California Election Final

Now that the election is pretty much over, with only one or two races still hanging in the balance, it is clear that this was not a great election cycle for Democrats. While the pundits analyze every which way, and with the Republicans delusional that this was a mandate for them, let’s try to make some sense of just what this election means for California—and even being so bold as to consider its national implications. (Why not? Every other political junkie and so-called expert has put in his or her two cents worth).
So here’s my take—-with thanks from experts, exit-pollsters, and legitimate academics and observers who actually want to provide perspective and not propaganda or partisan spin…
There was one election day but essentially two elections—or two electorates. First and obviously, the one that showed up. Then there were the women, the younger voter and the voters of color who didn’t show up at all….or if they did, they switched allegiance and voted “Republican.” In California, the results were just the opposite. While the younger voter didn’t come to the polls in large numbers, many did come for the aborted but still-alive notion that we should legalize marijuana. Women also came out, again not in numbers as large as previously, but they did have women running for the top two ticket items. Two for US Senate (but only one strongly supportive of womens rights and the other pretty silent on them except to be anti-choice) and one very wealthy but eminently unlikeable woman running for governor.
The key in California was the effort of labor and grass-roots groups to pull out the Latino vote—which came in droves. In fact, the Latino vote accounted for 22% of the electorate in California this year. While in the rest of the country the demographic was older, whiter, male voters who comprised the electorate, here we were more representative of the state’s actual demographics. Latinos voted in large numbers for both Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown.
Ironically, the Latino voter may have been energized by Meg Whitman, who spent multi-millions to arouse this sleeping-giant of a voter bloc, knowing that she couldn’t win without getting a substantial portion of them to vote for her. She spent millions on Spanish-language broadcasts, brandishing her credentials as a successful businesswoman and someone who would respect the desires of the community to achieve the American Dream. Only problem was that she got caught disrespecting her former household help by firing her when she decided to run for office. The great irony is that Meg’s treatment of her Latina employee was so cruel and her rejection of the Dream Act for young and worthy Latino youth sent her campaign on an irretrievable tailspin.
We can’t, however, ignore the fact that the voters ALSO sent a clear message that they’re not about to increase taxes and thus the state’s ability to fund programs, infrastructure and services. Even our beloved state parks, supported by the overwhelming majority of Californians were not given a much needed shot-in-the-arm. With the failure of Prop 21, the $18 fee attached to the VLF for state parks desperately needed maintenance and repairs, it appears that much work needs to be done to restore the public’s faith in government and the benefits of investing in its programs.
Indeed, the most dangerous and sleeper issue of this election was the passage of Prop. 26 which will require all new and increased fees to be subject to the impossible 2/3 vote of the electorate. This totally under-the-radar measure is likely to have catastrophic affects on important environmental and consumer protections if the business community’s interpretation of its impact prevails. Ironically, the public has made it clear it doesn’t want big, polluting corporations to get a pass, yet with the passage of Prop. 26, they may very well have given them one.
The lessons of this election-both statewide and nationally are many–and the interpretations flowing from right-wing spin machines are as loud as they are baseless. While here in California we are patting ourselves on the back that we avoided the avalanche of misplaced anger and anti-incumbency, we would be remiss if we thought we were immune from the public’s loss of faith and confidence in government. Far from it, the public’s disdain for our political leadership and imposition of taxes was made loud and clear– as demonstrated by the success and failure of the various ballot measures.
Yes, we remain a Blue State, but due in great measure to the Latino voters who, unlike our young and women, came out strong in this election. Nonetheless, we MUST restore the public’s faith in our leaders, our government and the need to invest in the future of our state in order for our economy to thrive and the quality of life in this great state to be preserved. We have not made that case well for years and the public isn’t happy about it.
That’s the honest lesson of this election. Let’s not delude ourselves. Let’s start making our case for why we need public services, programs and protection of our resources. If we don’t, we may find California starting to look a lot more like Mississippi than the Golden State of Golden Dreams.

Jerry Brown

In April, 2009, I wrote a post about Jerry Brown that I would like to repost today in honor of his election as Governor:

On Jerry Brown’s Campaign For California Governor

He was called “Moonbeam” and mocked, but he was right, and we were right, and the country needs to come to terms with this this so we can move on and finally DO right.

Jerry Brown was Governor of California from 1975 to 1983. He was a symbol of “the 60’s” even though it was the 70’s, because he came from the times, cared about the issues of the times, spoke the language of the times and governed for the people, from the times. He opposed the Vietnam war. He talked about protecting the environment and conserving energy and providing education and “Buddhist economics.” He fought corporate power and sued large corporations, particularly in the area of campaign finance. He was right.

For taking these positions Jerry was called “Moonbeam” and mocked for advocating things that we now all understand were correct and necessary. It is 30 years later and the country needs to get past that mocking of the people who were right. But the mocking and obstruction by entrenched interests are still in the way of letting us move on and do the things we need to do for the economy, the country, and the planet.

Now Jerry is again running for Governor of California and I think this is important to our current national conversation at a time when we must come to terms with the reasons that we have waited 30 years to start doing something about major problems. Jerry’s campaign will force a conversation that will clarify for the country that the “dirty hippies” were right, that we need to learn to ignore the mocking that is a primary weapon of the corporate right, that we need to take care of the planet, that we need to take care of each other, that we need to be in charge of the corporations, not the other way around.

In his speech to the California Democratic Convention he talked about how 30 years ago he changed California’s energy policies, and how the result has been that California has barely increased its energy use since while the rest of the country has. He talk about a number of things like this, but what most resonated with me was when he talked about how we educate kids. The current emphasis on testing is stifling the creativity of kids. He says we need to bring back education that stimulates creativity. Wow — how long since I have heard “60’s” talk that’s so right?! Talk that recognizes our humanity and says that we are not just cogs in a corporate machine. Who talks about these things today?

A few years ago, when Jerry was running for Attorney General, I wrote

I’ve loved Jerry Brown since his 1992 campaign for President. During that campaign he proposed boosting the economy and helping the energy/pollution/Middle East problem with a national program to hire unemployed people to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient. Imagine if we had done that! So now 13 years later we have the Apollo Alliance but Jerry doesn’t seem to get much credit for being so far ahead on this.

A few years before that I wrote,

In the 1992 campaign Jerry Brown made a suggestion that I haven’t forgotten. He suggested putting the unemployed to work retrofitting buildings and homes to be energy efficient. It requires an up-front investment but it returns a more efficient economy (everyone paying less for energy) and national energy
independence as a foreign policy bonus. Meanwhile all those unemployed people are getting and spending paychecks, boosting the economy. It helps everyone but the oil companies. Oh. I guess not, then.

I don’t know right now if Brown can or should win and this is not an endorsement. But I think this is a conversation that we all need to have and learn from.

He did win, and the state and country will be better off for it.

What Do They Expect For Their Money?

Just in case you were wondering who has a stake in the outcomes of this election, what do you think they will expect after giving such an incredible amount of money as we are seeing in this election?

Prop 23 kills California’s energy law, which is triggering so many “clean energy” startups that are competing with the giant oil companies.  Prop 26 kills the state’s ability to impose fees on polluters.

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Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day

There are a number things the public “knows” as we head into the election that are just false. If people elect leaders based on false information, the things those leaders do in office will not be what the public expects or needs.
Here are eight of the biggest myths that are out there:
1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush’s last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama’s first budget reduced that to $1.29 trillion.

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Are Tea Party Members Getting Played?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture I am also a Fellow with CAF.

Are the Main Street Tea Party members getting “played” by Wall Street and big-corporate billionaires? There is a big, big, big difference between what the regular members and the big-money funders expect. If Tea Party candidates get elected will they do what their supporters want, or what their Wall Street and big-corporation funders demand?

What Tea Party Members Want

I just finished a week driving around Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia attending and writing about the “Keep It Made In America” Town Hall meetings. At these meetings and on the road I had occasion to talk to self-identified members of “Tea Party” groups. My conversations tell me,and polling confirms, that the regular day-to-day Tea Party supporters want government to stop job outsourcing and help American manufacturers. And even more than that they really don’t like trade agreements like NAFTA. In fact some go so far as to say that NAFTA and the WTO violate our country’s sovereignty. And even more than that they hate Bush’s bailout of Wall Street (but have been told Obama did it).

What Tea Party Funders Want

At the same time I saw and heard ad after ad after ad after ad that backed Tea Party-type candidates, that were paid for by the Chamber of Commerce and other front groups for Wall Street and the big multinational monopolist corporations that live off of “free trade” and have been closing factories and outsourcing jobs. And the Tea Party was originally set up by and is largely funded and maintained by front groups for this same crowd.

Here is just one example of how much the Tea Party is funded by these front groups: In Oregon one Wall Street hedge fund manager is spending up to $1 million (pocket change) on a front group to elect a Tea Party candidate and unseat a Congressman who didn’t do his bidding and sponsored a couple of Wall Street reform bills. Do you think the Main Street Tea Party members in Oregon expect their Tea Party candidate to support or oppose measures that further enrich Wall Street hedge fund managers? I’ll give you three guesses and the answers are Main Street, Main Street and Not Wall Street. Do you think the Tea Party candidate will dare? I’ll give you one guess.

Will Tea Party Members Or Funders Win Out?

So the regular Tea Party people hate NAFTA and “free trade” agreement, Wall Street bailouts, want a stop to job outsourcing and want help for American manufacturing — but the people behind them and funding their ads do not. What will happen if these candidates get into office? Will they stick with their Tea Party supporters from Main Street, or will the be beholden to the big-money behind their campaigns? As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

This is a very, very serious problem. The “crowd” instincts of regular people are usually pretty good and even in the Tea Parties they understand the damage that “free trade,” Wall Street, big-corporate interests and the rest of the “free enterprise” crowd have done to the country. But the big money is steering them away from the solutions that their collective gut tells them are right.

Serious Consequences

The financial crisis that Obama inherited has not really gone away. The unsustainable trade deficit that has been growing since Reagan is draining our economy. The huge budget deficit that Bush left behind — caused by tax cuts and military spending increases — has not gone away. Global warming has certainly not gone away. All of these problems are still there. We may be headed into a trade war, we need to rebalance the global economy, the rest of the world is jumping on the Green Insustrial Revolution and we are not — but we can’t even begin to have a reasonable conversation about it because the entrenched wealthy interests are able to purchase the megaphone, microphone and amplification system that let’s people hear the arguments.

I say yes, the Main Street supporters of the Tea Party are getting played. What I want to know is, what will they do if the Tea Party candidates get elected, and then support “free trade’ and Wall Street and all of that? Will go even further to the right, or will they start to figure it out?

Is The Tea Party A Front For Corporate/Wealthy Interests?

Political spending has been completely transformed by the Supreme Court’s decision to open the floodgates of corporate spending in elections.  So far this year more than $200 million has flooded in, with much of the spending yet to come.  The Sunlight Foundation, in Court rulings change elections, independent spending dwarfs party spending in midterm, writes,

According to data obtained from the Federal Election Commission, fifty-nine percent of all outside spending on independent expenditures has come from non-party aligned groups while only forty-one percent comes from the party committees. This is a dramatic change from the 2006 midterms (as of October 19, 2006) when party committees accounted for eighty-two percent of all outside spending on independent expenditures and non-party aligned committees accounted for eighteen percent.
Koch Industries, a Wichita-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but tax law protects those groups from having to disclose much about what they do and who contributes.
[. . .] The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.
So the billionaires are gathering to influence our elections even more.  Great.  This is significant because Koch Industries funds much of what is known as the “Tea Parties.”  They also are funding “global warming deniers” and initiatives like California’s Prop. 23.  Here is the Wall Street Journal, in Koch Industries Shifts on Tea Party,
“Five years ago my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity,” Koch says, “and its beyond my wildest dreams how AFP has grown into this enormous organization of hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that have made our nation the most prosperous society in history.”

I have been driving through Ohio and Pennsylvania for the last week, writing about a series of town hall meetings called the “Keep It Made In America Tour.”  Listening to the car radio and watching TV I have to tell you I have never seen ANYTHING like it. one after another there are nasty smear ads, all with the same wording but from different groups with anonymous donors, which means corporations and billionaires.  The flood of this stuff is beyond belief and obviously it is having its effect.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes in The Perfect Storm,

It’s a perfect storm. And I’m not talking about the impending dangers facing Democrats. I’m talking about the dangers facing our democracy.
[. . .] We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.

Univision Airing Corporate-Money Ads Telling Latinos Not To Vote

Another anonymous corporate-funded front group, this one called Latinos For Reform, is running ads in Spanish telling people not to vote!  This is one more example of voter suppression.

According to the SF Chronicle,
Published reports indicate that the ads are the work of Robert Desposada, a Republican political consultant, former Republican National Committee director of Hispanic affairs and pundit on the Spanish language TV network Univision.

“That message has to be denounced, its got to be thrown out,” President of the Hispanics in Politics organization, Fernando Romero told KTNV.

“To ask a community, any community to silence their voice as a way to resolve or react during a time when their voice is most needed, is what makes all this reprehensible,” Luis Valera of UNLV’s Government Relations said, according to KTNV’s report.

In 2008, Latinos for Reform aired ads “alleging that Obama puts African Americans before Latinos and Africa before Latin America.”

What Do They Expect For Their Money?

You may be hearing story after story about the flood of corporate money showing up in elections this year.  I recently posted a preliminary look at where the corporate money is going supporting or opposing to our upcoming ballot initiatives.  That was preliminary, before the real flood of last-minute corporate cash showed up. I’ll be updating those numbers.

The Sacramento Bee’s Capital Alert blog had a post Monday, FPPC: Big money flowing to ballot measure campaigns 

Committees for and against the ballot measures have raised more than $84.25 million in contributions of $100,000 or more since the beginning of the year, according to an analysis released today by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The most active big-money fundraisers were the campaigns surrounding Proposition 24, which would repeal corporate tax benefits approved by the Legislature, and Proposition 23, which would suspend the state’s greenhouse gas reduction law until the unemployment rate drops.

That is a lot of money.  It buys a lot of ads that say a lot of things.  Those things they say are very, very well-crafted by the highest-paid professionals that money can buy, designed to sway people to vote the way the big-money wants them to vote.  The question voters need to ask themselves is, “What do they expect for their money?”

Seriously, does anyone believe that these giant corporations are putting millions and millions (and millions and millions and millions) of dollars into these campaigns because they are in any way interested in helping voters come to conclusions that benefit the public?  But the well-funded campaigns are very good at keeping people from wondering about these questions.  Instead they try to distract us, divert us, throw smoke in our eyes, make us afraid, mane us angry, make us hate someone, make us think the world is about to end … And the result is that the public is distracted, diverted, blinded, afraid, hateful and thinks the world is about to end.

Follow the money, don’t be distracted, and ask yourself, “What do they expect for their money?”