Category Archives: Election 2010

Utah in California?

I get it that deep red states like Utah elect representatives who think child labor laws are unconstitutional. Even to somebody without a law degree, they would seem to fit quite nicely under either the clause about interstate commerce or the part that gives Congress the right to “promote the general welfare.” But, still, what I don’t expect is for California–where we elected a statewide slate of Democrats–to send people like Darrell Issa and Jeff Denham to D.C.

The press is already calling Issa “The Grand Inquisitor” because of his pledge to investigate everything and everybody. And they’re poking fun at his multiple brushes with the law. It makes us look like idiots for sending a shady character like that to Congress.

But Jeff Denham is perhaps more of a surprise. He was considered a moderate during his stint in the California Assembly. He isn’t any more. I guess there is no such thing as a moderate Republican officeholder anymore. Certainly not Jeff Denham.  

Recently Denham sent a letter to a constituent who’d written about EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses. In it, he calls the EPA “bloated” and “overextended,” and says Congress must “delay” or “overturn” EPA regulations that would “greatly harm our recovering economy.” He throws in a few more Frank Luntz talking points about how these regulations would stifle innovation, drive up energy costs, and “keep Americans dependent on foreign oil.” He talks about how regulation makes America less competitive. And how overseas competitors are not subject to limits on greenhouse gasses.

He completely fails to note that many European countries do, in fact, regulate greenhouse gas emissions and their economies have not collapsed. Some are doing considerably better than ours. He doesn’t acknowledge the fact that lack of regulation and enforcement lead to the biggest oil spill in the history of the world–right here on U.S. shores. And that we don’t know what the long-term consequences of it may be. He doesn’t admit that other countries are absolutely eating our lunch when it comes to capturing market share in the fast-growing alternative energy market. They see the potential and are supporting the industry, creating jobs and profits in ways we are not. And he completely fails to say anything whatsoever about whether we need these regulations to leave a livable planet to our children and grandchildren. Scientists are already crediting man-made climate change for the stronger-than-usual La Nina that has inundated nearly a quarter of the continent of Australia. A recent study found toxic chemicals–some of which had been banned for decades–in the blood of pregnant women.

In short, Denham would rather support corporate profits than a habitable planet.

California should be very ashamed to have sent this man to Congress. It’s a mistake voters in that district shouldn’t repeat. And one we should all help them reverse.

Our informed electorate

I just read a story on Yahoo! News about Speaker Pelosi’s last press conference. The story itself was pretty spare, but there were more than 6,000 comments. I didn’t read them all. I couldn’t. I found them too shocking. The level of information was so abysmal. The personal invective was so crude. And the spelling was so bad. It was a real eye-opener.

I have no idea why so many people are so fixated on whether or not Nancy Pelosi has had plastic surgery. But it was a frequent topic. Having seen the Speaker in strong sunlight, I certainly saw no evidence of it.

Calling her a witch and a bitch was also popular. Again, I’m sure none of these people have ever met Ms. Pelosi. I found her perfectly pleasant the time I did.

Our founders believed that our success as a democracy would be founded on the decisions of an informed electorate. Over more than 200 years, the country has expanded on that idea with public education and media licenses that were supposed to extend our access to information.

It does not appear to be working.

Instead, hate speech seems to be taking over our country. We now give every appearance of being nationally insane. The solution to every ill is to blame somebody you don’t know, and accuse them of every kind of low behavior you can think of–whether the accusation has any basis in fact or not. And the people who engage in this ranting and raving don’t appear to feel any need to check out their “facts.” They have a shocking level of certainty in their delusions.

For example, one person posted that our financial woes are caused by liberals who voted to extend “annuity” payments to immigrants, whether they ever worked in the United States or not. Of course this is only true if this immigrant has become a citizen. In which case they are entitled to the same services as any other citizen. If they never worked, they would only get Social Security if they were a survivor of a deceased worker–just like the rest of us. Illegal immigrants, in contrast, frequently use fake papers to get work. So they pay taxes into our system, but they cannot draw benefits out for fear their illegal status might be discovered. Instead of draining our government programs, they have actually helped make them more solvent.

It’s perfectly easy to find this out. I did. But the person who posted this clearly didn’t see the need. He knew he was right. Probably heard it on Faux Noise.

I tend to hang out on lefty blogs, and so rarely get a glimpse into this side of America–except at family get-togethers. Clearly I will have to venture out of the bubble more often. But I recommend it in small doses. I haven’t felt this discouraged about the fate of my country in a long time.

Meg Whitman and the Latino Vote

Over a month and a half after Meg Whitman went down in flames, losing to Jerry Brown by 13 points, recriminations are still flying among California Republicans about the embarrassing loss. George Skelton’s column today uses an interview with Rob Stutzman, a Senior Advisor to Meg Whitman and a former communications director for Arnold Schwarzenegger, to point out that a big factor in Whitman’s defeat was her alienation of the Latino vote:

But the veteran Republican strategist is blaming the mini-landslide size of Whitman’s loss on some ugly dust-ups over illegal immigration that alienated Latinos from the GOP….

“Republicans need to understand that they live in suburbs with second-generation Mexican American neighbors whose parents came here and worked in agriculture and the service industries and are very proud” of their families’ success, Stutzman says.

“They sit around at cocktail parties and they listen on talk shows and hear their parents referred to as ‘illegals.’ And we wonder why these people don’t want to register as Republicans.”

It’s good that Stutzman recognizes this reality. Of course, if you’ve been reading Calitics, you’d have known months ago that Whitman’s attack on immigrants renders her unelectable.

Stutzman lamented to Skelton the influence of “talk shows” – i.e. John and Ken – on Republicans. But Stutzman could and should go further. The problem, as we’ve explained several times here at Calitics, is that the California Republican base hates Latinos, does not accept the fact that there are almost as many Latinos as whites in California, and sees any effort to treat Latinos as fully equal and desirable members of our state’s society as being some kind of sellout.

Because of this hatred of Latinos, it’s now impossible for a Republican to win the party nomination (which requires appeasing that hatred) as well as the general election (which requires winning Latino votes). Republican statewide candidates are therefore stuck between pleasing their base or winning Latino votes. Either way, they lose.

So Stutzman is absolutely right to point out the dilemma and explain to Republicans that their candidates cannot win until the anti-Latino sentiment is abandoned. But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon; the base clings to its hatreds with a tight grip. And instead of reacting to what Stutzman said, the right-wing base prefers to shoot the messenger, if Debra Saunders’ response is any indication:

Let’s start with the biggest factor in Whitman’s Titanic disaster of a campaign — the overpaid political class coronated her because of her money, even though they had no reason to believe that she would be a good candidate or a great governor….

I talked to Stutzman who told me it would be a misreading of his conversation with Skelton to conclude that he was blaming Whitman’s loss on the GOP’s Latino vote deficit. Fair enough. And I agree that the party can do a better job shunning activists who speak as if all immigrants should be presumed illegal — which oddly was the Democratic argument during the Diaz controversy.

That said, let’s start with the mistake that spawned all other mistakes. The GOP’s permanent political class went for the money.

Saunders isn’t being serious here. Whitman had everything she needed to be a formidable candidate. Democrats and progressives spent most of 2010 scared to death that she would roll right over Jerry Brown. But she didn’t. And her need to appease her anti-Latino base played a big role in it.

Saunders also deliberately understates the problem. It isn’t a matter of “shunning activists” – it’s a matter of the California Republican base as a whole sharing these anti-Latino beliefs. If that base were shunned, if the activists were shunned, then they’d just go to another Republican candidate who would satisfy their desire to hate on Latinos. It’s exactly the move Steve Poizner attempted this spring in the primary, which forced Whitman to play up her own anti-Latino sentiments.

So the problem is dire, and it’s one major reason why the California Republican Party is a dying political party, destined to be marginalized as California politics is being realigned as a battle between progressives and corporate elitists.

But Democrats should not yet assume the Latino vote is theirs. As with any voting bloc, Latinos expect to hold positions of power, expect their needs to be addressed, and expect that politicians they support will deliver on their promises. California Democrats in Congress backed the DREAM Act, and it was Senate Democrats from other states who sabotaged its passage. Still, it’s a reminder that California Democrats don’t have a lock on the Latino vote, and need to work hard to ensure that Latinos are empowered and enriched, as they deserve to be as full members of California society.

David Harmer Finally Quits

Right-winger David Harmer appears to have been shamed by Brian’s post yesterday – after telling reporters all week he would not concede the CA-11 race to Jerry McNerney despite the final count showing him behind, Harmer is finally conceding:

GOP Congressional candidate David Harmer has officially conceded his East Bay race to Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney.

Harmer confirmed the news Friday night in a text to The Chronicle — which we’re touched to say that Dave sent from a screening of “Tangled” he was attending with his kids. Wow. I think he just won a Chronnie for that move. Best Way/Place to Reveal a Concession.

“Called & congratulated him this afternoon,” Harmer texted The Chronicle. “Don’t intend to contest results. Will issue statement tomorrow. In movie now w/kids.”

It’s nice to see a California Republican finally admit reality for change. Harmer and his fellow Republicans believed they had a chance to take out McNerney, but couldn’t do it even in a wave election year.

Of course, as we’ve been explaining here at Calitics, the California Republican Party exempted themselves from that wave. Because of their right-wing extremism – Harmer, after all, called for the abolition of public schools – the CRP has made itself unelectable in this state. True, they will win some legislative and Congressional elections, as well as local races, from time to time, but the overall trend is against them, as Harmer has learned.

Jerry McNerney has become quite a disappointment after being propelled to victory in 2006 by a wave of progressive activism. Just this week he joined Republicans to oppose the middle-class tax cut because it did not include extensions of the cuts for the rich. To be sure, McNerney has also voted along with the rest of the Democratic caucus in support of things like health care reform and the stimulus, so he’s certainly not on the right.

But McNerney is a good example of my point that California politics is being realigned to exclude the right and instead be oriented around a battle between those on the left and those who swear fealty to a corporate agenda. Depending on how McNerney’s district looks after redistricting, he should be a prime target for a progressive challenge in 2012.

After the Election – What Now (Finance and Green Economy)

Note: this is a cross-post from  The Realignment Project. Follow us on Facebook!



With the belated victory of Kamala Harris as Attorney General, the full results of the 2010 election are in for California. There many things that progressives can be proud of – a sweep of statewide offices, picking up another Assembly seat, defeating prop 23 and passing prop 25. On the other hand, there are also some major disappointments – the defeat of prop 19 (marijuana legalization), the defeat of prop 21 (a VLF to fund the state parks), the defeat of prop 24 (rolling back corporate tax breaks), and the passage of prop 26 (2/3rds requirement for fees). Prop 26 especially complicates what this victory means for California.

Indeed, our situation is a lot like the national picture after the 2008 elections – we have an executive who straddles the line between the left and right wings of the Democratic Party, a big legislative majority, but not the ability to break the fiscal deadlock and really be able to govern our state.

So where do we go from here?



The rather comfortable million-vote margin by which prop 25 passes would make me rather optimistic about the possibility for the passage of a majority-vote revenue proposal. However the failure of every revenue increase – prop 19, 21, and 23 – are daunting evidence to the contrary. Granted that the outcome might be different in a presidential electorate (younger, more minority and working class voters, higher turnout generally), but I think this shows how difficult it will be to thread the needle of the “Program/Government Blindspot” and the prevalence of austerity thinking, even if we link taxation to spending.

In the mean time, California Democrats have a daunting task ahead of them – to balance the budget without doing any more harm to already brutalized public services, and to create the economic growth necessary to ensure that the budget stays balanced. In the short-term, there are four things we can do:

  1. Going back to the Steinberg Maneuver – According to the California Budget Project, Prop 26 doesn't establish a blanket 2/3rd requirement for all fees. A number of fees, including “charges where the feepayer receives a service, product, benefit, or privilege…charges imposed for entrance, use, purchase, or lease of state or local government property, penalties, fines, or other monetary charges resulting from a
    violation of the law, charges imposed for “reasonable regulatory costs” and assessments and property-related fees,” are not covered by the 2/3rds requirement. Thus, it's still possible to raise revenue through a two-step process in which said fees are raised by a certain amount by majority vote, then taxes are raised and the fees are lowered by the same amount by a majority vote. The issue here is whether we can get Governor-elect Jerry Brown to sign such measures, given previous statements of his.
  2. We can try again with Ballot Box Budgeting – there's some indication that Brown's approach will be instead to put the budget to a vote as a proposition in a special election. The tricky thing here is how to persuade the public to vote for said budget; Schwarzenegger tried this in 2009 and it was dramatically unsuccessful. Perhaps the 2010 election signals a more realist (and realistic) electorate, but it's a roll of the dice.
  3. Banks – I'vewritten before about the potential that a state reserve bank offers. That was true before the 2010 election, but it's even more true now. Given the newly-created restrictions on raising revenue, a state reserve bank offers an entirely new possibility, both for resolving the current budget crisis, and for creating the economic growth necessary for California's future development.
    1. I believe that this bank would be even more likely to gain support if, within the state bank, there was created a series of Development Funds – a Green Development Fund, an Education and Innovation Development Fund, a Health Care and Medical Science Development Fund, and so on – that could make targeted investments into key sectors of California's economy, both public and private.
  4. Jobs – with or without financing from a state reserve bank, a Job Insurance fund would fit under the exemption in prop 26 – since the “feepayer receives a service, product, benefit, or privilege,” namely eligibility for a job when unemployed. Ultimately, as I have said before, California cannot balance its budget with 12% unemployment because revenues will continue to decline, no matter how much spending is cut. What is needed is a sudden shock to California's labor market, and unemployment being cut in half is that shock – it will pump huge amounts of money into local retailers and other businesses, it will make employers see the ranks of the unemployed in their communities shrinking, and hopefully shift the “animal spirits” of both employers and lenders.

None of these steps is a total solution for the fundamental problem of revenues – given the problems we had with the budget even before the recession. But they will fill the gap so that we can debate the question of majority-vote revenues in an economic climate of balanced budgets, normal levels of unemployment, and higher economic growth.

Green Economy:

Now that AB32 and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) are safe from Prop 23, we need to do more to show the real possibilities of a green economy. This means making it fast and seamless to develop sustainability, through the creation of expedited approval and categorical permits for model projects. It also means establishing special zoning rules in transit corridors to allow for sustainable, energy-efficient, high-density development.

This doesn't mean dismantling regulations in the name of the environment, but rather shifting the direction of regulation away from NIMBY no-growth, which only encourages sprawl and wasteful development, towards in-fill building of affordable housing in already-developed areas while protecting undeveloped land. It also means – and here is where environmentalists need to reckon with the realities of class and race – getting rid of the tools of modern class (and racial) discrimination: zoning rules that limit building heights to two-stories or less, that ban unrelated individuals from living in the same house (to prevent renters and subdivision), that establish minimum lot sizes to mandate , or that mandate the construction of garages. In other words, ending exclusionary zoning and encouraging inclusionary zoning.

Finally, it means supercharging public investments into green energy, mass transit, and other sustainable ventures. A statewide version of LA's 30/10 plan, aimed at speeding up and extending High-Speed Rail and local mass transit would be a huge transformation, both in terms of creating jobs and spurring growth, but also in lowering CO2 emissions and pushing land-use away into energy-efficient high-density development. Large-scale alternative energy projects, like the Beacon Solar Energy Project, San Fransisco's tidal energy project, should be built under public auspices, making use of the newest forms of technology. The advantage to this approach is that it allows the public sector to act as a yardstick competitor to California energy companies, spurring innovation and providing a guaranteed market for green manufacturing firms under democratic auspices.

All of this links together. Without financing, there's not going to be a green revolution in California any time soon. Without new sources of economic growth that don't depend on housing bubbles, California won't get the revenue it needs. In the end, the fight over our budget is really about the future direction of this state – whether we will have a government that can help build a broad economy or a night watchman state that is powerless to prevent corporate greed from running wild.

So let's get to work.

Prop 19 was only the beginning…

By Allen Hopper, ACLU of Northern California

California voters came out in droves to support Proposition 19 this November. More than 4.1 million people voted for Prop. 19, which would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use and allow cities and counties to tax and regulate commercial sales. That’s more votes than Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina garnered. Though the measure didn’t pass, the degree of support marks an undeniable leap forward in the movement to end marijuana prohibition. In the end, Prop. 19 achieved a higher percentage of “yes” votes (46%) than any state-level legalization measure on the ballot over the past decade.  

This is clearly only the beginning of a new, more rational public discussion about marijuana. It’s no longer a question of whether marijuana prohibition should end, but rather when and how. Post-election polling data shows that many voters who rejected Prop. 19 nonetheless believe that marijuana should be made legal. Even the leaders of the opposition to Prop. 19 publicly stated that they are not opposed to marijuana legalization, “if it’s done the right way.”  

There is already talk about another initiative on the California ballot in 2012, and California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has pledged to introduce a new statewide tax and regulate bill. And California is not alone in its efforts. Several other states are likely to have legalization or decriminalization on the ballot in the near future, including Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and Nevada. What we know is that it is clear that states do indeed have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to keep state marijuana prohibition laws on the books.  

The war on drugs has failed, and people are ready for a change. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. One in every 31 adults is on probation, in jail or in prison. FBI figures show that over 800,000 people in the U.S. are arrested for marijuana offenses each year. The vast majority of these arrests are for low-level, nonviolent simple possession offenses. Drug law enforcement in the United States is a driving force behind some of the worst aspects of our flawed criminal justice system, including tragic racial disparities. People of color are arrested at far higher rates than whites for marijuana offenses, even though rates of drug use are equal across racial lines.  According to the Prison Policy Initiative, we incarcerate black men in the United States today at rates more than five times higher than in South Africa during apartheid.  

The public is taking notice that ending marijuana prohibition will ease our overwhelmed state and local budgets, and will free up law enforcement resources to address serious and violent crime.

Despite the disappointing outcome, Prop. 19 was a giant step in the right direction. Let’s keep the discussion going.    

Allen Hopper is the Police Practices Director at the ACLU of Northern California.

Learning from New Jersey

I’m probably one of the few Chris Christie fans on this board, but this article is, in a nutshell, what we need to do as progressives to further our cause.…

I often feel that we make our case in echo chambers among people of similar passionate interest, why aren’t more progressive candidates and politicians putting up videos like this with abandon? IT would help not only personalize our mission, but it resonates to new audiences!

Top 5 Lessons at Netroots California

I usually don’t get to spend much time watching the events I put together at Netroots Nation. With a 3 day event comprised of over 100 sessions, over 300 speakers, over 100 sponsors and 2000+ attendees most of my time is spent in our show office. Thankfully I had a little more time at Netroots California to just take the content in. I was tied to one room for the most part, so there’s a lot of great stuff I missed. But for the sessions I did watch there are a few ideas that stuck with me.

Check them out below the fold.

1. The Lesson of how Jerry Brown won

The first session of the day featured a great presentation by Seiji Carpenter at David Binder Research and Bryan Blum at the California Labor Federation filled in a lot of detail on some innovative things labor did this cycle. You can find Seiji’s presentation here and I’d encourage you to page through it. There’s a lot of meat to this presentation, but I wanted to highlight a few things.

* A lot of people, myself included, had heavy criticism and concern that the Brown campaign was completely absent over the summer. Whitman was pounding away at him over the air for 112 days without any response from his campaign. However, Independent Expenditures were up on the air and they were able to communicate their intentions through press releases. They kept the campaign essentially tied over the summer. And if you contrast that with Angelides in 2006 he’d essentially lost by Labor Day.

* The campaign and IEs were able to focus on key demographics. They prevented Whitman from building a base among women. Undecideds moved toward Brown. Latinos came home to Brown and turned out in record numbers (a special shout out to SEIU’s Cambiando campaign here). Working class voters favored Brown. And in a historic shift Asian Americans overwhelmingly broke for Brown.

* Labor ran a program called Million More Voters that was intended to target voters with similar qualities to union members, and they identified 2.8 million people. Asian Americans were more than twice as likely to be targets so they invested a lot of time in researching those communities, something that hasn’t been done on a large scale in California before.

* The result of this work with the Asian American communities around California lead to a 42 point shift. Asian Americans broke 55 to 38 for Democrats in 2010 and 37 to 62 for Democrats in 2006. And the work done here should be particularly instructive for future campaigns.

* Brown won by 13 points in the end, but lost with White voters. That’s something to think about going forward.

So while this isn’t a campaign that I think anyone should repeat, those of us worried because Brown was not making efforts to reach out to youth voters or boldly articulating a progressive vision or running an effective modern online campaign or name your criticism… were wrong.

2. Open Primaries and Redistricting

In the State of California in 2011 and Beyond panel John Laird made a really smart point. He gave a few examples of politicians running last cycle’s campaign this cycle and being surprised when they lost. District 6’s newest supervisor, Jane Kim, wasn’t on this panel but that’s pretty much exactly what happened in her race with her opponents as evidenced by this article and this one.

The new variable in the 2012 cycle isn’t going to be the vastly different Presidential electorate, although candidates ignore that at their peril, it’s going to be the newly passed primary system and redistricting which will be conducted by citizens and not the legislature. In a lot of races around the state there’s a real possibility for both candidates that go through to the general election to be of the same party. In fact that came within a few hundred thousand votes of happening for the GOP in the attorney general’s race had it been in effect this year. It’ll likely lead to one candidate being either more conservative or liberal and one being more moderate. To not end up with a crop of moderates across the state and lose our progressive streak different strategies are going to be necessary. And this is going to be particularly true if one or several incumbents get redistricted into the same district. We’re going to have to think about how and whether to run primaries.

3. Narrative on government and revenue

One of the organizations I was really proud to have in attendance is California Alliance. The point their staff made across several sessions went something like this. Most voters don’t know how government works and they not only don’t trust it they actively despise Sacramento. It’s common for me to be able to walk into a room of activists or politically informed people and throw out terms like 2/3rds or Prop 13 and everyone know exactly what I’m talking about and why they’re a problem. California Alliance and a lot of other groups have made a case that the average voter doesn’t have that level of knowledge and the reason you often see these anti-tax votes or punitive votes is because they don’t like or trust Sacramento. You do have success on the local level raising revenue because voters can see what their local government does and there’s a lot more trust there. At that level it’s schools, fire fighters, police, fixing roads, etc.

So one of the key things everyone needs to be thinking about in their work is how we can build a narrative about the role of government in California, why it’s important, and why we need reforms to revenue to keep the California dream alive.

4. California vs. The Nation

It was pretty hard watching election returns come in from across the country on election night. Across the board Democrats lost seats culminating in a 60+ seat loss for the House. The GOP also claimed several key governorships and state houses on the one year it matters, when redistricting will be done. But that wave washed ashore at the Sierra Nevada and stopped, as a Courage Campaign email poetically put it. Here in California we’ve almost swept the ticket, and that’ll be complete when Kamala Harris claims victory. We pretty much maintained all seats and fended off some formidable challenges. Progressives didn’t get everything they wanted from propositions but we overwhelmingly shut down corporate money.

During “The Big (Progressive) Picture: The National Landscape Going into 2012” panel Rick Jacobs at Courage campaign noted that it’s looking likely that 5 key leadership positions will be occupied by California Republicans giving California an outsized voice in their caucus leadership. He suggests that we’ve got an opportunity over the next two years to influence national politics by focusing activism on these GOP leaders at home. They’re well aware they’ll be facing re-elections in 2 short years and with big changes happening in California they’re targets. That’s worth considering for all activists as we look at both local and national debates.

5. If you contact voters, you win

This sentiment was echoed by multiple people across sessions. A wide spectrum of organizations put in a lot of voter contact work here, made some impressive new moves this cycle, and increased funding for these activities.

But this has been a debate that’s raged on for a while in California. Most of the money spent in campaigns is for TV time. Our consulting class makes big money pushing this tactic so it’s hard to advocate change and more effective uses of that money. I think this election began to show the effectiveness of field operations in California in ways other cycles haven’t. Some of the biggest wins here were won without large budgets for TV.

So we’ve got to continue the fight to fund organizing more heavily. But the other problem expressed was collaboration. When it comes to initiative fights and candidate elections we are able to accomplish proficient communication among campaigns. What isn’t happening yet is effective sharing of resources and division of tasks. As an example, Becky Bond was talking about CREDO’s work on the No on 23 campaign. They had setup field offices in cities around the state to make calls. But other environmental organizations had setup their own offices in those same cities and they weren’t co-located spaces. There was also a division early on between organizations working in communities of color and environmental organizations. The coalition of environmental organizations didn’t want to fund field work in those communities and so a separate No On 23 campaign was formed to work in those communities.

In the end we won on 23, but in my view we won it ugly. There’s a lot of work to be done to foster greater collaboration among organizations and activists in the state and to start playing offense on initiatives over multiple cycles like the conservatives and corporate interests do. This last piece was the driving factor for creating Netroots California in the first place. The content was certainly interesting, but the value will be whether we can forge new relationships and maintain them going forward.

So in conclusion that was my viewpoint on the day. I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of things I really wanted to see, so I’d be eager to hear the thoughts of others.

UCLA Law Prof: Prop 26 Doesn’t Undermine AB 32

UCLA law prof Jonathan Zasloff argues that Prop 26 doesn't undermine AB 32 and that the California Air Resources Board still has the ability to impose an oil severance fee:

First, take a look at the careful analysis that Cara, Sean, and Rhead produced a couple of weeks ago. It notes one extremely important fact about Proposition 26: its retroactive provisions only go back to January 2010, and AB 32 was enacted in 2006. AB 32 explicitly authorizes the California Air Resources Board to impose regulatory fees. Since Proposition 26 only applies to state “statutes,” it does not affect administrative regulations.

While this still screws state and local governments' ability to impose fees for any other activity unrelated to AB 32 (for example, at Netroots California on Saturday Ted Lieu said he'd like to levy a foreclosure fee on banks, but that Prop 26 makes this nearly impossible), Zasloff's argument is that Prop 26 cannot stop CARB from implementing any AB 32-related fees since voters clearly intended to uphold AB 32:

By passing Proposition 26, could we reasonably read the state’s voters as wanting to undermine AB 32? Absolutely not, because at the same time they passed Proposition 26 with a small though clear (52.8%) majority, they overwhelmingly (61.2%) rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended AB 32. Thus, any doubts in interpreting Proposition 26 must be resolved in favor of allowing AB 32 to continue. Put another way, Proposition 26 has no effect on the broad grant of authority to the California Air Resources Board to implement, enforce, and fulfill the purposes of AB 32….


Thus, if CARB found with substantial evidence that, say, an oil severance fee — which charges oil as it is pumped from the ground — would be an appropriate way of internalizing the external costs of petroleum, then California courts would be obliged to defer to this determination. California is the only oil-producing state that lacks such a severance fee. Other such fossil fuel fees would also be permissible for CARB to impose, for the purposes of fulfilling AB 32′s mandate.

Zasloff's arguments are important, and I expect to see this employed in a future court battle over the meaning and implementation of Prop 26. It does indeed appear that Prop 26 won't undermine AB 32 to the extent we feared.

However, that's just one small silver lining. Prop 26's passage will have massively negative fiscal ramifications for state and local governments, making our budget crisis much worse and destroying our ability to recoup the externalized costs of other private actions. We got rid of the 2/3rds rule for budgets in the passage of Prop 25. Now it's time to lower the 2/3rds rule for taxes and fees. That battle begins today.

California Rejects the White Man’s Party

Brown Whitman
White: 46 50
Black: 77 21
Latino: 64 30
Asian: 55 38
Other: 55 36
18-29: 59 32
30-44: 55 38
45-64: 53 43
65+ 47 48
The exit polling is clear – California Democrats won a big victory on Tuesday night because Jerry Brown and the rest of the Democratic ticket reached beyond the white base that constitutes the Republican electorate. At right you can see the exit polling results for the gubernatorial race, indicating that while Whitman won white voters overall and voters over 65, she did poorly everywhere else.

Democratic victories on Tuesday would have been even more substantial had more of the electorate showed up. 21% of voters were 65 and over, and 45% were between age 45 and 65, with just 12% being age 18-29. 62% were white, but 22% were Latino – and while Brown dominated among Latinos, he essentially split the white vote.

Overall, this paints a picture of a state whose electorate – even older white voters – do not respond well to exclusionist appeals. Whitman made much of her anti-immigrant, anti-Latino politics, and it not only cost her big among Latinos, it also helped her lose younger white voters whose vision of California is of a state where everyone is welcome and seen as an equally deserving member of society.

This trend is mirrored nationally. Pew Hispanic Center reports that Latinos broke 64-34 for Democrats across the country. In Nevada, Harry Reid put on a clinic in mobilizing a working class coalition led by Latinos to stop Sharron Angle.

In terms of ideology, here in California “moderates” broke 60-35 for Brown, with “independents” breaking 47-43 for Whitman. This might be explained partly by the trend the PCCC identified nationally, that many Obama independents stayed home out of frustration and left a more Republican-friendly bloc of independents to tip the balance of several elections around the country. Here in California, the fact that Republican-friendly independents are a much smaller portion of the overall electorate (all independents were 27% of the exit poll sample) may explain their lower impact.

Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum takes a look at the national polls and finds that the core of the Democratic coalition held together. A bloc of people who stayed home in 2008 – probably teabaggers – were the biggest movers to Republicans, along with whites, seniors, and rural voters. Urban voters, mothers, Millennials, and African Americans were the least likely to shift to the GOP.

So taken together, it seems clear that while older whites may have broken for Republicans, the rest of the population – i.e. the majority – either broke for the Democrats or only barely moved to the right. And since it’s the shrinking parts of the population – whites and old folks – who broke most for Republicans, it’d be right to conclude that 2010 was a temporary setback for Democrats that can be reversed once the Obama Administration gets its head out of its ass and starts helping people get jobs instead of helping Wall Street get richer.

That’s not how Kathleen Hennessy and James Oliphant put it in a absurd LA Times article:

Democrats searching for good news amid the rubble of Tuesday’s midterm election results can look to Latinos and African Americans, two groups of voters that stayed with the party in large numbers.

But that, in a sense, is like taking comfort in that fact that as your house is falling down around you, it isn’t also on fire.

The Democratic Party was overwhelmingly rejected by whites, independents and seniors. Perhaps most troubling to Democrats was that increasing numbers of women also turned toward the Republican Party.

How is that bad news? Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic group not just in California, but in the country. They clearly swung the California and Nevada elections, and perhaps several others. To put it gently, seniors are not exactly going to be in the electorate for very long, and whites’ numbers are shrinking in the key battleground states.

The LA Times article also claims Dems are losing women:

The Democratic erosion was perhaps most accentuated by the flight of women, who were among the party’s most enthusiastic supporters in 2006 and 2008. According to exit poll data, women essentially split their votes evenly between Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday. The last time that happened was in 2002.

White women in particular defected from Democrats, giving their votes to Republicans by an 18-point margin. Similarly, 57% percent of married women voted for Republicans, while unmarried women – a more liberal group – turned out in smaller numbers than in 2008.

I don’t read this as a “flight” from Democrats. Lower turnout levels are a big part of this story. And here in California, women went for Brown 55-39. Clearly, women felt as many other voters did that the DC Democrats hadn’t done enough to help repair the economy (which is true) and some stayed home, some voted Republican.

But there’s really no evidence that the 2010 election portends long-term doom for Democrats. Instead it is Republicans who are in trouble. They won by appealing to a shrinking group of people who are determined to hog democracy and prosperity for themselves at the exclusion of the young and the nonwhite. If Republicans follow through, they will merely repeat Meg Whitman’s error and alienate the rest of the electorate – Republicans cannot maintain their majorities for very long at all if they cannot win over people of color and younger voters of all backgrounds.

California and Nevada show the future – and it’s a future where today’s Republican Party, predicated on defense of white privilege, is doomed.