With President Barack Obama’s historic victory in the 2008 presidential campaign, some believed that the racist and pro-corporate individuals and organizations that have ruled the United States for decades were on their way out the door. While such a bold prediction may come true at some point in time, the mindset of racial hatred and corporate greed among some seem to be on the rise. The Tea Party movement – a network of front groups for the Republican Party’s most conservative leadership – has organized large-sized rallies throughout the nation putting fear in elected officials from coast to coast. In Arizona, politicians have legalized racial profiling in the name of “immigration reform” and attacked ethnic studies programs in high schools. Even in the midst of post-Health Care Reform jubilation, Black Congressional members – like John Lewis – were subjected to mobs of angry whites spewing out “Nigger” and other racial epithets.
It is within this problematic context that California prepares for its June 8th primary election. In a year where voters will be choosing a new Governor and a practically new legislature, we will also be confronted with arguably some of the most important and impactful ballot initiatives in recent memory. While there is a lack of high profile subjects such as affirmative action or immigration, these initiatives will shape critical issues like car insurance, energy and elections for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, since most were placed on the ballot by the same conservative element that has emboldened the anti-people of color fervor currently sweeping the country, their passage threatens to make the Golden State more unlivable for so many.
Below is a brief analysis of some of the problematic initiatives that will appear on the June 8th ballot:
Proposition 14 – This measure ended up on the ballot as result of a deal made between then-State Senator and current Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado and the governor in exchange for votes on a 2009 budget deal. If passed, Proposition 14 would eliminate the current system of partisan elections in California. Hence, voters registered with any political party could vote for any candidate regardless of party affiliation. This would mean that the two candidates with the highest vote count from the primary would face each other in the general election – even if they are members of the same party. Proposition 14 would have a huge impact on our communities because it would increase campaign-related cost and make it more difficult for progressive, community-minded candidates to be elected.
Proposition 16 – Energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric (PG & E) spent over $34 million to put this measure on the ballot. Why? Quite simply the company, which earned over $1 billion in profits last year, wants to eliminate competition from publicly owned energy providers, which tend to charge less for services. If passed, Proposition 16 would require a 67% approval margin by voters to allow local governments to use public money to start or expand electric services. This is clearly an effort by a huge corporation to protect its interest and profits at all cost.
Proposition 17 – According to current state law, only a driver’s safety record, years of driving experience and number of miles driven annually can be considered in determining pricing for coverage. If Proposition 17 passes, car insurance companies can include gaps in coverage as a factor in price-setting. Like Proposition 16, this measure is the brainchild of a corporation – in this case Mercury Car Insurance – who spent millions of dollars to protect its profits at the expense poor and working class taxpayers.
In addition to the above measures, there are a couple ballot initiatives that appear benign, but may end up having a detrimental impact of our community. These include:
Proposition 13 – If passed, this measure would change the state constitution to allow certain types of earthquake safety repairs made to property to be excluded from the tax assessment process. Since state law doesn’t differentiate between personal and corporate property, home owners and corporations would be able to take advantage of Proposition 13’s benefits. While providing home owners with incentives to make their property safer is a good idea, we cannot afford to provide another tax loophole for greedy corporations who want to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the state.
Proposition 15 – If passed, this measure would create a pilot program where candidates running for Secretary of State in 2014 and 2018 could choose to receive public money for their campaigns. Major party publically financed candidates would be eligible for $1 million in base funding and $4 million in matching funds for the primary election. For the general election, that amount would increase to $1.3 million in base funding and $5.2 million in matching. Moreover, the money for the pilot would come from a $700 bi-annual tax collected from state lobbyist. Despite its intent to clean up state politics, Proposition 15 falls short in the following important ways:
This program only pertains to the Secretary of State races in 2014 and 2018, which significantly limits its impact
If there is not enough money in the fund for eligible candidates, those candidates would have to raise money from the very private interest the measure seeks to neutralize
Proposition 15 does nothing to impact the influence of lobbyists who are skilled at hiding their money in special accounts and projects of politicians
Increases the importance of Independent Expenditures, which will allow special interest and lobbyist to impact elections with less restrictions
As demonstrated by the June 2010 state ballot, conservatives and corporate forces are on the attack. While many of us are still languishing in the post-Obama victory fog, opponents of our community are pushing subtle and complicated legislation that will make it much more difficult for people of color and the poor to live lives of dignity and freedom. In order to defeat this complex manifestation of contemporary racism, we must dedicate our selves to serious political education, grassroots community organizing and fervent fundraising. More importantly, we must believe that we deserve better in every aspect of society and put those expectations into action.
Lets get to work.