OAKLAND, California – The myth of lockstep-liberal California made that choice.
Voters in the deep blue state rejected a progressive push to resume positive action, sided with the tech companies because of organized labor, and rejected rent control. You are ready to reject a business tax that has been a priority for unions and democratic leaders for decades.
President Donald Trump regularly portrays California as a country of completely liberal excess, and Democrat Joe Biden currently has 65 percent of the vote in California. This week’s election decisions, however, reflect a state that remains unpredictable, sparking a libertarian streak with an air of financial moderation within its democratic entrenchments.
“We’re not going to strive for anything that is progressive,” said Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California. “We see ourselves as such a progressive state, and I have always said that we are.” a blue state, but we are really many shades of blue. “
California has long been an incubator of national action, so industry and unions know that winning an election campaign here has a bigger impact. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Thursday that he would like to build on his success in California by pursuing the same law in other states and nations. And just as the 1996 state positive action ban sparked a similar set of laws across the country, this week’s California vote could prevent other states from restoring racial or gender preferences.
The election results underscore that California voters are not a liberal monolith, even if Democrats enjoy unparalleled control in the state where Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were born.
Liberals thought 2020 was their moment to make the long-awaited changes: California voters have become more diverse and democratic in recent decades, marginalizing their once powerful Republican Party. A sweeping presidential election enticed liberal groups as a potential high-water mark for voter turnout and an opportunity to anchor ambitious ideas.
Decades after a more Republican California electorate cut property tax increases in 1978 and banned positive action in 1996, campaigns believed that demographic change would produce mixed results a generation later.
But they seem to have miscalculated. There was no greater example than the determined rejection of Proposition 16 by the voters. The electoral measure would have resumed positive action and directly rejected what liberals see as a racist chapter of California’s recent past.
The state legislature, inspired by a summer of racial justice activism, saw a rare window to repeal Proposition 209, the 1996 law endorsed by the then government. Pete Wilson, a Republican widely accused of turning Latino voters against the GOP in the state forever. The positive action ban was passed when California was still a white majority population, and it was the second major initiative on the Wedge issue that Wilson advocated.
Many of the Color Democratic lawmakers who put the repeal on this year’s ballot paper were inspired to enter politics during this time of division. They saw Proposition 16 not only as a change in the law, but also as a moral imperative – and they thought the voters would, too.
The election had a clear cash advantage, with $ 31 million from wealthy activist donors and foundations, compared to just $ 1.6 million raised by adversaries. However, it failed hard and only secured 44 percent support from Thursday.
California is not uniformly liberal. It’s still home to millions of Republicans, while the growing Democratic tent holds many moderates. And the state’s booming minority population is lagging behind in voter turnout.
“We have a history where we are a rotter state,” said Romero. “A big reason California is blue is the growth of the color communities, especially the growth of the Latino community,” but “it does play a role in the shape of the electorate. We still have a voting electorate that is white. ” , richer, better educated than the rest of our population. “
Democrats saw an opportunity to pursue another long-awaited goal: business tax increases.
Since it was passed in 1978, Proposition 13 has been accused of starving governments and schools with taxpayers’ money by keeping property taxes low in proportion to the increasing value of residential and commercial real estate in California. Liberals recognize the political reality that they cannot convince homeowners to repeal the homeownership provisions of Prop 13, often referred to as the third leg of California politics. But they have long wanted to separate business property from the same protections.
Unions, education groups and the foundation launched by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg were so convinced that November 2020 was their best opportunity that they collected enough signatures twice for the vote. It ended up as Proposition 15 on the ballot.
They assumed that a high turnout from Liberals and anti-Trump voters would lead to an anti-corporate vote. Their advertisements regularly featured white business people in boardrooms as sheeting. However, the initiative is on the verge of losing and only holds 48.3 percent of the vote.
Former Congregation member Catharine Baker, a moderate Republican who was the last GOP legislator from the Bay Area, suggested that the failure of Prop 15 “could be an example of how a gigamajority legislature might not be on the pulse of the California electorate is “.
Inevitably, the pandemic loomed over the elections and changed the way campaigns made appeals to voters. For example, in Proposition 15, supporters argued that they needed the money more than ever during a debilitating recession, while opponents countered that it would be stupid to continue to weigh on volatile companies. The message of economic caution seemed to be resonating, Baker said.
“Right now, for Californians, many of whom are suffering economically, there is no embrace for more taxes, the possible cost of doing so, and the shutdown of economic activity,” Baker said. “The pandemic made it worse. At a time like this, you want people to earn a living and be able to afford to live here.”
The California electorate, however, opposes simple conclusions. The criminal justice landscape has been a mixed bag after a year of increasing activism. Voters opposed law enforcement efforts to increase penalties for property crimes and limit early releases from prisons. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of disenfranchising probation officers. Progressive Los Angeles District Attorney candidate George Gascón built an early lead over incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey in a competition to reform criminal justice.
But the Californians voted to keep the bail in cash, opposed a 2019 law to ban it, and undercut a state-to-state move to eliminate the practice. By rejecting Proposition 25, voters sided with bond companies who spent millions to stay in business. They also confirmed civil libertarians and criminal justice attorneys who warned that a surrogate system of predictive algorithms would perpetuate discrimination.
This dynamic led the bail bond industry to adopt the rhetoric of the criminal justice reformers to warn of systemic prejudice – a tactic that reflected a calculation that progressive messages would resonate with voters.
“I think they knew they had to to win,” said Democratic strategist Katie Merrill. “The only way to win in California nationwide is to talk to Democrats and Progressives and they knew they had to do it.”
Those who licked their wounds this week pointed out one thing: money.
You said massive campaign spending might be a better predictor than party affiliation when it comes to electoral initiatives. Healthcare unions again failed to contain kidney dialysis providers after being overwhelmed by the $ 100 million counterattack by the dialysis industry. Real estate groups have invested money to defeat a second consecutive rent control initiative.
Nowhere has the clout of money been more evident than in a battle for tech employment practices. Native Silicon Valley giants like Uber broke government spending records by putting more than $ 200 million in Proposition 22, allowing them to bypass a government mandate to convert their independent contractors into employees. This massive effort was enough to overcome the unified workers’ opposition.
“I don’t know if we should look at this as progressive or non-progressive, or if we should look at the overwhelming impact of money in campaigns,” said Sandra Lowe, a Democratic advisor and former top strategist for the California Democratic Party. “It’s pretty difficult to stand up to $ 200 million worth of ads and most people only know what they see on TV.”
The Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo echoed this sentiment and stated that for all the political clout of the organized workers in California, “the money of labor is not infinite”. Well-funded stakeholders could better influence critical Democrats, he said.
“California is a liberal, democratic state. If Democrats want to pass an initiative, it really is on the backs of the Democrats,” said Trujillo, “and for the most part the people who got their message across in a very expensive state.” like California tends to do well. “
Some campaigns have likely had a harder time breaking the saturation of the air waves and the flooding of other large monetary actions, said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute in California. This may have been the case with positive action that has failed despite polls showing widespread support for racist justice measures. Even though the backers had $ 31 million, that was a fraction of the money other campaigns had to flash voters.
“It has been a very difficult landscape for other electoral initiatives to get attention and support for voters,” which often means people vote no by default, Baldassare said. “The connecting of points just didn’t happen in some cases.”
Republican adviser Rob Stutzman, however, pushed back to the notion that cash mismatches are the only determining factor in keeping organized labor “notched” in the vote.
If the money would only swing the elections, Stutzman argued in a post-election panel: “There would also be 60 Democratic senators.”
Carla Marinucci contributed to this report.