The View from California

In other election news, the Atlantic reports:

On Tuesday, California voters overwhelmingly approved two ballot initiatives that were sharply opposed by the very same “victims” they were allegedly designed to protect. The final vote tallies are not yet in, but it looks like there was statewide approval for new criminal penalties on prostitution-related offenses, while a Los Angeles-only proposal to mandate the use of condoms in all pornographic films shot in the county is also heading to victory.

Ouch. And then there’s this:

The entire ballot initiative process in California has long been derided because of the way it allows special interest groups to bypass the legislature and create laws themselves. It also makes ballot an jumbled mess and frustrates voters with confusing and sometimes contradictory proposals. These are just two of latest examples that will have Californians spending a lot of effort helping people who didn’t ask to be helped.

Indeed. There is more here. I almost feel guilty for not voting now. California is often acknowledged (or derided) as a state known for its social tolerance, but I haven’t seen this at all in the political arena. From banning gay marriage to demanding that porn stars wear condoms (I wonder what that will do our state’s multi-million dollar porn industry?) to imposing stiffer penalties on sex workers, Californians can hardly claim to be the socially liberal torchbearers of a brave new world. Instead, I see a state populace comfortable with both draconian tax laws and draconian social laws. Socialism has never looked so good.

On the other hand, most Californians are more socially tolerant when politics is not involved. Can you imagine somebody who doesn’t like gay people insulting a gay person in their business establishment, or in front of their place of worship? No, because their self-interest would keep them from opening up their bigoted/uninformed traps. It’s time for the ballot initiative process to die a quick and painless death. Politics is just a way for people to force their uninformed opinions down the throats of everybody else. Limit the state to enforcing contracts and we’d have a much wealthier, much healthier, much more tolerant world to live in.

3 thoughts on “The View from California

  1. I’m convinced that at least a quarter of California voters who turned out this time did not understand the scope of Prop 35.

    The same initiative slate had two reasonably accurate proxies for gauging the size of the authoritarian vote: Prop 34, to repeal the death penalty, and Prop 36, to reform the three strikes law. Even erring on the side of caution and using the Prop 34 results as a proxy for the authoritarian turnout indicates only a slight authoritarian majority of 52.8% in this election. In a state that has historically had a large and rabid pro-death penalty lobby, this looks like an advance in the direction of human rights and the rule of law. The results for 34 and 36, then, do not square with those for 35 at all.

    As far as I know, the county-by-county returns are unprecedented for a California Penal Code initiative. I cannot recall a penal initiative that did not bring out a lenient majority in the Bay Area and a draconian majority in the rest of the state. (LA County’s slight majority in favor of Prop 34 this year is an unusually liberal stance, if I’m not mistaken.) Having a penal initiative whose most tepid county-level support started at 72% (in San Francisco) is just bizarre.

    My take is that the county-by-county spread on 35 had to do not with popular support for or opposition to the proposed legislation but with the percentage of voters that had at least a rudimentary understanding of its scope, which I can attest absolutely was not accurately represented on the official ballots. The Secretary of State’s office dropped the ball on that one. The mix of counties where Prop 35 had at least 20% opposition is bizarre. It includes San Francisco, Los Angeles and Humboldt, but also Trinity and Glenn. Glenn is historically just about the most authoritarian county in the state.

    I agree that direct democracy in California needs reform; Prop 35 proves that; but I’m on the fence about keeping or scrapping the ballot initiative process. Ironically, maybe the best thing that can be done is to remove the short-form statements of scope from the ballots so that voters who wish to cast informed votes are forced to seek out information elsewhere. The half-cocked statement that the SoS provided for 35 was worse than nothing.

Please keep it civil

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