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Posts Tagged ‘latino voters’



Hasta la Vista GOP, or Why Cesar Chavez Lives On

Monday, March 28th, 2011

As a union organizer, Cesar Chavez, whose birthday we commemorate today, was no friend of immigrants who slipped across the border illegally to provide cheap labor in the fields of California that undercut the drive for living wages for farm workers.

Hell, the United Farm Workers was known to have reported illegal strike-breakers to “la migra,” and in 1973, they set up a “wet line” (imagine the outrage if anyone else had used the term) along the US-Mexico border to stop immigrants from sneaking into the country illegally and undermining the UFW’s work organizing field hands.

But Chavez – especially in his later years — was a strong proponent of allowing illegal immigrants living and working here to become legalized, and today would surely be fighting for a path to citizenship, as his granddaughter, Dr. Cynthia Chavez, made clear in a TV ad for Jerry Brown during the 2010 governor’s race.

Which makes today the perfect opportunity to focus on an issue that Calbuzz has hammered on repeatedly – the need for California Republicans to support a path to citizenship for illegal and undocumented workers. Not because it’s the right and decent thing to do – never a powerful argument with the knuckle-dragging wing of the GOP — but because it’s a matter of their party’s political survival.

Failure to communicate: Don’t take our word for it. Some of the smartest Republicans around make the case. “A pathway to citizenship for those who have entered the country illegally is the most important element of immigration reform for Latino voters,” wrote Marty Wilson and Bob Moore, after a recent Moore Information survey of Latino voters in California.

According to the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, about nine in 10 Latinos (86%) favor giving illegal immigrants “a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status.” That’s a position shared by 68% of Democrats and 62% of independents but just 41% of Republicans.

What we have here is a failure to communicate. And the political effects are profound.

“Latino voters are widely negative about the Republican Party (26% favorable/47% unfavorable/27% no opinion) and widely positive about the Democrat[ic] Party (62/22/17),” Wilson and Moore wrote. Nor is the GOP “going to win many Latino voters by stressing conservatism; only 22% suggest that Republicans should, ‘stick to core values and nominate true Conservatives.’

Fully a third of Latino voters say they will never vote for a Republican although another third would consider GOP candidates if “Republicans move toward the center and nominate candidates who are less conservative.”

The big picture: To appreciate the magnitude of the challenge for the Republicans in California, it helps to understand first the national context.

During the past decade, the Latino population in the U.S. grew 43 times faster than the non-Hispanic white population, the Census Bureau reported last week. Between 2000 and 2010 the U.S. Hispanic population grew 43%, to 50.5 million from 35.3 million. Latinos’ share of the total population rose to 16% from 13% — accounting for more than half the total U.S. population growth in the decade.

At the same time, Census Bureau officials reported, the non-Hispanic white population grew by barely more than 1 percent, dropping as a portion of the total from to 64% from 69%.

“The states with the largest percent growth in their Hispanic populations include nine where the Latino population more than doubled, including a swath in the southeast United States – Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The Hispanic population also more than doubled in Maryland and South Dakota,” reports the Pew Hispanic Center in an analysis of the Census Bureau report.

“In six states, growth in the Hispanic population accounted for all of those states’ population growth; if the Hispanic population had not grown, those states would not have grown,” Pew added. “They included Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. In Michigan, the state population declined over the decade but the Hispanic population grew.”

No place to hide: While Latinos in Florida, New York, Illinois and California cannot be viewed as a monolithic voting bloc – voters of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Haitian and Mexican ancestry, for example, cannot be easily categorized politically – surveys consistently find a common thread is a belief that there ought to be a mechanism for allowing illegal immigrants to become legal residents and/or full citizens.

And with the continued growth of Hispanics, red states are becoming less reliable safe harbors for Republicans (consider Nevada, for example) and so too are formerly “safe” Republican districts in California.

“Increasingly for California Republicans, there’s no place to run, no place to hide,” said Democratic consultant Garry South who, with former Republican state Sen. Jim Brulte, recently analyzed the changing electoral landscape for their partners at California Strategies.

“The demographics are moving so heavily against them, it’s becoming very difficult to maintain a meaningful number of completely safe GOP seats almost anywhere.

“Most of the huge Latino growth between 2000 and 2010 was in inland areas normally considered Republican, not along the coast,” South said “And Asians grew by even more than Latinos. Together, Latinos and Asian Americans now constitute an absolute majority of Californians. Republicans are getting on average about 30-35 percent of their votes. Do the math.”

Said South and Brulte in their analysis:

Based upon the historical standard of “safe” verses “competitive” districts, there will likely be a few more competitive legislative and congressional districts. That said, given that the top two vote getters regardless of political party run off in the November general election, the historical notion of “safe” districts now no longer applies.

 

While many GOP legislators, donors and activists, believe a “fair” redistricting presents a great opportunity, there is also a huge potential downside risk for the GOP as well. If the Democratic Party’s consistently overwhelming financial advantage is not countered at the legislative level, it is possible that Democrats [will] obtain a two-thirds majority in one or both houses of the state Legislature in 2012.

 

The GOP has not experienced a net pick up of legislative seats in a presidential election since 1984.

The Elephants’ elephant: In their analysis of Latino voters, Wilson and Moore call immigration “the elephant in the GOP living room.” The Arizona immigration law is widely unpopular among Latino voters, immigration reform is widely popular and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be trusted, by a ratio 0f 57-21%, to reform immigration laws.

And the central issue is a pathway to citizenship.

Why is it so hard for Republicans to move on this issue? Because – partly in fear of an influx of Democratic-leaning voters – they’ve spent years railing against illegal immigration and appealing to the most nativistic and xenophobic impulses of their base voters. Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman – who otherwise might have been quite moderate on the issue – tacked so far right on immigration they made themselves pariahs among Latino voters in the 2010 governor’s race.

Even Mike Murphy, who made a bloody fortune leading Whitman’s disastrous 2010 campaign for governor, seems to have gotten the point. The GOP is saddled with a “base-driven strategy that has injected red-hot rhetoric into our party’s message on immigration” he told the Washington Post. “Primary politics have made the situation even worse,” Murphy said, suggesting as Chris Cillizza reported,  that GOP opposition to some sort of path toward legalization is a “non-starter” for Hispanic voters. No duh.

Wilson and Moore tested one message they believe can help the GOP find greater favor among Latinos. “A candidate who says, ‘secure the border first, stop illegal immigration, then find a way to address the status of people already here illegally’ gets a favorable reaction from 73%,” they found.

Others have suggested the GOP could favor legal residency, but not full citizenship with the right to vote, for undocumented workers. Still others say if an illegal immigrant serves in the U.S. military or graduates from college, he or she ought to be able to become a citizen.

How the keepers of the John Tanton anti-immigrant flame in California would react to a movement within the California Republican Party (or by a statewide GOP candidate) toward a more moderate line on immigration is, sadly, predictable. The phrase “head on a stick” comes to mind.

“I don’t think a Republican candidate can win on this issue either way in California,” said South “If they support a path to citizenship, they enrage and alienate their lily-white base. If they oppose it or try to straddle the issue, they just become the typical anti-immigrant Republican who wants to deport every Latino back to Mexico. They’re fucked. Hee, hee.”

Happy Cesar Chavez Day!

Cacophony of Whining; Still Computing Latino Votes

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

So much for Josiah Royce.

It was barely a week ago that Jerry Brown delivered a terrific inaugural address in which he cited the “philosophy of loyalty” propounded by Royce, a California pioneer sage, and called for a new era in our troubled state, shaped by communitarian shared sacrifice.

“We can overcome the sharp divisions that leave our politics in perpetual gridlock, but only if we reach into our heart and find that loyalty, that devotion to California above and beyond our narrow perspectives,” Brown said.

His speech won widespread kudos, from the bar stools of Sacramento saloons to the editorial pages of newspapers around the state, for its inspiring tone, its commonsense ideas and its urgent call for an end to the brain-dead politics of  rote partisanship and polarization.

But all the expressions of earnest and emotional admiration for the values and principles declaimed by Brown evaporated in an instant on Tuesday, as pols and special interests across the spectrum started screaming to the heavens as soon as he released his budget plan.

As promised, Brown provided a full and honest accounting of the state’s budget woes, along with a smart and balanced plan for easing them, free of the  full menu of cheap tricks, phony fixes and fiscal sleights of hand employed for years to cover up the mess.

Turns out shared sacrifice means: You sacrifice and I’ll take what’s left.

From dawn to dusk on Tuesday, a cacophony of caterwauling assailed the Calbuzzer Gmailbox, as one lobbyist, elected hack and do-gooder after another urgently let us know that business owners/children/university professors/old folks/real estate developers/union workers/your constituency goes here were under attack, to the great peril of the very future of the republic.

It must be said that some level-headed lawmakers and groups evinced at least a modicum of open-mindedness and willingness to do their far share in their early responses to Brown’s proposal. But a leisurely stroll through the thick wad of budget reaction messages, aided by a splendid compendium assembled by the Sacbee’s resourceful Torey (The Tulip) Van Oot, disclosed that most of these special interest pleadings followed the same script:

1-An introductory lie claiming that the sender “understands the tough choices facing the administration.” (In some cases, they “appreciate” the aforementioned tough choices instead, an equivalent canard, given that they wouldn’t have sent the damn email if they actually did).

2-A follow-up, phony compliment for Brown, declaring that the governor  no doubt did his best under the circumstances (despite his total short-sightedness in not recognizing the over-arching importance of the constituency now seeking special attention).

3-A hyperbolic assertion that this constituency, unlike all others, is being unfairly picked upon and so must be spared the cavalier and benighted treatment that Brown, apparently unaware that this issue is of “the highest priority,” is attempting to deliver.

So UC President Mark Yudof solemnly pronounced it “a sad day for California,” while Lakesha Harris of AFSCME Local 32 called the plan “devastating to the workers we represent” and state schools chief  Tom Torlakson protested that, as schools are “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” the governor’s budget proposal “extends the financial emergency” facing education (never mind that K-12 was about the only area largely spared).

On the other side, the head of the California Redevelopment Association insisted Brown meant to “cripple the local economy in cities and counties statewide” because redevelopment boards might have to compete with local agencies for budget dollars, as Board of Eek member George Runner decried the proposed abolition of the “enterprise zone” business scam as “irresponsible” and newbie GOP state senator Doug LaMalfa worked himself into a full lather to thunder that Brown “must remove government’s boot heel from business’s throat.”

Sheesh.

Actually, LaMalfa’s over-the-top rhetoric captured the spirit of most Republican legislators, whose big contribution to the important budget debate is to sit around in a circle, beat the ground with sticks and endlessly chant “No taxes, no taxes,” in a manner that recalls nothing so much as Jack and the boys in “Lord of the Flies” tromping through the woods and shouting “Kill the pig. Slit her throat. Spill her blood.”

Hey, we understand that Republicans need to oppose taxes on general principle. But nobody’s asking them to support taxes – just to give the voters of California the right to make the decision about them. What’s the big problem here, fellas? Inquiring minds want to know.

People! Listen up! Yes, you’re getting screwed. No duh. So is everyone else. Know why? BECAUSE CALIFORNIA HAS A BUDGET DEFICIT THAT’S MORE THAN $25 BILLION! So take the hit and let voters have the final say about keeping the tax rates now in place. Otherwise, you might as well start packing your bags for Mississippi.

How many Latinos on the head of a pin: Figuring out how many Hispanics are registered to vote in California and how many actually voted in any particular election is about 95% science and 5% art. The data are not actually in the Secretary of State’s voter file but the science is simple: there are sophisticated name screeners that identify Spanish surnames and are sensitive enough to distinguish Latinos from Portuguese and Filipinos.

The art is fuzzier. For example, how or whether to count foreign-born voters – say those born in Mexico or Latin America but who do not have a Spanish surname — is a fair question about which pollsters, consultants and advocates may honestly disagree.

It doesn’t make a big difference – about 1% is all. But for those who are intensely interested, it matters.

Calbuzz was lucky enough the other day to receive from pollster Jim Moore the first analysis of the voter file from November 2010 that had been done by Bob Proctor of Statewide Information Systems, one of the most respected voter file vendors in California. It showed that of 10,211,396 voters who cast ballots, 1,627,967 or 16% were cast by Hispanics – that is, those identified as Hispanic by a name screener.

Our Department of Weights, Measures and Obscurata thought it was important to make the data public as quickly as we could, in hopes of knocking down what appeared to be on its way to becoming myth: the incorrect assertion that 22% of the electorate had been Latinos, as found in the Edison Research exit poll that the networks and major news outlets had commissioned.

After our post appeared, however, consultant Richie Ross (who had written a piece for us citing the 22% figure in the exit poll) informed us that we’d been both right and wrong. The percentage of Latinos wasn’t 22%, he agreed – it was 17%.

How’d he come up with that? From an analysis of the voter file done by Political Data Inc. of Burbank, the fountain of all voter file data, that he’d asked for. It showed that of 10,237,578 voters who cast ballots, 1,634,244 or 16% were cast by Latinos – as identified by their name screener. But the number was 1,740,878 or 17% when taking into account those who were foreign-born but who had not been counted by the name screener.

So who’s right? First of all, according to the Secretary of State’s Statement of Vote, 10,300,392 voters cast ballots or voted by mail in the election. Both of the data vendors had vote totals less than 1% off from the official count. No problem there.

By counting foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener, the PDI total – 17% — takes into account the possibility of a Latina, born perhaps in Mexico, who is married to an Anglo and has taken his last name. (Like the wife of a consultant we know, for example.)

On the other hand, the name screener (which both systems employ) already takes into account a non-Spanish-surnamed woman who has taken the name of a Spanish-surnamed man to whom she is married. She’s counted as a Latina whether she is or not.

Since the name screener is common to both systems and computes the same result – 16% — and already is increased by women who take the Spanish surnames of their husbands, it seems to us that it risks over-counting Latinos to also add in the foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener.

Calbuzz — dancing, as we are, on the head of a pin — goes with 16%. (Until we hear a better argument.)

Myth Busting: Latino Vote, Independents, Prop 13

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Calbuzz is here to correct two important myths from the 2010 general election in California, before they are committed permanently to history and passed along ignorantly like the so-called “Bradley Effect” and other dunderhead theories:

1) Latinos did not constitute 22% of the electorate as reported by the Edison Research exit poll and blabbed along by those who would make the Latino vote look more important than it is (for the record, our two posted references to the 22 % factor, one from a guest columnist, the other a suggestion, are here and here). Latinos accounted for 16% of the vote*,  just as the better pollsters had predicted (and just 1-point lower than the LA Times/USC poll found after the fact).

2) “Independents” did not account for 27% of the voters, as reported by the exit poll and some pollsters (we name no names) who rely on party identification – a practice Calbuzz can’t fathom when party registration is available. Actual independents, that is, decline-to-state voters, accounted for 17% of the electorate.

These facts, part of the data pulled from the final voter file by Bob Proctor of Statewide Information Systems of Sacramento*, are important because they demonstrate that Latinos were not driven to vote in historic numbers (although they apparently voted en masse for Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman), nor was there a surge (or depression) among independents.

The 2010 turnout in California was not a Democratic blow-out. Nor was there any important enthusiasm gap between the parties, as so many Republican operatives had predicted. In fact, the partisan composition of the 2010 general election was just about what you’d have expected if you had never listened to any of the self-proclaimed experts: 45% Democrat, 34% Republican and 17% independent (DTS).

Despite Mike Murphy’s predictions right up to election day, the Armies of eMeg produced no discernible bump in the GOP vote. Nor did the Democrats do much to goose the numbers. What they did do – and it was no mean feat – was get the Democrats, including Latinos, to vote heavily for the Democratic candidates.

Target mail may well have been a factor since an historic 51% of the vote was cast by mail – including 49% by those who are permanent absentee voters. And in case you were looking for some massive surge by youth, forget about it: 56% of the vote was cast by people age 50 and older while just 12% of the vote was cast by people age 18-29.

The fact that just 16%* of the electorate were Latinos does nothing to diminish their importance as a voting bloc. The fact remains that Meg Whitman, who lurched to the right on the issue of a “path to citizenship” during the GOP primary and who unceremoniously canned her Latino housekeeper, drove Latinos to Jerry Brown.

But it’s important to understand that while the Latino vote is growing in California, it still has a long way to go. The Giant is awake and pissed off at the Republicans, but it has yet to throw its weight around as it will some day.

About Proposition 13:  Calbuzz readers know that we have already laid out the Path to Normalization of the California budget in excruciating exactitude but when Anthony York of the By-God LA Times reported the other day that Jerry Brown “walked right up to the third rail of California politics,” we think some confusion may have been unleashed.

We weren’t there (what’s new) so we’re relying on York and others who reported that Silver Fox said, “Proposition 13, because it took away the power of counties to tax, for the most part, it sent the decisions up to Sacramento. So we want to redistribute all that.”

What Brown (and Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg) are NOT talking about, it should be made clear, is fooling around with the property tax on homes as permanently reduced by Proposition 13 (although splitting off commercial and industrial property off for separate treatment might be in the mix).

Rather it sounds like they’re talking about giving cities, counties and school districts the ability to raise other kinds of taxes and/or bonds with a majority or 55% vote (as opposed to the 2/3 vote required by Proposition 13) to go along with taking over the responsibility for programs and services that have been paid for by the state since Proposition 13.

So note to Sacramento tax watchers: It’s highly unlikely that Brown and his allies would screw with the property tax. But they might well want to make it easier for local entities to raise taxes and bonds on their own for the services they want to deliver.

For a good wrap of Brown’s budget challenges and intentions, check Ken McLaughlin and Paul Rogers of the Murky News. And for a well-sourced look at what the governor is likely to unveil today, check out Shane Goldmacher’s lookforward in Sunday’s By-God LA Times.

And thanks to Calbuzzer Jay Johnson, who sent us this cool Photoshop of  Jerry and the upcoming budget.

So much for taking personal responsibility: While it may be over the top argue that Sarah Palin has “blood on her hands” in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Arizona, it’s revolting to watch Palinistas try to wash their hands of any responsibility by declaring they’re shocked – shocked! – that anyone could even hint the slightest connection to the horror  and her frequent, reckless use of violent rhetoric and weaponry images.

For Palin’s mouthpiece to claim that the crosshairs icon the loudmouth demagogue slapped on Giffords’ district last fall was really an innocent  “surveyors’ symbol”  not only ignores Palin’s own description of it as a “bullseye” but more importantly ignores her history of smirking viciousness in suggesting that those who disagree with her deserve the same fate as the caribou she delights in slaughtering:

“Don’t retreat, reload,” indeed.

And while we’re at it, we have to note our disgust with Palin apologists like the smarmy twit Howard Kurtz of the Beastly Daily Beast, who seems utterly incapable of understanding that the atmosphere of violence promoted by Palin et. al. is not just a riff on standard political fare.

Howie the Genius apparently sees poor St. Sarah as a victim of a media drive-by: “One of the first to be dragged into this sickening ritual of guilt by association: Sarah Palin. . . . This kind of rhetoric is highly unfortunate. The use of the crosshairs was dumb. But it’s a long stretch from such excessive language and symbols to holding a public official accountable for a murderer who opens fire on a political gathering and kills a half-dozen people, including a 9-year-old girl.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sickening, too.

* After this post appeared, a respected Sacramento consultant passed along to us counts made by Political Data Inc. which, by adding in about 140,000 foreign-born voters who apparently did not have Spanish surnames, would increase the total Latino vote to 17%. It’s possible also, as a friend from the LA Times suggested to us, that some Latino voters, like Latinas who have married and taken their husband’s non-Spanish name, might also have been under-counted. But this can’t add much to the total percentage of Latino voters.

Cocodrilo Tears re Latinos & a Sad Farewell to Truth

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We had to laugh when we saw Rob Stutzman, one of Meg Whitman’s top strategists, telling columnist George Skelton that Republicans in California need to demonstrate some “empathy” for Latinos if they hope ever to convince them to vote for one of their candidates.

Not because his comments were funny, mind you, but because they were breathtakingly ironic.

For under his guidance, Stutzman’s candidate eMeg:

– Kicked her Latina housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, to the curb when she confessed she was an illegal immigrant, eventually calling for the woman’s  deportation.
– Flipped-flopped on whether undocumented immigrants should have a path to legalization (concluding they should not).
– Endorsed Arizona’s “papers please” immigration law (for Arizona, not California, a distinction that meant little to Latinos).
– Told a young Latina honors student she was taking up space at Fresno State that rightfully belonged to a California citizen.
– Relied on former Gov. Pete (“Hijo de Puta”) Wilson as her campaign chairman and third-party validator.

No wonder Latinos voted 80-15% for Brown over Whitman, 75% had an unfavorable view of her and 65% said they didn’t even consider voting for her, according to the USC/LA Times post-election survey.

But what’s got to worry Stutzman and every other Republican going forward is this: 34% of Latino voters told the USC/Times they “would never consider voting for a Republican.”  That’s one third of the Latino vote that is off the table even before they hear what the candidate has to say.

As Calbuzz noted throughout the election, in plenty of time for Whitman and her campaign geniuses to take it seriously and even after Nicky Diaz made news, Whitman made a strategic error by opposing a pathway to citizenship – a position that at least eight and perhaps as many as nine in 10 Latinos view as a threshold issue.

What that means is this: if a candidate is opposed to allowing undocumented workers an opportunity to go through a process to become legal residents, Latinos don’t even care what their position is on the economy, jobs, education or anything else. They can’t get past the threshold.

It’s not about “empathy” — it’s about concrete stands on real-life issues. Which is why Calbuzz gently suggested the California GOP needs to change its position on a pathway to citizenship if it ever hopes to become relevant.

Just as the Republican Party was the Northern standard-bearer for the abolition of slavery in the 1850s and 1860s, so could the California Republican Party become the advocate for citizenship for honest working men and women who have come to the U.S. to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Another reason we laughed when we read Stutzman’s argument: “We’ve got to stop looking at it as purely a legal issue . . . If you want to make it a moral issue, we should appreciate the virtue of men and women trying to make the best life possible for their families.”

At least Stutzman has the cerebros y cojones to face up to the problem, unlike numbnuts like Michael Der Manouel, Jr., who wrote over at FlashReport:

I think there are plenty of Republicans and conservatives, like me, that appreciate all hard working people, regardless of country of origin and skin color.  Making a case that this is somehow a gateway to getting Hispanic votes is not only simplistic, but ignores the fact that 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics seems to be, well, just as leftist as leftists . . .

And this nonsense about ignoring our immigration laws in order to curry favor with one voting block (sic) is just nonsense.  I guess if we really needed the Muslim vote Stutzman would be advising us to go soft on terrorism too . . .

It seems to me that a pattern of voting for the wrong person has emerged in the Latino community.  Until they truly feel the pain of their poor decision making, we are at their political mercy.  Instead of “appealing to them” we should spend what few dollars we have on a permandent (sic) educational campaign highlighting the conservative platform, to all voters, including Latinos.  This would be much more effective than “understanding” people.  Give me a break.

This is exactly the kind of stupid, dead-elephant thinking that will continue to render the California Republican Party a permanent minority.

Mr. Scopes, Meet Mr. Fleischman: The fact that a majority of Republicans still believe in the “theory” of creationism, positing that God put humans on earth within the past 10,000 years, is the clearest evidence yet that facts, science and rationality are increasingly lacking to political debate in the U.S.

The new Gallup Poll research demonstrating widespread disbelief in the science of evolution, coupled with a just-released University of Maryland study showing that Fox News viewers become more ignorant the more they watch Fox News, suggests that Neo-Luddism will only grow more popular when the GOP takes control of the House next month, empowering political giants like Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, who’ll bring his climate change denial stance to the Science Committee; Ron Paul, poised to demand a return to the Gold Standard as an overseer of the Federal Reserve and Peter King, who plans to launch a wide-ranging investigation of American Muslims as chair of the Committee on Homeland Security.

Alas, this distressing trend, part of a broad political shift which Calbuzz has dissected as the Death of Truth, flourishes as well in California, where the hate-government crowd routinely substitutes opinion for fact in decrying our fiscal woes, recklessly asserting that the state stands on the brink of bankruptcy because of an orgy of public spending, a huge, bloated government bureaucracy and a vast exodus of businesses fleeing a blood-sucking burden of regulation.

Now comes Treasurer Bill Lockyer, joined by economist Steve Levy, to put the lie to each of these canards, in a splendid op-ed that should be required reading in the re-education of every yahoo in Sacramento:

Critics have suggested the state will default on its debt payments, that it is addicted to spending and that it has a hostile business climate. The criticism is long on inflammatory rhetoric, but it lacks any evidentiary foundation…

Our critics say we are addicted to spending. But the numbers show that isn’t true. Thirty years ago, general fund expenditures totaled about $7.43 for every $100 of personal income. In the 2009-10 fiscal year, that ratio was almost $2 less, at $5.52 for every $100 of personal income. In the current fiscal year, per capita general fund expenditures will total $2,246, less than the $2,289 spent 10 years ago and roughly equal to the inflation-adjusted level of 15 years ago.

Moreover, state and local government has grown slimmer relative to California’s population. In 2009, the state had 107 state employees per 10,000 residents, the fourth-lowest proportion in the nation and 25% below the national average. California also has the sixth-lowest combined number of state and local government employees relative to population, 12% below the national average and 16% below Texas.

Sadly, demonstrable fact matters little to the know-nothing dervishes whirling in the mosh pit of ape dance debate over state finance, a lamentable state of affairs spanning a nation beset by the strange triumph of failed ideas.

Queen Kamala II: Those lusty screams that shattered windows on the executive floors of Calbuzz World Headquarters came from loyal fans of Attorney General-elect Kamala Harris, who expressed the view that our dispassionate analysis of Herself’s transition operation was somewhat, um, asymmetrical (Lock up the kids, Maude – there’s hyperbole on the internets!).

Deeply committed as ever to doing all we can to lower the temperature on the kind of inflammatory, name-calling, ad hominem cheap shot politics and media that makes our blood boil and which we oppose with every fiber of our beings, we encourage readers to avail themselves of an opposing view about the matter. All hail the Empress of River City!

It Wasn’t the Economy, Stupid, It Was Character

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

In their last pre-election survey, Oct. 10-17, the Public Policy Institute of California found that six in 10 likely voters said jobs and the economy represented the most important issue facing California and that by a margin of 47-39%, Meg Whitman would do a better job on this pressing concern.

Moreover, while the survey showed Brown leading Whitman 44-36%, it oddly found “independents” – that is, respondents identified as likely voters who said they were registered as independents — divided 36-37% for Whitman.

But in PPIC’s post-election survey taken Nov. 3-14 and released Wednesday night, Brown won the “independents” 56-38% — a staggering shift of 19 points in Brown’s favor. In addition, according to PPIC, Latinos who favored Brown 51-22% in October ended up voting for Brown over Whitman by 75-22% — a 24 point move to Brown.

By comparison, the Field Poll’s last survey (based on actual registered voters surveyed Oct. 14-26) had Brown winning independents 49-33% and the L.A. Times/USC survey from Oct. 13-20 (also based on registered voters) had independents for Brown 55-26%.

Field had Latinos favoring Brown 57-27% before the election and the LAT/USC survey had Latinos backing Brown 59-23%.

Before trying to make sense of these numbers, consider a few findings from the LA Times/USC survey also taken Nov. 3-14 among actual registered voters:

1) Among those who said they think of themselves as independents instead of Democrats or Republicans (not the same as PPIC’s question which asks respondents how they are registered), just one third of those who said they’re independents were actually registered as Decline-to-State voters.

2) Among Latino voters, Whitman’s unfavorable rating was 71% compared to 17% favorable. Among registered DTS voters, it was 65% unfavorable and 22% favorable.

3) Latinos favored Brown over Whitman 80-15% (compared to the National Election Pool exit poll that said Latinos backed Brown 64-30%).

Confused yet? What the hell actually happened?

Did something occur in the closing weeks of the campaign that drove all of the undecided “independents” in PPIC’s survey to Brown? Or were they already lined up behind him as Field and LAT/USC found? How big was the Latino margin for Brown in the end? What actually drove the vote?

First, let’s look at the independent voters. According to the LAT/USC survey, they voted 59-33% for Brown which is not far off from PPIC’s 56-38%. The difference is in the shift that PPIC found versus what the LAT/USC and Field had before the election. PPIC’s survey suggests a huge movement of independents for Brown. It’s hard to see what could have driven that.

But the movement among Latinos – about 15-20% of whom are likely DTS voters – is easily explained by Whitman’s handling of her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz. In the end, somewhere between 65-80% of Latinos ended up voting for Jerry Brown. With a 71% unfavorable rating among Latinos, that’s not hard to comprehend.

Mark Baldassare of PPIC argues that his polls in October and November were both correct, and that the same things that drove Latinos to Brown also may have propelled independents. We suspect it’s more likely that the problem is rooted in using questions, rather than actual voter lists, to identify “independents” and that the October survey, for whatever reason, didn’t capture what was actually happening among actual DTS voters. (PPIC has to ask questions to identify likely voters and to classify them by party because it uses random digit dialing instead of working from the Secretary of State’s list of registered voters.)

But let’s go back to that PPIC finding in October that showed the economy was the top issue and that voters saw Whitman as better on the issue than Brown.

What the data all seem to suggest is something Calbuzz has argued several times before: that the race for governor did not turn on issues, but on character. In the end, voters saw Brown as the more authentic candidate whose values reflected more closely their own. By emphasizing that he would not raise taxes without voter approval, he made himself safe to moderate voters who didn’t like what they saw from Whitman.

By emphasizing “at this stage of my life” Brown wanted nothing more than to do what needed to be done, he undercut the attacks that portrayed him as a tool of unions and other special interests.

In other words, the conventional wisdom – that the election would turn on the economy and jobs – turned out to be completely wrong. That’s the ground on which team Whitman wanted to fight, but once the Bill Clinton ad blew up in her face and she refused to take it down, and once Nicky Diaz surfaced, the stories that captured voters’ attention were all about character and integrity.

Why does any of this matter? Because when the story of the 2010 California governor’s race is written, it should not make it all about independents and Latinos except to the extent that these voters were moved by impressions of the character of the combatants.

BTW, the PPIC survey goes into great detail looking at the propositions and the initiative process. It’s chock full of interesting data that we’re not even touching on here.