Last night at the ACLU & Planned Parenthood Campaign for Teen Saftey phone bank, I had maybe the single nicest and most hopeful voter contact I’ve ever had. I called the very first name on my list, and the woman who answered the phone gave me the direct line of who I was trying to reach – and said I’d called a convent! Given the sensitive topic I was calling about, I was a little worried about what was coming next.
I dialed the direct number, and the woman who picked up said she was indeed following the special election, and that she was glad I called. She listened patiently to the whole schpiel, and then told me that while she was indeed Catholic and she firmly believes in the sanctitiy of life, she was voting no on 73. The reason? She works at one of the largest homeless shelters in the city, and she’s seen the effect that laws like this have firsthand. She said this will absolutely increase the number of teens who end up with no option but the streets, and although this was a difficult issue she could not do that.
This one short conversation spoke volumes to me about the interplay of faith and works. The church I grew up in taught that works aren’t required for salvation. As Martin Luther put it, sola fide, or “faith alone” is. Grace isn’t something that gets racked up like stock options; it’s poured out onto everyone by a loving and just God. This is a very different way of thinking about God than the fundamentalist caricature of Christianity that’s so prevalent in our culture.
Of course, they also told us that sola fide doesn’t mean “take it easy!” It’s the awareness of grace that moves progressives, not the fear of wrath. This idea lies at the heart of the perennial wisdom that all religions (and for that matter, most humanist philosophies) share and it still seems revolutionary today. It’s easy to see why Martin Luther got in as much trouble as he did for suggesting it five hundred years ago!
My hope is that this call was part of a pattern of re-awakening to a basic truth: if we really want fewer abortions, criminalization is not the answer. The right answer is making a real committment to building a just and moral society.
I grumble a lot about phone banking, and I’m really looking forward to the day when our side knows they have to vote as consistently as the conservative blocs that always, always turn out. Then maybe we won’t have to do it so much. But calls like this are a good reminder of what it’s all about. There are a lot more to make between now and the election – it’s easy to sign up at NoOnProposition73.org if you’d rather just talk about this issue than “nix the first six.”

New SUSA poll numbers

New poll numbers from Survey USA are out, and while the numbers still don’t look so good, there is some positive movement in the trendlines. Via DavidNYC at the SwingStateProject (the early October numbers are in parentheses):

Proposition 73 requires that physicians notify the parent of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours before performing an abortion.
Yes: 60 (59)
No: 38 (39)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 74 extends the probationary period for new teachers from 2 years to 5 years, and makes it easier to dismiss teachers with unsatisfactory performance evaluations.
Yes: 53 (55)
No: 45 (44)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 75 prohibits public employee unions from using union dues for political purposes without the written consent of union members.
Yes: 56 (60)
No: 42 (37)
(MoE: ±4.0%)

Proposition 76 limits growth in state spending so that it does not exceed recent growth in state revenues.
Yes: 58 (58)
No: 41 (36)
(MoE: ±4.1%)

Proposition 77 changes the way California draws boundaries for Congressional and legislative districts. District boundaries would be drawn by a panel of retired judges and approved by voters in a statewide election.
Yes: 54 (59)
No: 41 (36)
(MoE: ±4.1%)

Keep in mind this poll uses robocallers and questions that sound a whole lot like the Governor’s talking points. Both the Field and PPIC polls use more neutral language and show a lot more folks nixing the first six. There’s a much more detailed and nicely organized analysis over at BetterCA and even more at dailykos.

Stronger together

SEIU, a union that organizes mostly service economy workers, does great work. They were among my favorite folks to work with in Santa Barbara – they seemed to attract very sharp and together organizers with a lot of heart. That attitude seems to be pervasive through their whole organization, and their latest web effort is no exception: check out SinceSlicedBread.com. It seemed like a little bit too cute of an idea at first, but the interaction design is really nice so it works better than I expected it might. And you can win huge piles of money!
I took the opportunity to post this summary of the high road…

For the past thirty years, conservatives have defined many Americans’ understanding of practically everything about economics. We need a widely understood progressive and democratic alternative to failed right wing, supply-side economic schemes.
Here is one possibility.
Progressive, democratic economics is about expansion: expanding security, expanding opportunity, expanding possibilites, expanding justice and expanding hope. The core moral vision is that society should give everyone the opportunity to develop their own capabilities as fully as possible. The way to get there is to take the high road, which has these six parts:
secure basic freedoms – like housing and health care
invest in the future – schools, basic research and infrastructure
democratize wealth – via strong unions, wage laws and progressive taxes
build the green economy – starting with energy independence
housebreak capitalism – by getting corporate money out of politics
globalize this – provide real leadership and halt the race to the bottom
The high road is the path to an economy that works for everyone!

There are definitely a lot of righties on there, ranging from constructive to angry. Sometimes in the same post even, like the one on mine. After he was done telling me I was full of it, the rest of his critique (which carefully avoided questioning the moral vision) was well thought out and reasonable enough to respond to. Congrats to SEIU for putting together an environment where that sort of interaction happens.

More on the middle class squeeze

Going into a little more detail on this, the SF Chronicle’s Sunday story on the middle class squeeze almost got it right. Here’s what they missed. They ran this graph:

which clearly shows the top 5% pulling away like crazy from everyone else. But the real story is that that curve repeats itself the higher and higher you go into the data. The best description of this I’ve found is from David Cay Johnston’s Perfectly Legal; the chapter that describes all this happens to be available for download (.pdf). Income growth for the bottom 99% of Americans from 1970 to 2000 averaged +$2710, which comes out to a raise of a whopping $1.35 an hour (assuming 40 hour weeks with two weeks off, which are just a dream for most folks now).
Meanwhile, the top 0.1% of taxpayers – in 2000, this was about 13,400 people – had income growth of +$20M and change, or more than ten thousand dollars an hour. It seems unbelievable, but this is what the numbers say. Here’s another take on this data, it’s an illustration of the chart found on page 37 of that pdf…

The ramifications of all this are a little tough to see. Just as the poor are invisible (modulo the occasional hurricane), so are the rich. However, one place they’re showing up is in elections, including this special election in California. We’ll have more on this later in the week, but in the meantime, here’s yet another illustration of this effect.
A couple weekends ago, Jen and I went for a hike to a place called Five Lakes, which is sort of half way between the Alpine Meadows and Squaw ski areas near Lake Tahoe. While hiking, we came across what looked like a new ski lift, maybe one connecting the Alpine base lodge to the ridge that separates it from Squaw…

but we were wrong. As it turns out, that land is privately owned, and the owner of it has apparently decided to build his own private ski lift. Next time you hear a Republican whining about how oppressive taxes on the rich are, think about the guy who is building his own private ski lift.
The principle of taxing people according to their ability to pay that underlies progressive taxation goes back to before the founding of this country, and there are a small number of people in who clearly have the ability to pay a lot more than they are now. The rest of us are really tired of getting trickled down on.
Here’s another particularly tough problem:

The plight of middle-income Americans is sometimes overlooked because the official poverty level, which the federal government has based since 1965 on three times an “economy” food budget, does not account for hikes in housing, energy or health care.

The reason this is tough isn’t because it’s so difficult to fix – it wouldn’t be. It’s just tough politically, because whoever’s watch this gets fixed on is going to see what looks like a gargantuan jump in inflation! But we have to do this, because the amount of money that Californians (and many Americans) are spending on these neccessities have all gone completely bananas. Econometrics problems are a big deal; they’re one of these almost hidden things that have a huge effect on people’s perceptions and the policies put into place by the people they vote for.

All the propaganda that’s fit to print

Unbelievably, the LA Times has come out this morning with an endorsement of Prop 75.
This is yet another example of an increasingly disturbing trend that has liberals turning their backs on organized labor – without whom the causes in which liberals believe would be that much worse off: education, health care, the environment.
In their argument, the Times admits that Prop 75 is being pushed by right-wing partisans in an attempt to weaken Democrats, while at the same time asserting that this measure won’t “take public unions out of the political game.”
Oh yeah?
Take a look at what has happened in other states where right-wingers aligned with Bush have pushed similar initiatives:

“Unions all over the country have an investment in this fight because they know that if they can no longer raise money for Democratic candidates and causes, there is no other group on the left that can amass the kind of political war chests that Republicans raise,” says Elizabeth Garrett, a law professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who tracks state initiatives.
Such has been the case in the state of Washington, where passage of a similar law in 1992 – by 72 percent of voters – led to a precipitous drop in political contributions from teacher union members in the first year: from 48,000 contributors to 8,000. When Utah passed a similar law in 2001, only 6.8 percent of teacher union members allowed their dues to be spent on politics.

The Times also naively states that they can endorse this measure because it’s public employee unions, and that if the right were going after private unions, as they did in 1998 in California, the Times would oppose that. The obvious reason being that it is ludicrous to say you are going to restrict how unions can raise money but not corporations. But the point here is that once Prop 75 is in effect, those fighting for the public interest will be so weakened that any number of unfair and right-wing initiatives will be able to pass in California with much greater ease.
Make no mistake about it, Prop 75 is dangerous. We must defeat it. We must not buy into the same conservative arguments of “it’s my money.” Those are the same arguments that produced tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans while millions of people suffer in poverty, and millions more struggle to make ends meet.
It’s not *just* your money. It’s your share of the wealth our society has created – wealth that wouldn’t exist if we didn’t all work together.
So while we can often count on the L.A. Times to get things right, there are plenty of occasions in which we can’t. Remember, they also endorsed Pete Wilson in 1994.

If you’re still tempted to vote for 77…

…please, read this entire post (from dailykos) very carefully. It’s the compactness criteria that would really cause the problems; this thing is a power grab, plain and simple. It’s every bit as bad as what Rep. Tom DeLay did in Texas, it’s just much more carefully dressed up to look reasonable.
There’s an interesting intersection with land use policies here. One of the most remarkable aspects of the 2004 election was just how incredibly blue the cities were and just how red everywhere else was, which was best illustrated by this map…

Not much has been written about why this is, but one theory is the almost complete elimination of interaction with the public realm in the suburbs. It’s possible to walk into the garage, hop in the car, drop the kids off at school, go to work, and then repeat this process in reverse at night without ever having any kind of interaction with the public sphere that you’re aware of. (of course the roads and the schools wouldn’t exist without the government, but it’s easy to not think about this) Alternatively, most city dwellers interact with the public sphere from the moment they set foot out the door. This may be part of what gives rise to these two very distinct worldviews.
So if California were to suddenly start building walkable and transit-friendly new urbanist type neighborhoods – instead of sprawl – this might not matter as much. Pockets of this are happening locally, but since there’s been no statewide initiative, it’s certainly not widespread. We will get there, but since this is really nothing less than a realignment of the American dream, it’s going to take a few years. In the meantime, the sly gerrymandering they’re trying to make happen here will further cement their majority in congress.
However, it is possible that the when the true hideousness of Republican economic principles starts to settle in, the results are going to turn out to be so incredibly bad for so very many people that it won’t matter whether you take the bus to work in the morning or hop in the SUV. This is already happening, and the SF Chronicle has another excellent story on it in today’s paper. The political ramifications of this middle class squeeze could end being very far reaching. The authors only touch on it, but the fact is that the Republicans don’t have a single answer for this problem. Shoveling more money at rich people really isn’t cutting the mustard, and people are starting to wake up to that.
In an act of perhaps intentional editorial irony, the Chron also chose to run this incredibly frustrating and lengthy interview with Bush apologist and economist Michael Boskin. Like most right wing economists, this guy comes off like a complete tool. He sounds so out of touch that he must’ve conducted this interview from mars. He’s certainly missing the story that the Chron ran on the front page of the same edition he’s in the business section of.
The only thread that ties all of the initiatives together is Governor Schwarzenegger and the Republican-coporate machine’s overall objective, which is to consolidate his freak victory of 2003, structurally realign politics in this state and flip it permanently to the right – regardless of how many more lefties there are and where they live. 77 is part of that. Nix the first six – and that includes a big old NO on 77.

Special election ground work and Howard in Hayward

Dan and I spent much of the day handing out copies of Speak Out California’s 2005 special election voter guide to shoppers at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.

We hooked up with the folks at San Francisco for Democracy, who have been tabling there every Saturday for months helping to register voters and get the word out.
Voters we ran into seem to be just starting to pay attention to this election. On several occasions, people passed us by, but then when they registered what we had said – “special election voter guide,” they came back to take one.
We handed out a couple hundred copies. In this election, which Schwarzenegger is counting on being low turnout for our side, it seems any amount of effort will help!
Meanwhile, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean will be in the Bay Area tomorrow, speaking to a crowd at the UFCW 870 Union Hall in Hayward, 28870 Mission Blvd. in Hayward, starting at 4:00 p.m. Visit the Hayward Democratic Club

More JoinArnold lameness

The Alliance covers more just brilliant writing over at the JoinArnold weblog. We know they’ve had problems raising money for this dog of an election, but the lack of even rudimentary adult supervision over there is a joke. They don’t seem to understand that a campaign weblog is an official statement of the campaign, as well being fun and giving people a chance to connect with the process more easily (although it’s a lot harder to make that connection when comments are turned off and it’s just one-way, as there’s is).
So it’s the official policy of the Schwarzenegger campaign that we should have a wet t-shirt contest for nurses. Why any woman in this state would vote for this guy or anything he’s connected to, even beyond how it’s all taking this state exactly in the wrong direction, is practically unfathomable. You’ve got to love the comment from Mike Murphy on their post, too. Yet another instance of someone whining about “PC” when they’re really just looking for an excuse to keep being an #$(&*hole. Mike: if you’re going to be a jerk, at least own it.
In other news, Schwarzenegger agrees to real town hall forum to be aired Oct. 24. That should be interesting. And if you missed the story about how Schwarzenneger is bringing in GOP ringleaders to try and turn out the evangelical vote, check out PowerPac’s analysis. Yep, the reason 73 is on the ballot and our not-so-pro-choice waffler of a Governor is supporting it is so they can do exactly what they did to re-elect the President. GOP hardball tactics come to California.

Get Involved!

With the special election just weeks away, now is the time to mobilize the troops and get involved! We must get the word out about these dangerous propositions, especially because Schwarzenegger is doing everything he can to mobilize a small right-wing minority of loyal voters who will decide our future for us in California.
The California Democratic Party has a list of field offices throughout the state where folks are contacting voters by phone and out walking in neighborhoods.
Please, if you haven’t done so already, give a little of your time and help us send a strong message to Schwarzenegger and the Republicans that we will not stand for this conservative takeover.