Friday, November 9, 2012

An excuse to bring up Grover Cleveland...

There's an interesting debate going on in the blogs I read about how the Republican party may need to change to attract more support next time around, particularly from non-whites. It's interesting, because there seem to be two basic schools of thought. The first is that the Republicans are a party with broadly appealing ideas that are basically held down by its association with the kind of people who are afraid of demographic change in this country. The second is that the core ideas of the Republican party aren't actually that broadly appealing at all, but until now it's been possible to prop them up through association with the kind of people who are afraid of demographic change. If the first is true, all they need to do is compromise on immigration and gay marriage, get their candidates to stop accidentally saying racist things, and they'll be good to go. If the second is true, they're a lot more screwed.

If you go back far enough, you can get to a time when the Republican party pro-business and anti-government spending, but not necessarily more (and generally less) pro-white supremacy than the Democratic party. And they were obviously successful at that point and won national elections. However, here's Grover Cleveland, the only Democrat elected president between the Civil War and 1913, talking about immigration in 1897:
A century's stupendous growth, largely due to the assimilation and thrift of millions of sturdy and patriotic adopted citizens, attests the success of this generous and free-handed policy which, while guarding the people's interests, exacts from our immigrants only physical and moral soundness and a willingness and ability to work.
Here's Woodrow Wilson on the subject in 1915:
Restrictions like these, adopted earlier in our history as a Nation, would very materially have altered the course and cooled the humane ardors of our politics. The right of political asylum has brought to this country many a man of noble character and elevated purpose who was marked as an outlaw in his own less fortunate land.
And here's Henry Cabot Lodge, one of the most prominent Republican senators of the time, talking about immigration in 1910:
There is a growing and constantly active demand for more restrictive legislation. This demand rests on two grounds, both equally important. One is the effect upon the quality of our citizenship caused by the rapid introduction of this vast and practically unrestricted immigration, and the other, the effect of this immigration upon rates of wages and the standard of living among our working people.

(all quotes found here)

Notice a difference? Presidents Harding and Coolidge both passed legislation restricting the immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans. Hoover actually tried to suspend all immigration during the Great Depression. I honestly don't know how much nativism has always been a portion of the Republican appeal (although it might be telling that Catholics used to be as uniformly Democrat as blacks were Republican in the nineteen-teens and twenties), but it does kind of seem like it wasn't all austerity and fiscal discipline back then, either. It'd be mistake to assume that the Republican party is over and done with just because they only managed 48% of the popular vote this time around, but I think it's also a mistake to assume that a simple shift on immigration will actually be all that simple.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Aftermath of the Jungle Primary

So it's hard to say what the effects of the jungle primary system were...when (if) I have more time there's some numbers it could be interesting to look at, like whether the final winner was the same person who got the most votes in the primary, or if the second person won in any districts. On the most surface level though, it's probably worth noting that two of the incumbents who ended up running against someone from their own party in the general were defeated, which I think is a pretty high rate (although in a small sample size).

Specifics of those races below:

Oh and also...

"The Rape guy lost" "Which one?" Your party has serious issues if people have to ask "Which one?" #GOP #itstheTwentyFirstCentury— Alex (@AlexCarpenter) November 7, 2012

(borrowed from Andrew Sullivan, curator of the internet)

((and actually, they both lost))


So, a lot of stuff happened last night.

Obama won, which was cool. Possibly improved on by the fact that Fox News and friends were so very sure that he wouldn't. It's 2012 and your viewers aren't the only people who matter anymore! As it was happening last night, it felt like the impetus was minority turnout...which if you're going to crush the hopes and dreams of a group of people who tried to give themselves an edge through voter suppression, is an awesome way to do it. I think I have to look at more numbers before I can say that's actually what happened though. And I'm sure Republicans will try to blame it on Sandy, or voter fraud, or who knows what else.

Oh, and can we say tipping point on gay marriage? If you live in a state whose name starts with an M, or something that looks like an upside down M, and isn't in the south or sort of kind of in the south like Missouri, or I guess Wyoming or Montana...alright I'll stop trying to make a trend out of this. Except the trend is, this is happening. It's only a matter of time.

Mostly though...CALIFORNIA! I mean sure, the all caps and the exclamation point are mostly only earned because my expectations were so very very low, but it almost kind of seems like some sort of logic actually infected the initiative process. Voters conceded that a teeny tiny increase in the state sales tax might possibly worth it to keep schools running (along with a bigger tax increase on high income earners, in keeping with the "tax anyone but me" philosophy). They even conceded that giving minor offenders, like pot heads, life sentences might not be the best use of our precious revenue. And supposedly somewhere in the state, the legislator that makes the difference between the Republicans having the 33% they need to block all tax increases, and not having that 33%, stands a real chance of losing. It might be too much to hope that this will mean the rediscovery of moderate Republicanism in this state, but I'll go ahead and hope anyways.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election 2012 - How I'm voting

Federal offices - Democrats, all the way down. And I'm probably not even going to waste any time explaining this. But with the new jungle primary system, make sure you know which ones the Democrats are. I'm not sure it will be indicated on the ballot. Or there might be two of them! Depending on your district. (Or two Republicans, in which case, I'm sorry...try to make the best of it).

State legislature - Even more Democrats! Have you seen the state of the California Republican Party? They make the national guys look like geniuses.

Propositions - Holy shit there's a lot of them. And interesting ones, too. Ones that maybe actually require some thought, and potential revisions to my "vote no on everything" philosophy. For the record, I think my new rule is to vote no on everything, unless it repeals an earlier proposition, has been placed on the ballot by the legislature, legalizes gay marriage, OR raises taxes...then it merits further consideration. To get into specifics:

Prop 30: Raises taxes! And although it does appear to be an initiative rather than a referendum, it's heavily backed by Jerry Brown, so I think the quality of law writing should be close to what you could expect coming out of the legislature (not a high bar, I know, but one that a lot of initiatives don't meet). It's bad for California to have so much of our revenue dependent on the incomes at the very top, because those incomes are more volatile, but it's even worse to not have any revenue at all. Voting yes.

Prop 31: The hardest one to fit into a convenient metric. It's more serious/wonky sounding than most of the "gee, this sounds like a good idea" initiatives I generally end up voting against, and the SF Chronicle is endorsing it. However, I think I remember not always agreeing with the SF Chronicle endorsements in the past, and this LA Times editorial against it is pretty compelling.  So, voting no.

Prop 32: Republican scheme to ban one of their opponents most reliable sources of campaign funding and weaken the influence of unions? Voting no.

Prop 33: Gee this sounds like a good idea...or wait, why exactly do we need an initiative to set rates for car insurance? And how much do you want to bet that higher income people are more likely to maintain continuous car insurance coverage than lower income people, regardless of how safe of drivers they actually are? I actually think I may have gotten screwed by this exact kind of policy (although I'm not sure, because wouldn't the fact that they are trying to pass it now imply that it wasn't the law six years ago?) when I tried to get car insurance for the first time after college. Turns out, nobody believes you that the reason that you didn't have car insurance before was that you weren't actually driving (or were using a car sharing service), so I paid really high rates at first. Seems like this could screw over a lot of people who try to cut costs by going a few months or years without driving a car. So yeah, voting no.

Prop 34: Gee this sounds like a good idea...and it probably actually is. Doesn't fit into a neat little metric, but the Death Penalty is costing the state a whole lot of money for very little benefit, and it's probably wishful thinking that we'll even get politicians who are immune enough to the appeal of being "tough on crime" to abolish it. So finally, maybe something the initiative process is good for.  In fact, let's add that to the metric...initiatives that are "weak on crime" merit further consideration due to the distorting influence of electoral politics on these issues in the legislate. I hear there's very little likelihood it will pass though, probably because the same people who those politicians are worried about also vote on initiatives. I'll do my part though. Voting yes.

Prop 35: I'm as against human sex trafficking as the next person, but this is almost the opposite of Prop 34...I see very little reason why it would be difficult for the legislature to address these issues, with a lot more flexibility and less risk of unintended consequences than you get with an initiative. Voting no.

Prop 36: Speaking of unintended it too much to hope we might be able to finally do something about the unintended consequences of Three Strikes? Probably. But it's still important to keep trying. Voting yes.

Prop 37: Gee this sounds like a good idea..and that's why I'm voting no. Unintended consequences, inflexibility of the initiative process, sounds like something the legislature would be better equipped to address, rinse was repeat. (This is the labeling GMO products one, by the way).

Prop 39: So what I'm discovering is that maybe I shouldn't even bother writing this and should just post a link to the LA Times endorsements instead, because I seem to almost always agree with them. They make a good case for why this isn't likely to be handled by the legislature (as a tax increase, it needs a two thirds majority to pass, and as out of step with the rest of California as the reactionary element of the California GOP is, they consistently hold onto just over one third of the seats in the legislature) until and why the ballot box budgeting that's included in the measure is an acceptable compromise (only lasts five years). So, voting yes.

Prop 40: Speaking of the reactionary California GOP, they keep trying to change the rules of the game rather than change their platform so that they might actually, you know, appeal to more than a third of California voters. Turns out non-partisan redistricting still isn't enough to negate the fact that California isn't actually a particularly conservative state, so Republicans want to try something else. I see no particular reason why they should get to. Voting yes. (Yeah I know that's confusing, but voting yes actually approves the current districts, voting no means that someone has to come up with new district lines).

Prop 41: Oh wait, there is no Prop 41. Only ten propositions this year...clearly not nearly enough of them.

Local stuff:

So my biggest challenge with this election is just figuring out what local stuff is going to be on my ballot, and what district I'm in for things like the school board elections. So, for anyone who's looking for it, here are links to the various maps (which all seem to take forever and a day to load, unfortunately)...

Merced County Board of Supervisors
Merced Irrigation District
Merced Community College District
Merced Union High School District
Merced City Elementary School District

Based on this, I think I only really need to develop an opinion on who I want for the Merced Irrigation District...which is a little daunting, because the main controversy seems to revolve around how many acre feet of water is needed for farming in different parts of the county, which of course I am one of the world's leading experts on. I don't think I want to sit back and just let people with more expertise than I have vote, however, because unfortunately the people who take time to develop expertise are going to be the ones that have financial interests at stake, and that can be a dangerous thing. So, water allotments! There isn't a whole lot of information on the internet to work with, but what I can piece together makes me think I should probably vote for the incumbent, Gino Pedretti. He has the endorsement of a couple of different unions, which isn't an automatic deciding factor for me, but is a positive. Also, the comments in the Merced Sun Star have some useful information, specifically one from someone calling himself "patriotfreedom" who sounds like a guy I'm likely to disagree with on most things. I think I can piece together the point that he's trying to make about the current system being unfair to El Nido (if people would typically use less than four but more than two acre feet of water without a cap, and the rules are that El Nido gets 50% as much water as the rest of the county, a cap at four acre feet negative effects El Nido and no one else), and although there really isn't enough in this article to figure out much about his views, I guess I find it encouraging that he seems to be saying that farmers will have to adjust their planting in response to drought conditions (whether this is controversial, I don't know, but based on the "Congress Created Dustbowl" signs up and down the valley I don't doubt the ability of Central Valley farmers to protest the reality that water is in fact a limited resource.)