OUT IN CALIFORNIA, the big political news is that the Sebastiani initiative has been ruled off the ballot by the state's supreme court. That has national significance, partly because five to 10 seats in the U.S. House, plus control of the California legislature, were at stake. The Sebastiani measure, sponsored by a 30-year-old Republican assemblyman, would have overturned the redistricting plans carefully sculpted by the late Rep. Phillip Burton (D- Calif.) had it been approved by the voters Dec. 13. This is a political issue if there ever was one. The six Democrats on the supreme court outvoted the one Republican, and the Republican governor, George Deukmejian, scheduled the election as retaliation against the Democratic majority in the legislature in the midst of a dispute over the state budget.
Temporarily, the issue is settled: the court's decision can't be appealed. But Mr. Sebastiani and the Republicans may try another initiative. In the meantime, the politics as practiced by both sides in our nation's largest state provide a spectacle worthy of contemplation. Both sides are pressing their advantages so far and taking such overbearing advantage of any powers they have that they are threatening, like Samson, to bring the whole temple down. Gov. Deukmejian, elected by a narrow plurality, is attempting to cut the state budget and to gut programs, such as the farm labor relations board, particularly dear to the hearts of the Democrats. The Democrats in the legislature, leading majorities swelled by redistricting plans, refused to vote funds for the governor's mansion, in which Jerry Brown declined to live but into which Mr. Deukmejian wanted to move his family; and the state senate declined to approve the governor's nominee for the top post of state finance director. That kind of harassment may help to explain why Mr. Deukmejian was willing to support the Sebastiani initiative, which threatened to destroy the Democrats' power in the legislature, and why many Californians consider the state court's action purely partisan.
Fortunately, we don't have that kind of Samson politics in the federal government today (nor did California have it to nearly as great an extent during Ronald Reagan's governorship). True, there are disputes from time to time between the Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, and the Republicans in the White House and the Senate. But there has also been accommodation and compromise. We can be sure that the Republicans and Democrats will try--already are trying--to beat each other in the 1984 elections. But there have been precious few examples of bills put forward purely to put the other side on the spot or of threats to stop the operations of government unless the other side gives in completely. There has been pulling and hauling in an attempt to put a compromise together--last spring on the Social Security compromise, this week on the American military presence in Lebanon. But the goal has generally been agreement, and often it has been reached. It's fortunate that the country's national leaders aren't disposed to play the kind of Samson politics they've been seeing in California.