Cacophony of Whining; Still Computing Latino Votes
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.”
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.)
How does either method account for the Hispanic surname attached to some non-Hispanic voters?
Anyone with a Spanish surname is counted as Hispanic — that’s how name screeners work. There is no other data in the voter file (except for country of birth) that can be used to identify someone’s ethnicity.
Wikipedia shows that Mr. LaMalfa was chosen the California Rifle and Pistol Association’s “Legislator of the Year”. I guess that explains both the boot heel rhetoric and the hat.
To paraphrase the saying, “All hat and no solutions?”
The collective response to Brown’s budget plan reminds me of the seagulls in “Finding Nemo” who all flew around crying “mine! mine! mine!”
The Repubs are scared to death that when the people learn the truth–that cuts alone cannot possibly close the budget deficit–that they might actually support maintaining the current temporary taxes until the economy improves. For the first time, the people can finally help choose what they expect our government to do and how they want to pay for it.