Gov. Arnold began his budget speech to the Legislature Tuesday with a touch-all-the-bases analysis of the meaning of the May 19 special election.
“That message was clear,” he said. “Do your job. Don’t come to us with these complex issues. Live within your means. Get rid of the waste and inefficiencies. And don’t raise taxes.”
Well, two out of five ain’t bad.
Schwarzenegger’s opening line was just the latest effort by California politicians of almost every stripe to overreach and over-interpret the Just-Say-No votes on Propositions 1A-1E in the dismal turnout special.
Since May 19, the foregone election results have become like the crimes at the center of “Rashomon,” the famous 1950 Akira Kurosawa film, in which the same incident is described – in mutually contradictory ways – from four different subjective perspectives.
As a political matter, however, conservative Republicans have been extremely successful in selling their version of events. In dominating the fight to frame the narrative about May 19, they’ve not only pushed Schwarzenegger back into paddle-to-the-right, no new taxes mode, but also apparently intimidated majority Democrats (including even Dianne Feinstein back in DC) into buying into or fearing to protest their predictable, antediluvian interpretation.
So on the one hand the California Republican Party boldly declares that the election sent a “national anti-tax message,” and our friend John Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, insists that “voters were crystal clear in statement about their tax burden.” And on the other hand, it’s left to former liberal lawmaker Sheila Kuehl, who argues voters were saying Sacramento shouldn’t “keep balancing the budget on the backs of average Californians” and Democratic poll taker David Binder, who says voters actually favor some tax increases over cuts in education and other programs, to make the case on the other side.
How about this, Calbuzzers? There was one and only one overarching message from the overwhelming majority of voters who DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO SHOW UP: Work it out among yourselves and stop bothering us. (On this point we agree with Arnold’s analysts.)
As we wrote on the morning of May 20 the election was “a clear signal that voters are way beyond fed up with half-measures, marginal fixes and smoke and mirrors in Sacramento.” And the plain fact is that all the over-wrought interpretation of the May 19 results since then is little more than spin, propaganda and self-interested commentary.
Let’s look at the facts:
* The latest voter turnout number reported by the Secretary of State shows that 27.5 percent of the 17,153,012 registered voters (or 20 percent of those eligible) bothered to show up, which hardly scores as a broad-based populist message about anything beyond the fact that they found the ballot props incomprehensible.
* While the Sacramento establishment poured millions into passing the props, much of the money spent against them came from normally Democrat/left constituencies, like SEIU and CFT. The fact that these groups got into bed with anti-tax Republicans, normally their mortal enemies, shows that the resounding “No” vote had multiple roots and represented anything but a “clear” — let alone “crystal clear” fercryin’outloud — message about anything.
* Binder is the only guy who has anything remotely resembling quantitative data on the special. His close ties to Democrats and labor give those on the right an excuse not to even look at his research on what was on voters’ minds. But, as Binder wrote, it shows that voters surveyed before and right after the election “do not trust the leadership in Sacramento, and recognize that the failed special election was just another example of the inability to bring real solutions to voters.” And, as the pre-election Field Poll found, voters favor a blend of cuts and taxes to address the deficit. (The key here, of course, is that they want taxes that affect someone else – tobacco, oil royalties, the very wealthy, for example.)
It is an abiding mystery why wussy, wimp Dems have so passively allowed knuckle-dragging Reeps to seize control of the narrative. That aside, the over-interpretation of May 19 has gotten plain silly, and it’s well past time to throw a yellow flag.
Let’s be crystal clear: Calbuzz isn’t making an argument for or against taxes, or for or against specific program cuts or anything else to do with policy. Our mission remains unwavering: to watch the battle safely from atop the hill, then swoop in bravely to shoot the wounded.
We’re just sayin’.