Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

January 21, 2008

California Propagandists — Pulling Out All The Stops

by Brad Warbiany

California currently has a term limits law– 14 years total, with a max of 6 in the State Assembly and 8 in the State Senate. As is expected, politicians don’t like this law. They want to stay in office for as long as possible.

So they’re trying to change it. They can’t advocate an outright repeal, as the voters will see right through that. So instead, they’re dropping the maximum to 12 years, and allowing it to be served in a single house. Since it’s a lot easier to get re-elected than elected, this means that most legislators who currently only serve 6 or 8 (despite the opportunity to serve 14) will serve the full 12 years. It’s a way to gut the term limits to make them about half as effective.

At the same time, there is more politics at play. The two big backers behind the plan are Tom Perata and Fabian Nunez, two politicians who would be termed-out after this year. In California, ballot initiatives often come up during primary elections, so normally they would be required to sit out a term (as the extensions of their terms wouldn’t be legally possible until after the measure passed, which means someone else would have been nominated in the primary). This year, they decided to push for a special election to move their Presidential primary forward, which conveniently allows this measure to come up to the ballot and be in force when they try to run for re-election at the statehouse primaries in June.

But all that was intended for a future post, as we move closer to primary day. What really got me was just how shameless the proponents of this plan were in their television ads. See for yourself:

Just look at the logical fallacies here. When you know that a politician or union representative arguing this point simply won’t fly, you hire for someone so unassailable that only a monster would oppose him: a fresh-faced EMT, tasked with saving lives. After all, look at this kid. He can’t possibly be shilling for a horrible cause, yet gives an improper argument from authority. Then, you create a false choice: vote for term limits or your government will be as corrupt as those which didn’t respond to Katrina. And last, an irrelevant conclusion: experience is the answer to every problem of California’s government!

I could point out that Louisiana already has 12-year term limits, and Mississippi (which handled Katrina much more effectively) has no term limits. I could point out that California managed the wildfires well because the state erupts in fire every few years, and they’ve got lots of practice. I could even point out that term limits are often enacted because politicians have experience at the wrong thing– selling influence, rather than solving problems. I could come up with plenty of logical reasons to oppose Prop 93.

But all that seems unnecessary when you look at the way they crafted this ad. It’s a slick advertisement meant to appeal to people’s emotions, not their reason. Personally, when I see someone blatantly lying to sell a product, it makes me unwilling to buy that product unless I have trusted independent sources to verify its quality. The same holds true here. There can be a debate over whether or not term limits are useful, but when you see such blatant propaganda from the other side, it’s best to reflexively vote NO.

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