Amid the hubbub surrounding the special election, I nearly forgot how many years it took before California voters grew disgusted enough to target Sacramento legislators who insisted on staying in office longer than most people stay in marriage. That’s what I was thinking about in the hours after the total wipeout of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reform agenda: those depressing years before voters approved term limits, before voters got sick enough of the ossified and creaking power establishment in Sacramento to do something about it. The demise of Proposition 77 on Nov. 8 pleased a lot of people who dislike the governor or are disappointed in him. But the folks who were really chortling knew very well that Proposition 77 had nothing to do with Arnold, aside from the unfortunate fact that he threw his support behind it. Voters just handed the very non-democratic Democratic Party of California and the very anti-republic Republican Party of California a major victory for anti-progress. The 59.5 percent vote against the measure, which would have halted the “safe seats” scam that has a vise grip on elections in California, was a reminder that you can fool quite a few of the people at least some of the time. Proposition 77 would have done permanently what California has done temporarily twice in the recent past. It would have wrenched the power away from the Legislature to draw bizarre and very dishonest “voting districts” for voters, which the Legislature carefully crafts to ensure that the legislators who do the drawing get elected inside the very districts they draw. Sounds insane, because it is insane. Twice in recent political history, the redrawing of voting districts has been taken away from the Legislature and handed to judicial entities. It turns out that judges – who unlike legislators are not running for office in the “voting districts” they design – actually believe in democracy. Twice, the judges have given us honest voting districts containing communities of interest and boundaries that respect neighborhood geography. Proposition 77 would have assured the same clean dealings, by using a panel of retired judges. Yet a TV ad paid for by Big Politics made it sound like we can trust our sneaky Legislature to do this work – but not those nefarious judges. The TV ad even had the nerve to argue that Proposition 77 would allow a group of “handpicked” retired judges to turn California into a jigsaw puzzle as bad as the gerrymander disaster in Texas. How can we turn into Texas, when we became as bad as Texas many years ago? Forget using judges – a panel of schoolchildren would be more trustworthy than the California Legislature, which carefully herds voters into crazily shaped districts to assure that each and every Democratic and Republican hack is guaranteed a win at election time. Unfortunately, voters were more interested in punishing Schwarzenegger than in stopping the two political parties from stealing our democracy. In some ways, Arnold deserved the drubbing from voters. He lost contact with regular people in 2005 during his poorly mounted war against government worker unions, and did all the wrong things to woo people back. I doubt voters would have been so interested in whacking Arnold if they really grasped how bad things are. State Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, who I ran into shortly before the election, told me, “The only weakness in a democracy is when the people are not paying attention to the issues.” This time around, voters were not paying attention. So, on Tuesday, they voted against their own self-interest. To be fair, some very sharp observers did understand the issues, and still opposed Proposition 77. Joe Cerrell, a respected Democratic political consultant, agreed with McClintock that, “Things cannot stay as they are,” but the loyal Democrat felt the Democrat-controlled Legislature should name a panel to unravel the mess. He didn’t like using retired judges to draw the maps. OK, let’s have that discussion. Let’s talk. But voters never even nicked the surface of these issues. Walk up to a typical California voter and say, “Things cannot stay as they are, in the gerrymandering scam,” and few voters know which “things” you even mean. In this sense, the gerrymander issue shares a rich political history with term limits and the Proposition 13 tax revolution. It took Californians years to wake up to what was happening in Sacramento – people clinging to office until death, politicians taxing homeowners right out of their houses – before voters approved term limits and Proposition 13. As history shows, we’re slow to back reform because we are busy and distracted people. But when we finally decide that change is needed, we go all-out. In the coming years, the good guys will target the outrageous safe seats scam in California once again. And next time, voters will not be fooled. Jill Stewart is a print, radio and television commentator on California politics. She can be reached via her Web site, www.jillstewart.net. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!