Anyone remotely political felt emotionally invested in the Nov. 7 elections. As the results came in through the afternoon and into the night, I found myself elated at times but disconcerted at others. On the national level, I welcomed the inroads the Democrats made in Congress (especially in the House). A single party can only juggle every branch of government before it gets cocky, does something extravagant, and loses hold of one.
I was, however, more ambivalent about the results of our state election. Of the thirteen initiatives on the ballot, some key propositions I favored failed to pass.
Proposition 87, the “energy/oil tax” initiative, was shot down by a slim majority of about 55 percent of state voters. This result made it clear that California is divided, or perhaps ambivalent, about leading America in the fight against our nation’s oil dependency.
So what did this noble proposition have working against it besides the Chamber of Commerce and the oil companies? Well, for one thing, that fear-inspiring word “tax.”
The opponents of this proposition just about made it their entire platform to convince Californians that the severance tax of 1.5-6 percent, which would have funded research and production for alternative energy, as well as offered incentives for consumers to purchase alternative energy vehicles, would be passed on to the gas-guzzling driver. This omen, called so because it is blatantly superstitious, ignores the proposition’s inherent safeguards against such a tax transfer.
The other major, and perhaps more plausible, argument against 87 claimed the new tax would have forced California oil refineries to buy out-of-state oil untaxed by 87, which would have in turn entrenched us deeper within our dependency on Middle East oil. The problem with this argument is that not only is California already heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil (42 percent of the oil California consumes comes from overseas and much of that, in turn, comes from Saudi Arabia and Iraq), but we can expect to remain so as long as this fear of short-term problems so pervades the political climate that it renders us impotent to do anything about it.
And then there was Proposition 89, a campaign finance reform initiative that would have created a Fair Political Practices Commission that would have taxed corporations and financial institutions for most of the $200 million annually that would have been allocated for “public funding of political campaigns for state elected officials,” according to initiative statute.
Money speaks louder than the public interest. Powerful special interest groups buy our elected representatives and few of us, wherever we reside on the political spectrum, would pretend otherwise. But as with Proposition 87, opponents of 89 successfully used the scary T-word to cast an ominous shadow over the initiative, claiming Californians would be taxed hard to fund slimy campaigns and shameful political advertisements.
In the end, Proposition 89 was KO’d by voters. The opponent was formidable and better trained, so having entertained the idea that 89 could muster enough strength to be victorious made this onlooker blush.
But before I sound too bitter, I did welcome the results of two other ballot outcomes.
Proposition 83 passed with the blessing of more than 70 percent of Californian voters. The new law will stiffen penalties for violent and habitual sex offenders and child molesters, requires them to wear a GPS monitor, and bar convicted offenders from living in a 2,000-mile zone around schools and parks.
The argument against this one was worth consideration but was ultimately not convincing. Relatives or acquaintances of the child commit 80 percent of sex crimes against children, opponents said. If this is the case, residency restrictions may only, at best, offer a lukewarm improvement of child-safety laws.
But the law does more than create an invisible boundary around playgrounds and schools. It will stiffen penalties for dangerous criminals who threaten the most vulnerable members of our society and will grant law enforcement more leeway to prevent further crimes by way of the monitoring system.
Perhaps the most controversial initiative was Proposition 85, which would have restricted “unemancipated” minors from getting an abortion until 48 hours after the physician notifies the minor’s parents or legal guardians. The proposition was defeated by 54 percent of state voters. I voted with the majority, though perhaps for different, and perhaps politically incorrect, reasons.
I do not believe abortion is murder (though I differ in opinion on late-term abortion), infanticide, or an irredeemable sin, as the anti-abortion groups characterize it as, so the most I can be convinced of against 85 is the question of whether parents have to right to know what their children are up to. That right to know, of course, has to be weighed against the problems that would ultimately follow if more and more children were forced to raise children they were unwilling to have and care for just so we can keep a moral standard that considers abortion murder.
Overall, the election was split down the middle, with almost half of the 13 propositions being defeated and more than half being victorious. There will be more bonds for social work and smokers no doubt can sigh a breath of relief, not to mention smoke, when they light up.