, and all the Democrats voted another.
This happened because these bills represent very distinct visions
of how our state should be governed. When people do not understand
that, they do not know how to interpret the actions that are
taken in the Capitol.
If I’m talking to a business group and I tell them that
a new minimum wage increase was just passed 46-30, and that efforts
to repeal the “sue your boss” law that has been hurting
businesses in California failed 2-6 in committee, they’ve
learned a little about what is happening. But if I leave it at
that, and they just assume that one randomly assorted group of
legislators voted one way, and another randomly assorted group
of legislators voted another way, and that the votes on the two
bills were totally unrelated, then what should they think about
how to change the results they are getting in Sacramento? Should
they just replace the entire legislature and hope a new random
assortment of legislators will vote differently next time?
When I tell you that
both of these bills passed or failed on a strict party-line
vote with all Republicans on one side, and
all the Democrats on the other, it gives you important additional
information. Whichever side of the issue you are on, “partisan-izing” the
discussion tells you which party is on your side on this particular
issue, and which is not.
If I do not tell you which party supports which agenda, and
I pretend that party registration does not matter in Sacramento,
then I am doing a disservice to you and am not telling you the
whole truth. So long as the Democrat Party controls both houses
of the legislature, a certain set of policies will continue to
be more likely to be supported, and a different set will be more
likely to get killed. You are free to choose if that is a good
thing or not, but you must understand that before you cast your
votes in November.
Maybe talk of party
labels still offends you, and you would like to believe that
party does not translate to policy, and
that the legislature is made up of randomly assorted groups of
legislators supporting randomly assorted policies. You are free
to believe that, but you are only fooling yourself, so please
don’t expect me to play along with the “non-partisan” game.
I prefer to live in the real world—or at least what passes
for the real world in Sacramento. CRO