Thursday, October 21, 2010

California marijuana legalization in trouble? Also, what's up with majority budgets.

Nate Silver takes a look. I've already voted for it, as I'm convinced that 30 years of the Drug War have been a complete disaster for the country, filling our prisons with nonviolent (often non-)criminals while weakening our civil liberties. There isn't a general backlash against all these years of obvious failure and abuse because John Q. America doesn't think too much about this stuff since he doesn't use drugs and he doesn't think it affects him, but it certainly does. We pay to arrest, try, and jail these folks, of course. And the damage done to users, families, and communities is so unnecessary and stupid. Personally, I don't think marijuana really figures into this, since it's not intrinsically addictive and fairly harmless. But people still get arrested for it, so it's time to act.

Evidently the polls have tightened considerably. I don't know that it's doomed, though. If the drive is losing momentum now it might be too late to salvage it, but evidently Yes on 19 has a significant resource advantage over the No side, which is good (and was certainly not the case with Prop 8). There's still nearly two weeks to get the message out. My gut instinct is that it will pass, but I'm quite a bit less certain of that than I was a few days ago. Looking at the PPIC poll, it shows about the same margins for Brown and Boxer that other pollsters are showing (Boxer up by a handful, Brown up by about eight), but the actual levels of support look lower than other polls are showing. So it could be understating things across the board. I don't know.

This has all been precipitated by a PPIC poll showing the initiative losing momentum. Interestingly, the poll also shows the hugely important Prop 25--i.e. the one that will end the idiotic 2/3 state budget requirement--actually gaining support from last month. Prop 25 has been portrayed as an intensely partisan issue, which is true but defensible, in my opinion. It will basically destroy most of the leverage that state Republicans still have on our politics (the 2/3 rule for taxes will still apply, though, and that will be a lot harder to kill), but on little-d democratic principles it's hard to defend 1/3 of the legislature having so much power with practically zero accountability, since the Democrats get blamed for having to make really unsavory deals every year. Of course, Republicans don't want to give up this power and many of the California right-wing talk radio people (with some rare exceptions) are heavily against Prop 25. In spite of all this, it's interesting that 25 is actually getting a reasonable amount of Republican support--39% support to 45% opposition--and it's just mopping up with Dems and Indies. Perhaps this is due to the issue simply being impossible to spin, but I think the wording of the proposition is pretty strong, specifying the 2/3 rule for taxes will remain intact, with a dash of populism in the form of freezing pay for legislators if they don't deliver the budget on time. Not that it's actually likely to be necessary if a simple majority can pass it. Our long statewide nightmare might finally be ending, and the irony is that the scourge of our political system might well be ending it.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.