*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
Out of the midst of a damn dark day for decent and civilized society in America, there was one bright spot in the nation that offers some consolation, no matter how small, that not all Americans are dirty bigots and savage religious barbarians. Although there are reasonable human beings across this tragic nation, there are more of them living in the Golden State and they showed the rest of the nation what civility and social conscious means and looks like. It is not because Californian’s overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton, but because voters went to the polls and defeated the moneyed special interests that prevailed in the rest of the country and had a small part in giving the government, all three branches, to the Koch Republicans..
First, it is noteworthy to confess that even in deep blue California there is a significant number of citizens that would be incredibly comfortable living in thrall to corporate masters or deepest red religious Texas or Mississippi, but they are in the minority. It is a good thing for the state because the majority sees through special interests and votes accordingly and in this election with a record number of “special interest” propositions on the ballot, the majority stepped up and voted according to what is best for California residents; not the rich, not the religious, and not the corporations.
One of the propositions that passed on Tuesday but failed four years ago to special interest money from law enforcement and prison guard unions was recreational cannabis. Law enforcement and the prison community saw legalization as a threat to their job security, but voters saw through that and passed a proposition that strictly monitors and regulates recreational marijuana use for adults. California voters are not any more “stoners” than the rest of the country, but they see the relief for beleaguered law enforcement and overcrowded prisons and the very significant revenue generated from regulation, taxation and monitoring as a good thing for schools, healthcare, and the criminal justice system.
Another proposition was actually a bill signed into law by the governor that failed to comport with the demands of the petroleum industry. Two years ago the state legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, a ban on plastic bags at supermarkets. The petroleum industry (plastic comes from petroleum) could not stand for Democrats to ban plastic, so they helped obstruct implementation of the law and said let the voters decided; not the legislators the voters elected. Subsequently, there was a well-funded campaign to save the plastic that voters easily squashed because they see the damaging effects of petroleum on the environment every day as well as see the discarded plastic polluting the landscape and the waterways.
In a similar situation, last year the Democratic majority in the state legislature listened to their constituents and passed sane gun safety laws to overwhelming praise. Of course, the National Rifle Association could not let Democrats pass any gun safety measures so they did what they typically do; martial their in- and out-of-state forces to challenge the law with a familiar refrain; it is up to the people so let the voters decide. What they decided was that when their elected representatives pass a law, they intend for it to go into effect; the NRA be damned. That is precisely what transpired and despite fear mongering about terrorists and Democrats coming to confiscate everyone’s firearms, voters overwhelmingly shut down the NRA; it can be done.
Voters also beat back an assault on their intelligence and social consciousness by both the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries. One proposition regulating prescription drug costs faced a monumental campaign from big pharmaceuticals, but Democrats and activists in the state were savvy enough to remind voters to take a look at the only opposition that was spending the tens-of-millions of dollars to prevent Californians from getting prescription drugs at the same price the VA pays. It doesn’t happen often in America, but the people, liberal people, dealt the high and mighty pharmaceutical industry a serious defeat; it can be done if the people are willing.
In a similar proposition, the tobacco industry dropped some very serious cash to defeat a hike in the tobacco tax because, in every state with a higher tax, smoking goes down particularly among teens. The additional tax will go to healthcare and education programs to convince young people that their health is more important than looking adult with a butt hanging out of their mouth. The proposition passed by a wide margin and the tobacco industry suffered a defeat by the people; it can be done if the people are willing and have a social conscience.
The biggest winner of that dark election was education. There were two propositions Republicans vehemently opposed because one maintained the voter-approved and implemented tax hike on the rich and corporations and the other was a fairly monumental bond for education. Both propositions passed overwhelmingly. Also connected to education was an easily-passed proposition reinstating bilingual education in public schools. Californians comprehend, unlike those other nasty Americans that diversity is what built this country and they want every student, regardless of their heritage to have an equal opportunity to excel in education. The official language of California at its inception was Spanish and English according to the sales contract between Mexico and the United States and it was written into the state’s Constitution. In 1986 with 40 percent of Californians speaking other languages as their first language, Spanish was stricken from being a “co-official” language in the state because the yokel community determined that anyone living in American has to “talk American.”
There were plenty of other propositions Californians approved, like overturning Citizens United and releasing non-violent over-prosecuted drug offenders which demonstrate that if there is a population with a social conscience and enough intelligence to think beyond their own particular greed and hatred, special interests can be defeated with relative ease. It can be done if the voters are willing, have a social conscience and live in a state that rejects conservatism because it is bad for the general welfare of the people. Sadly, Americans learned on Tuesday that a little over 55-million Americans have no concept of, and are not remotely interested in, what the general welfare of the people means and they voted accordingly on a damn dark day for America; something Californians voters had no part in creating.