Election Day is over, meaning that the crazy quilt of campaign signs blanketing South County is mostly gone and the plethora of political ads, robocalls and email messages are on hiatus. Win or lose, every candidate deserves our thanks for running. When races are vigorously contested, important issues are discussed, and that’s key to a strong democracy.
Because I lean left on many issues (although I get little credit for my conservative positions), I’m apparently supposed to be depressed about the results. I’m not, and here’s why:
• Despite the “angry voters” narrative that the national media pushed, Morgan Hill residents selected city council and school board candidates who are not fire-breathing extremists by any measure.
Also, I must note the impressive endorsement record of the Morgan Hill Times editorial board: The ballot featured 19 candidates for seven seats for mayor, city council and school board; Morgan Hill voters elected every candidate the Times endorsed in those races.
Some readers confidently declared that those endorsements showed that the editorial board was out of touch with how voters were really feeling. Those people missed the point of endorsements, which are recommendations, not predictions. The editorial board doesn’t endorse the candidates it thinks will win, it endorses candidates it thinks should win. Those people were also just plain wrong; pardon my schadenfreude.
• Although Gilroy voters didn’t take 100 percent of the advice offered by the Dispatch editorial board for school board and city council, they heeded much of it. I’m hopeful that the new GUSD school board will continue to improve Gilroy schools and that the new Gilroy council will be much less dysfunctional than the current one has been.
• Voters ignored the outrageously misleading ads against Proposition 22 and Proposition 25. Prop 22 prohibits the state from raiding local agency coffers to solve its chronic, structural budget problems; opponents claimed that it would protect Bell-like salaries. Such desperate piffle! The Bell scandal happened pre-Prop 22; Prop 22 has nothing to do with city employee salaries. California voters saw through the shameful lie, approving Prop 22 by better than a three-to-two margin.
Prop 25’s opponents falsely claimed that passage would allow legislators to raise taxes with a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority. Voters understood that Prop 25 provides only for a simple majority for budget approval, which is one of three key steps for fixing California’s broken state government.
• Redistricting reform, another of those three key steps, was protected and expanded. California voters approved Prop 20, which expands previously approved redistricting reform to include United States House of Representatives districts.
Californians rejected Prop 27, which would have returned redistricting duties to the failed system in which legislators drew their own districts. That system produced ridiculously safe seats and gerrymandered-all-to-heck districts in which contiguous communities of shared interests were split. Look at South County’s state Assembly, state Senate, and US House district maps for proof of the failings of the system that Prop 27 tried to reinstate.
Now we need to take the third step, fixing our broken initiative process that encourages ballot-box budgeting, relieves highly paid legislators of their difficult decisions and obfuscates responsibility for problems.
• Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina lost.
• While Republicans took control of the US House, it’s important to remember, as pollster Nate Silver noted, “Without major intervening events like 9/11, the party that wins the White House almost always loses seats at the midterm elections.”
While the supposedly liberal media loves the “Tea Party victory” narrative for Tuesday’s election, the Tea Party’s extremist Republican candidates actually lost two-thirds of their House races. In addition, several Tea Party Senate candidates failed, including Sharron Angle (Nevada), Joe Buck (Colorado), Christine O’Donnell (Delaware), John Raese (West Virginia), and, likely, Joe Miller (Alaska). In fact, because Buck and O’Donnell defeated more moderate Republicans in the primaries, and Raese’s candidacy dissuaded a more moderate Republican from entering the primary, all of whom might have won their general election races, it’s likely that the Tea Party cost Republicans control of the Senate.
Of course, as in every election, some races didn’t go my way. But I’m celebrating the progress that was made and recommitting to work on the rest.
Let’s also remember that voters’ work is only partly done. Now we must hold our elected officials accountable by watching what they do closely, praising them when they’re on the right track and complaining when they’re not.