For the third time in 14 years (Proposition 226 in 1998 and Proposition 75 in 2005), there have been attempts by conservative forces in California to curtail and stifle the voices of working people.
In what has to be considered an oxymoron, wealthy individuals and conservative political action committees have joined forces in advocating for Proposition 32, "The Stop Special Interest Money Now Act" on the November ballot.
Proposition 32 underscores the political system's domination by moneyed interests who are attempting to bar unions from using payroll deductions to raise money for political activity.
While Proposition 32 would allow corporations, which outspend unions 15 to 1, to spend freely on initiatives and candidates with money raised from top executives and company treasuries, it would eliminate organized labor's chief tool for influencing state politics and could fundamentally shift political power in Sacramento if approved by voters.
Proposition 32 would hobble labor's counterbalancing political role. Proposition 32 is critically important given the reality that our state is highly unionized compared to other states. It would create a formidable barrier to a wider political debate.
Economic and political elites have historically regarded electoral democracy with disdain and distrust and have been overly concerned with popular movements seeking to use the political system and elections to challenge and overturn existing property and social class arrangements.
The wealthy have typically sought to obtain a share of political power that corresponds to their wealth. While there is a democratic creed that touts equality and pluralism, the stark reality is that a small, economically and politically cohesive group dominates the political system and seeks to preserve its political hegemony.
A compelling argument can be made that reflecting a class bias that favors those with greater financial resources, wealthy individuals and corporations dominate the political system through such entities as think tanks supported by conservative foundations, super PACs buttressed by the Citizen United U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Pacific Legal Foundation, which promotes the general interests of business in the nation's courts, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Political and economic elites attempt to align the political system with their ideological vision. Proposition 32 represents a frontal assault on democratic pluralism to advance the agenda of corporations and the wealthy.
By proxy, Proposition 32 is a partisan issue, as unions tend to identify predominantly with the Democratic Party. There is a real threat to union advocacy, which helped to implement health insurance, the eight-hour day, retirement systems, health and safety laws, overtime pay, social security, unemployment insurance, consumer protections, civil rights, public education, mass transit, environmental justice, affordable housing, sick leave and collective bargaining rights.
Proposition 32 is a matter of political equality in a society that has the appearance of a plutocracy, the rule by the rich and powerful. Voters should send a resounding defeat of a ballot measure that would corrupt democracy by instituting a skewed and restricted political system in California.
Leonard McNeil is vice mayor of San Pablo and a professor of political science at Contra Costa College.