Thursday, August 5, 2010

How California's propositions work and don't work

Does yesterday's decision to block Prop 8 overturn a majority of voters? Yes, 52.3%. Some protest this as overruling the will of the people.

But, whatever one's leanings from ballot to ballot, one must remember: we Californian voters are unpredictable: 187 (stopping illegal immigrants from government services) and 227 (overturning supposedly bilingual education) also were fought by liberal courts, if predictably, along with a later voter-backed ban on race-biased state hiring and college admissions. 187 was blocked by progressive courts, the other two contentious ones weren't. Another proposition backed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to fund stem-cell research even when it was prohibited by the Federal government also passed, showing this individual streak in state voters.

Compare the current impasse over state medical marijuana legalization vs. the Feds that Prop 19 legalizing all marijuana this fall may (or may not, eventually and legally) supersede. The majority passed legalizing medical marijuana years ago but this was blocked in Federal court and continues to be blocked. I expect if 19 passes that conservatives will block it in turn. Liberal as California veers, there's a strong independent streak that enables GOP-backed, self-funded tycoons from corporate life (and actors!) to run for governor and US Senate, even if Reagan and Arnold aside they aren't able to win. We'll see this November given the anti-incumbent mood allegedly in the air if that changes.

It does frustrate me how propositional voting, instituted in the Golden State reformer Hiram Johnson's populist anti-trust fight against robber barons during the Progressive Era of 100 years ago, is thwarted and funded by special interests from churches to corporations for hidden agendas. The propositions were meant idealistically to express the will of the common people who lacked legislative support for more humane laws to pass. The propositions gave voters a chance to get heard, even if Big Business and Big Government fought to suppress their protests. So, even if as with Prop 8 I favor its rejection, I understand when my vote's been on the winning side that gets halted after the game's over how annoying this might be-- to seem to win the game and yet lose it after the final score.

Still, our democracy's not a sports contest, and the refs from the bench wear robes and bang gavels. They make the rules, despite what the constituency cheers for, if the voters clash with the Constitution as ultimate play book to settle any disputes. That's the rules of the judicial game. We the players may lose. We may argue with the refs and appeal, but instant replays don't always happen and judgments tend to rest in those with the official uniforms, not those on the field or even sometimes in the ballot box.

However, I would not predict the progressive agenda always gets its way. Many Californians aren't in lockstep with NPR or Fox although you'd forget this if following the MSM. "Decline to State" voters are the emerging bloc of moderates and skeptics, even in a (where I live) Democratic gerrymandered city in a state that's tilting inevitably, given demographics I reckon, into the blue.

(Posted to to respond to "this is a progressive court ignoring the people's voice" in the wake of the decision overturning Prop 8 against gay marriage, 8-4-10) Photo c/o: Prop 8.

(8-9-10 P.S. Read this on how a 1943 precedent influenced Judge Walker's overturning in favor of minority representation against a majority's discrimination: "How Jehovah's Witnesses helped kill Prop. 8".)


Unknown said...

If California wants to be progressive, the green endeavors are where it is at.
Spain celebrated 44% unemployment rate for people under age 30.
Let be progressive like Spain.
Extreme Whitener

John L. Murphy / "Fionnchú" said...

Not sure what this is getting at. Is Spain's green policy to blame for its youth being out of work? We elected here a president on the promise of lots of green tech, but I have yet to see it implemented. Supposedly it was to jumpstart jobs. Since the stimulus and bailouts of bankers, I'm still waiting for the green revolution in California.

tamerlane said...

The simple answer to all of this is, we Californians (native & relocated) are weird.

tamerlane said...

Spain (pop. 45 million) just surpassed the entire US in total energy produced from solar. Spain is healthy and moving ever forward; California is on life support. Both Spain and CA have the same population and the same sunshine, and very similar climates. Other than the wines of Lodi, Spain kicks our ass in every area.