California’s Ballot Initiatives Were a Debacle for Me

California Secretary of State

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I was reminded yesterday that on this year’s state ballot initiatives I recorded my most brutal repudiation ever: only five out of twelve went my way. I’m pretty sure I’ve never come close to doing so badly. Here’s the scorecard:

  1. Stem cells. I said NO, California said YES.
  2. Split rolls for Prop 13. I said YES, California said NO.
  3. Affirmative action. I said YES, California said NO.
  4. Allow felons to vote upon release from prison. I said YES, California said YES.
  5. Allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by the time of the general election. I said NO, California said NO.
  6. Miscellaneous hodgepodge of tax increases. I said WEAK NO, California said WEAK YES.
  7. Increases penalties for certain minor crimes, primarily shoplifting. I said NO, California said NO.
  8. Allows local governments to enact rent control. I said NO, California said NO.
  9. Allows Uber to treat its drivers as contractors, not employees. I said NO, California said YES.
  10. Requires physician or nurse to be present during dialysis treatment. I said NO, California said NO.
  11. Tightens California’s consumer privacy laws. I said NO, California said YES.
  12. End cash bail. I said YES, California said NO.

Some of these are not that important. I don’t really care all that much if Californians want to spend a few billion dollars on stem cell research, nor do I care that much if 17-year-olds are allowed to vote in certain primaries. For me, the important ones were 15, 16, 17, 22, 24, and 25. Every single one of those went against me except felon enfranchisement.

What does this mean? In the case of the Uber initiative, I’m willing to completely blame the $200 million ad campaign in favor of it, which was enormously effective and virtually uncontested. The others are more obviously ideological defeats. Californians just didn’t want to make corporations pay a fairer share of property taxes. They didn’t want affirmative action. They were willing to vote for a consumer privacy law even though almost none of them understood what it would do. And they just didn’t like the idea of ending cash bail.

This might be nothing more than a random drubbing for me. You win some, you lose some. Alternatively, though, it could mean that something is shifting: either California is becoming less liberal or I’m becoming more liberal. I don’t think I’ve changed much, which leads me to think that maybe California has entered a new phase of slightly declining liberalism. Maybe.

Or it might mean nothing at all. That’s always a possibility.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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