For the record, I am an ardent opponent of the Propositional Democracy system that is currently in place in California. The founders of our Republic didn’t trust the general public to make sound decisions on complex issues about which they were ill-informed, so they made our nation a representative democracy: every couple of years or so, we hire people to full-time jobs making these decisions for us.
California’s initiative process is an attempt to make California a more “direct” democracy. Yet giving micromanagerial duties to the people of our state has only created problems. Even those of us who are well-informed are not privy to enough information or blessed with enough free time to truly give each issue the attention it deserves. As a result, hard decisions are made based not on scholarship but on thirty-second television advertisements and intentionally vague and opaque ballot language.
The effect of the Propositional system has been disastrous for our state. Over the last few decades, uninformed voters have concurrently voted for so-called “fiscally conservative” tax measures whilst also voting for massive socialist undertakings that cannot logically be funded with anything other than tax money. This idiocy is a direct cause of our current fiscal insolvency, and we have no reason to be optimistic that things will reverse course before California collapses in a similar fashion as Greece.
The Proposition system is also terrifying from a Civil Rights perspective, as evidenced by the passage in 2008 of Proposition 8. While reprehensible and bigoted on its face, Proposition 8 is even more frightening for its deeper implications. To borrow a concept from Martin Niemöller, none of us is safe if we live in a society that believes it is okay to remove minority rights on the basis of a simple majority vote. That Prop 8 passed is troubling; that our system even allows things like Prop 8 to be on the ballot is even more troubling.
But this is the system with which we, unfortunately, are stuck. And as tempted as I am to boycott such a retarded method of deciding statewide law, a boycott would be nothing but ineffective in this situation. Other people will vote, whether I vote or not. While I don’t agree that I should be making these decisions, it is my duty as a citizen of California to consider them as thoroughly as possible and to vote on them.
This is what my ballot will look like today:
Prop 13: Limits on Property Tax Assessment. Seismic retrofitting of existing buildings. Legislative Constitutional Amendment. Provides that construction to seismically retrofit buildings will not trigger reassessment of property tax value. Sets statewide standard for seismic retrofit improvements that qualify.
Yes. While I’m generally opposed to anything that lowers or restricts property taxes, I don’t see anything insidious about making it easier for companies to retrofit their buildings.
Prop 14: Top Two Primaries. Reforms the primary election process for congressional, statewide, and legislative races. Allows all voters to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political party preference. Ensures that the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes will appear on the general election ballot regardless of party preference.
Undecided. This is the one that’s going to tear at my little heartstrings all the way to the ballot box. Why I might vote Yes: I’m sympathetic to the proposition, because analysts predict that it will have a moderating effect on politics in California by putting more centrist candidates in office. While not a centrist myself, at this point I feel that the state is too fragmented and in too much danger of collapse for any sort of radical politics. At this juncture, we need more pragmatists like Governor Schwarzenegger. This law will probably increase those. Why I might vote No: As much as I believe that we need moderate consensus right now, I’m wary of supporting something that might stifle third party activity into the future. Also, states with similar laws have found that they make it much easier for incumbents to keep their jobs. A huge reason for supporting representative democracy, as I do, is the idea that our representatives can lose their jobs if we find that they do not actually represent us. Protecting incumbency runs contrary to that ideal.
Prop 15: Removes Public Financing of Elections ban, increases lobbying fees.
Yes. Our federal elections system has shown us that candidates can succeed by opting out of public financing (although President Obama’s election actually thwarts the wisdom that that is always anti-democratic, because he was able to create his substantial warchest through individual donations rather than corporate underwriting). That said, in our current climate minor candidates stand absolutely no chance of succeeding, and public financing at least gives them a chance. Plus, this raises fees for special-interest lobbyists. We aren’t going to ever end lobbyist influence on government, so we might as well take some of their money.
Prop 16. Imposes new two-thirds voter approval requirement for local public electricity providers. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
No, No, No, No, No!!!! This is probably the most insidious ballot measure this year, and one of the most deceptively worded/advertised. Supporters are calling it a “voters’ rights” bill, but requiring a “two-thirds” majority to do anything is NOT democratic. It is functionally impossible to get 67% of people in this state to support anything that will cost them money in the short run, so this effectively kills any city’s chances to initiate public utilities to complete with private utilities. Municipalities are currently trying to create these public utilities so that they can provide more energy efficient (i/e “green”) policies that will in the long run save us money and reduce the damage that our density is causing to our environment. In the short term, those efforts will be costly – but they are essential. This bill is an attempt to stop them from doing that and to essentially give Pacific Gas & Electric an unbreakable energy monopoly. The shrouding of Proposition 16 in “pro-democracy” rhetoric is frankly despicable. That this bill will most likely pass is an example of the backwardness of the Propositional system itself.
Prop 17. Allows Auto Insurance Companies to Base Their Prices in Part on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.
No. Here’s another shiny example of something on which individual citizens absolutely shouldn’t be voting. Just look at that title, and how it’s worded – could it really possibly be that simple? Now, notice that the main supporter of the bill is the Mercury Insurance Group – it’s starting to seem fishy, isn’t it? The law has been advertised as being cost-reductive, because drivers who have had consistent insurance can get discounts. Yet analysts for major newspapers across the state have found that the law will actually increase insurance premiums for quite a few people – people who don’t currently have insurance, or who have only recently gotten it. This will disproportionately affect the poor, and it may dissuade some people who do not have insurance from getting it.
Measure E. Emergency Neighborhood School and Teacher Retention Measure.
Yes. Our schools are crumbling, and this will try to help them with an increase in taxes on property. Opponents are trying to pull their weasel-like “common people are going to pay more taxes” crap on this one, but it’s silly. We’re talking $100 a year per piece of property, for a limited time, in an emergency attempt to save our educational system. If we fail to prioritize education, we will suffer dire consequences in the future.
Filed under: Features, california, june 8, propositions, voting