Tomorrow, I will vote for a new governor and a United States Senator (I’ll also vote for a member of the House of Representatives, but that’s boring). I’ll also cast my vote on the statewide ballot propositions, despite my opposition to the proposition system itself. This is how I will vote in the most important races:
Governor: Jerry Brown. People have been “down on Brown” because he’s a cynical career politician. I’m excited about him, though! He’s had the job before, and his age means that he’s not going to try to use the governorship as a stepping stone for something greater. Maybe – just maybe – he can make important-but-unpopular decisions without fearing electoral backlash. I like his personal candor; perhaps he’s cynical, but he seems honestly cynical and very much “alive” as a personality. He reminds me of Joe Biden, my initial candidate for president in 2008.
When Brown was governor he spoke out against Proposition 13 – the law that says that all budgets and tax increases must be approved by 2/3 of the legislature or the electorate. While it is unfortunately not within the governor’s power to repeal the proposition (although he can certainly advocate its repeal from his bully pulpit), Meg Whitman supports the proposition and has even attempted to use Brown’s stance against him. Proposition 13 is the single most destructive piece of legislation in California history, and it must be repealed for our state to have any chance for survival into the future.
Also, Meg Whitman seems grossly unqualified for the job.
Senator: Barbara Boxer. Boxer has been a leader in the Senate for years, and she’s part of a Democratic Party that needs to retain control of the Senate in order to counterbalance the wave of reactionaries that are predicted to conquer the House.
Also, Carly Fiorina seems grossly unqualified for the job.
Proposition 19: No. I support the legalization of marijuana, which should never have been illegal in the first place. I also support tax revenues for the state. Proposition 19, however, ought to be defeated.
The first reason that I can’t go with Proposition 19 is its defiance of federalism. I believe in secessionism – despite the Civil War, I think that states should be able to leave the Union if they feel that it no longer benefits them to be a part of it. I do not, however, support nullification. Our federal system is based upon a balance-of-power between national, state, and local governments – a hierarchy that was decided well before California chose to be a part of the United States. If a state believes that it is in its self-interest to be part of the federal system, then it must defer to federal law. Defiance of federal law by individual states weakens the efficacy of the entire system.
If California attempts to nullify federal law by popular vote with Proposition 19, it would create a bad precedent. If the federal government were to let such a law stand without challenge, then it would tacitly give the right to states around the country to amend federal laws whenever their whim directed them to do so. Texas, for example, could nullify the part of federal law that says that school children should not receive religious indoctrination in schools. Alabama could nullify laws that ensure the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies. Montana could repeal assault weapons bans, and Arizona could repeal federal anti-discrimination laws.
Large amounts of people in those states would agree with those policies, just like so many people in California want to legalize weed. The strength of the federal system may mean that California potheads should be cautious and keep their weed in the trunk while driving (which is pretty much the only time that anyone ever gets in trouble for pot in this state), but it also keeps stupid people in other places from doing terrible things that harm their citizens. Worthwhile trade? I think so.
Yet the passage of Prop 19 wouldn’t actually weaken the federal government — it would merely challenge it to act. The Obama Administration is well aware of the Constitutional ramifications of allowing Proposition 19 to go into effect, and Attorney General Eric Holder has already stated that the administration will fight it. There will be a federal injunction to delay the law’s inaction, and it will be backed up by DEA officers on the ground in California with license to arrest entrepreneurial citizens who are taking advantage of the new law. California will hardly become the Amsterdam-like wonderland that some people are anticipating. There’s a possibility, in fact, that things might actually become more difficult for pot smokers in the state as the federal government attacks growers and distributors.
Those negatives aside, there don’t seem to be tangible benefits that would come from Prop 19.
Governor Schwarzenegger signed a law last month that reduced marijuana possession to an infraction, not a misdemeanor. That move removes the argument that Prop 19 will save the state money in legal processing and incarceration fees, and it also plays against the argument that marijuana laws are used to facilitate racial profiling (I admit that it doesn’t completely solve that problem, but if police forces are racist they will find a way to profile people with or without marijuana prohibition).
The other supposed benefit of Prop 19 is that it will bring tax revenues to the state. Yet the law doesn’t actually specify any statewide plan for taxation – rather, it leaves that to municipalities. Cities will be in competition with each other to attract new marijuana businesses, and one of the main bargaining chips they’ll have will be in the form of tax rates. If somehow Prop 19 survives federal challenges and actually legalizes weed, then cities that want pot farms and marijuana tourism will levy negligible taxes to attract them to town and the state will see little-to-nothing in terms of tax money.
Proposition 20: Yes. Gerrymandering is a real problem. Prop 20 is good for democracy in the state.
Proposition 21: Yes. I thought about this one a lot. As opponents of the proposition have said, it is a de facto new tax. In 2010, are our state parks really the top priority for a new tax? No, I can’t say that they are. What I can say, however, is that I would gladly pay $18 a year to get free admission to all of the state parks. And I can also say that these beautiful natural wildlife refuges ought to be insulated so that they don’t get destroyed by opportunists during this years-long budgetary crisis that is not likely to conclude soon.
Proposition 22: No. This bill would hamper the state’s ability to raise money in times of emergencies. The state is already so restricted when it comes to raising funds that it makes no sense to restrict it further. Sometimes I wonder if the people who write these propositions are actually hoping for California’s collapse.
Proposition 23: No. Prop 23 is probably the worst thing on the ballot this year. It is short-sighted, and it will benefit no one but predatory oil companies in other states that don’t want lose customers in California. “Going green” will require much hard work and structural change in this state, but suspending our efforts to do so for short-term economic gains will only damage our economy and our environment for the future.
Proposition 24: Yes. Over the last few years, the state legislature has passed some fairly ridiculous tax breaks that help big businesses to defray their costs in the state. This measure would repeal them. The LA Times editorial board said to vote against this one because initiatives aren’t the right way to change decisions by the legislature – their argument was that it was “micromanagement.” I agree with their argument, but I’m still voting yes. Why? I believe that the initiative system itself is micromanagement, and a dangerous bastardization of representative democracy. But it’s also the law of the land in California. Unfortunately, with both the initiative system and Proposition 13 in place and not looking like they’ll be gone anytime soon, the “wrong way” to make changes in our state is sometimes also the “only way.”
Proposition 25: Yes! I’m enthusiastically in favor of this proposition, which will end the super-majority needed to pass budgets in this state. This begins to peel away some of the restrictions from Prop 13, and it’s good progress even though it doesn’t go far enough (our government still won’t be able to raise taxes without a super-majority).
Proposition 26: No. This would require a super-majority for certain state and local fees that are now done the proper way, through a regular majority. Obviously I hate it.
Proposition 27: No. Oh, the proposition system sucks so hard! Prop 27 would undo Prop 20 if they were both to pass. What a great illustration of the stupidity inherent in our system.