California: The Outlier
This week’s posting is for those who would like to understand California in this election cycle.
I’ve been trying to figure out why Californians are largely immune to the conservative Tea Party movement that is washing over the rest of the country from Alaska to Florida. With the arrival in the mail of the voter pamphlets for the November 2, election, I’ve got some theories.
First, the basis of the premise:
- Meg Whitman’s millions blew out any opposition for governor within the Republican Party – OK, I get that. But in the Senate Republican primary, conservative Chuck Devore came in distant third to Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell. Some of the Republicans for lesser offices are attractive – Damon Dunn for Secretary of State; Abel Moldonado for Lieutenant Governor; Steve Cooley for District Attorney – but none would call themselves a Tea Party candidate.
- With the Republicans looking to pick up 40 to 60 House seats nationally, California with 34 Democrat (and 19 Republican) seats to offer, may gain one and lose one. Gerrymandering is a part of it, but there is more to the inertia than that.
Premise # 1: Californians got disgusted before the rest of the country did, and have given up. With the recall of Governor Gray Davis in 2003, The Governator took over and soon showed that he couldn’t do much about the entrenched interests, the chronic budget deficits, and the dysfunctional legislature. If Arnold couldn’t do anything, why get excited about another revolution?
Premise # 2: The saying that in a democracy, people get what they deserve is particularly true in California where democracy has run amok. In this election, San Francisco voters will be asked to evaluate and pass judgement on:
- Thirteen state races: The Governor; The Lieutenant Governor; the Secretary of State; the Controller; the Treasurer; the Attorney General; the Insurance Commissioner; the Superintendent of Public Instruction; the Board of Equalization; the U.S. Senator; the U.S. House Representative; a state Senator; and a state Assembly member.
- Twenty-two local races: Judges (12); The Board of Supervisors; the Assessor; the Public Defender; the Board of Education (3); the Community College Board (3); the Bay Area Transit Director.
- Nine state initiatives: Including legalization of marijuana; deferral of a prior initiative to make California’s air cleanliness requirements the most stringent in the country; and lots of tinkering with voting, budgeting, and taxing.
- Fifteen local initiatives: Including reducing the City’s contribution to public employee retirement and health care plans; elimination of a requirement that city bus drivers have at least the second highest compensation in the country; allowing non-citizens (including illegals) to vote in school board elections; and lots of tinkering with voting, budgeting, and taxing.
It is hard to be too mad at government when everything is put up for popular vote – and for the people to hold themselves accountable.
Premise # 3: Whatever. Life’s good. Let’s go to the beach.
When evaluating national polling numbers people should recognize that they would be much worse if they were not skewed by the 38 million Californians who think that the rest of the country is on the wrong track.