I seem to have suddenly gotten the chance to affect the vote in Santa Clara, California. Here and here are the pages leading up this, and here is the ballot I'm voting on.
First off, I want you to know that voting is a big thing for me. I’ve never voted in a national election before in my life, and believe me, it's not because I don’t want to. I’m a Danish citizen, living in Norway, and thus only have a vote in county and city elections. However, I’ve lived for so long in Norway that my vote in Denmark is suspended until I live there (which, I’m not going to, because I hate the Danish political climate. There’s a catch-22 for you). I could’ve changed my citizenship long ago, but I didn’t because it got me out of both the Danish and Norwegian conscription. The conscription is no longer a problem, because of my age, but I stay Danish partially because of inertia, partially because nationality was never a big thing with me, partially because I still don’t want to cut my remaining ties to Denmark. But this does leave me, a man with fairly strong and hopefully lucid political opinions, without the vote in any of the elections which significantly affects his life (specifically, I’m thinking of the national elections in Denmark, Norway and the United States). So now I find myself with the possibility to vicariously vote in a national election for the first time in my life, and one which I have often jokingly said is an election that everyone in the world should have the vote in, because it affects all of us.
For what it’s worth, I’ve lived in California. I lived in Goleta outside of Santa Barbara, just up the street from the UCSB camous. I lived there, went to school there, I swam in the Pacific Ocean, I made good friends, fell in love with the girls in my classes and had some great experiences that have stayed with me ever since. I love California, and I hope you’ll take my advice in the spirit with which it is given, and with the knowledge that I know the people I am affecting, and that I therefore have the very best intentions. Also, I want you to know that I understand that what you are offering is huge. I want you to know what an incredible gesture I think it is, and how much I respect you for listening to me in making this decision.
But also, I hope you will take from this the understanding that although I say that we should be allowed to vote in the US jokingly, there is more than a grain of truth to my meaning. What I’m saying is that your political and cultural landscape, the landscape produced to a great extent in California and all across your nation affect me. I don’t mean in the ordinary McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Bush-is-bad kinda way. I mean it really, actually, directly affects me and is a vital and significant force in shaping my life and that of my friends and family. Your politics are my politics.
Our policies, our economy, our jobs, our music, our youth culture, our military situation. All these depend on the US. And there are more subtle changes effected over the past couple of years. An increased rate of tension towards the Moslem population. A hardness to the tone we take when we talk about them. A culture of fear. A sudden pervasive fear of terrorism which has suddenly made itself known, despite the fact that nobody has ever died in an act of terrorism in Norway. An unwillingness to pay taxes, a lessening of the degree of civic-mindedness and the ideals of public service. All these things can be traced back to attitudes that are generated in and by the Bush administration, and the two preceding Republican governments. Our right wing wants to be like your right wing. They take after it. With worry I see that they are succeeding in this. Many of the things which worked for the Republican Party in the US are working for our xenophobic right-wing populist Progress Party now. Your decisions affect us both directly and indirectly.
So I make decisions that I hope will be good for both our countries. I think that people are right when they say that what’s good for America is good for us. What happens to you happens to us. And you are so very, very badly off now. My decisions, I think, would be the same were I voting in the US.
Let me explain my general political position:
I could be described as a socialist. More precisely, I am a social democrat. I favour (in no particular order) a mixed economy, strong transnational cooperation based on human rights, economic justice, global environmental protection, international law, an extremely limited use of force and therefore low spending on the military, checks-and-balances democracy, the welfare state, liberal social policies and a great range of permitted values, cooperative solutions, a well-funded education, limited privatisation of infrastructure. In short: I want my government to be based not on scorched-earth capitalist principles which put profit ahead of human interest, but on humane, cooperative, long-term solutions to the problems faced by real people every day, and not the problems of transnational corporations which can probably take care of themselves. I hold these positions not just because of an ideological legacy from my middle-class upbringing, I hold them because they work. Norway is consistently ranked the best place in the World to live, on UN statistics. This is – though I readily admit that our humongous oil resources are a part of this - largely because of our highly evolved welfare state. Put simply: what we’re doing works.
Here, let me just as an aside say, and this is the second thing I hope you take with you out of this, that my brother is right: you don’t really have a left wing. What you call your left wing is like an extremely moderate centrist in Norway. And you most certainly do not have a left-wing media. There is no liberal bias in the media. It might seem like you do, but you really, really, really don’t. If you trust nothing else that I say here, trust that.
Furthermore, the stances I take are taken based both on local inspections of the issues, as well as the larger view: I want a strong Democratic party because that’s the best stop-gap measure in the journey America absolutely must make, for the good of us all, over the next fifty years, towards a many-party system. Having the Dems strengthened means a move away from the horrible drift your country has taken towards – no offence – plutocracy, social conservatism and scorched-earth capitalism. I take my stances, therefore, not necessarily for the candidate I would support first, but for the candidate I believe will be more likely to have my vote help.
So, with no further ado, the following are the positions I would take in the California midterms:
1. Angelides as governor.
I know that you are against this, but I believe you are wrong. While I acknowledge that Arnold has done many good things for California, and that he is certainly a much better governor than DINO Gray Davis, I don’t think he is the best choice, and when on paper, at least, Angelides is much closer to what you need, despite the fact that he appears to be something of a nerd, and not the most charismatic of men. While Arnold appears to be a bold leader, and a strong personality, and his solution to the power crisis, his strong support of stem-cell research and his recent turn on environmental issues are strong cards in his favour, he is also too brash, too close to the corporate interests, and, more importantly, a conservative. Arnold cuts education, increased tuition level, lets in big business, is the GOP #1 fundraiser and is anti-union.
Angelides supports worker’s rights. He supports gay marriage (which Arnold does on paper, and yet oddly vetoes every time the bill passes through his office). He is pro-middle class (the real key to economic growth and social reforms). He is fiscally responsible and supports campaign finance reform. He opposes the war on terror as it stands. He is strong on education, with a great program for new teachers. He supports steps towards universal health care (and honestly, with the system you have, I can’t believe that anyone in the US would even consider voting for anyone not shouting in the streets like a maniac about the demise of the welfare state). He has a strong environmental record, and what with you being the 8th largest economy in the world and having the world’s 9th biggest city and the world’s 40th biggest city (and San Diego and Sacramento aren’t exactly tiny, either) all in the same state, you seriously need to start thinking more about that (to be fair, Arnold is already doing much in this way. I think Angelides can do more). He is sensible, he’s progressive, he has a strong sense of ethics (I’m not buying the hacker theory on the Latino blood-thing, btw), and he has a solid record and platform. He’s not perfect, but he is without a doubt the best option in a Schwarzenegger – Angelides race. And btw: those brownouts? Angelides was not only a strong opponent of them he was actually in the trenches working to end them.
2. Lieutenant Governor: John Garamendi.
Garamendi is obvious. McClintlock is a privatiser and a social and economic conservative. He wants more tax cuts (in the US situation: bad, bad, bad, as even the Norwegian right wing will tell you), has a let’s-make- bad-worse health plan and thinks Ronald Reagan was a swell guy. Garamendi is pro-education, supports stem cell research, infrastructure build-up, is strong on environmental issues and health care. A total no-brainer.
3. Secretary of State: Debra Bowen
She has a great track record opposing electronic balloting while her opponent recently got 43% of newly registered voters in California invalidated due to new voter registration database procedures, according to one source.
4. Senator: Dianne Feinstein.
Feinstein is the safest vote I cast. She has a massive lead over her nearest opponent. This one is in the box, and thank God for that. Mountjoy is pro welfare sorry tax cuts, is against, y’know, the right to privacy and the right not to be tortured, opposes gay marriage, opposes brown people and would basically just be a hand-puppet for the Bush administration.
5. Congress, California 22: Mike Honda
While Mike Honda is not ideal – he is a bit too friendly with Israel and introduced the rather dodgy resolution that demanded that Japan apologise for WWII and pay reparations – he is light-years ahead of certified nutcase Chukwu. I mean: bioterrorism and African herbs? What’s the hell is that?
Truth be told, in Norway we’d laugh Mike Honda all the way into the right-wing parties, but I really want the Democrats to take back Congress. And besides, he’s strong on civil rights.
6. State Assembly, District 22: Sally Lieber
I honestly don’t have much to go on, here, but she’s a democrat, and that’s my default position. Besides, she supports a higher minimum wage (good), is strong on environment (good) and has about 221.000$ more than her opponent (even better).
7. California State Supreme Court: Yes to both.
I don’t really have much to go on here. They are both pro-gay marriage and pro choice. Kennard is described by her more rabid opponents as a socialist, so that’s gotta be good.
8. Mayor, Santa Clara: Undecided.
I honestly can’t tell from where I’m sitting who to vote for in this one. Mahan, the incumbent, seems good, she has supposedly tried to be a uniting leader, and seems to be strong on public transportation (which, I gather, must be a problem in Santa Clara, because the politicians talk about it a lot. I believe I spent a night in Santa Clara once, and remember the morning traffic wasn’t nice.) McLemore, the challenger, seems like a dedicated political workhorse and claims to have much experience negotiating good solutions out of diverse groups. Honestly, this is not a decision I feel competent in making, although my instinct based on what I’ve read leans more towards Mahan.
9. Controller: John Chiang. He appears to be the best and most likely candidate. The Green candidate Laura Wells also has many good initiatives, though she seems perhaps a touch less serious. If you think the Green candidate is better, go ahead.
10: Treasurer: Bill Lockyer. Sensible democratic fiscal policies. The libertarian and Green candidates sound interesting, but had no information available, because it’s obviously going to be this guy with all the endorsements he has.
11. Attorney General: Jerry Brown. First off, let me just say regarding the Green candidate that quoting Peter Tosh on your homepage may not be the best idea for having a serious presentation of your candidacy. But then that's just me. He appears to be one of those policians who have all the right opinions put into an ideological package for all the wrong reasons, and with none of the skills to have them put through.
The Republican candidate is a “tough on crime” kinda candidate, which basically means someone making laws which appear to be tough on crime but which have no understanding of actual prevention and reduction of crime. Greater penalties do not neccesarily lead to less crime.
The former governor, Jerry Brown, has a solid record in politics. However, he is much too “tough on crime.” He’s not the candidate I would most like to have. All things being equal, I think the Green guy is probably closer to my stand on the issues, but he’s just not competent. Hence, Jerry Brown is your man.
12. Superior court judges:
I’m sorry, there’s just not enough info for me here. I can’t make an informed decision.
Council Member, Santa Clara, seat 2: Undecided.
Another one I can’t call from where I’m sitting. Caserta seems not to be very visionary, but then neither does Hardy, and she is rather vague about what she wants.
Ok. I think I see a trend in the coverage of these, the lower levels of the election. This is where time and the internet become an issue. You’ve been immersed in the more local levels of government for years, and I don’t feel competent beyond a certain level of representation. You know these people, you’ve read their press releases, heard the talk about them around the coffee tables, know the people they’ve dated and how they did in school. I am not competent to make decisions at this level, and it would be wrong of me to do so. The stuff online is just too vague and written for people who know the issues already. So I won’t cast any more person votes beyond this point. There is also much more of what I’ve heard described as “dog whistle politics” here: people saying things which certain segments of the population understand, and others don’t. Therefore, I stop here with the personal elections. You, hopefully, will have the knowledge to fill out the rest of the ballot. However, I will give some opinions on the propositions below:
1A – 1E: YES. Your infrastructure, health care, education system and disaster preparedness systems are lacking. Though I am big on pay-as-you-go fiscal responsibility, I think the bonds might be a good idea in your economy, and encourage further growth. Go for it.
Proposition 83: NO. This is a phony measure which seems to be tough on crime, while actually misunderstanding what and who sex offenders are and how they work. This will only tie up money and resources, while not putting the money where they should be: in rehabilitation, therapy and prevention. This law will not make children safer. It just serves to do three things: allow politicians to seem tough on crime, increase government intervention into the continued lives of ex-convicts and serving to further ostracize the sexual offenders, preventing rehabilitation and reassimilation into society.
Prop 84: I am unsure. Water safety is incredibly important throughout southern California, and with the seismic activity, there is good reason to be concerned. I remember the taste of chlorine all too well. However, bonds are a big deal, and should not be issued frivolously. I say a cautious no, but you can decide this one.
Prop 85: NO. God, no. Violent homes, anyone? Religious sects? Coathangers and backalley abortions? No. This is just a sham proposition to inch things closer to overturning Roe v. Wade. No.
Prop 86: YES. I hate to say this, but cigarette taxes and stronger smoking laws work. The US, Norway, and most other parts of the world has a rampant respiratory health and addiction problem caused by the fact that what should be a luxury good has been turned into an everyday addictive substance. The tobacco industry is killing people for profits. The cigarette tax is a great idea, and it's good for all of us.
Prop 87: YES. The US oil companies have been preventing research and implementation of alternative energy sources for decades. Drilling fees are a great idea, and funneling them into green energy is an even better one.
Prop 88: YES. If, say, you live in Montecito, which at one point had the highest rate of billionaires per square mile of anywhere in the US, you don’t get to decide whether your school district needs more money than South Central LA does. That’s why we have government, and that’s why we have common solutions.
Prop 89: YES. This is the kind of legislation you need. Serious campaign finance reform limits what I would honestly only describe as institutionalised corruption, levels the playing field for outside candidates, and disallows state contractors to influence the process.
Prop 90: YES. The Kelo decision was not good, benefitting big corporations at the expense of private property owners. The right to compensation and safety in the public relevance of whatever is taking over your property are vital to trust in the state and to the continued public spirit. This is a fair measure, although apparently some of the language is a bit incautious.
I can’t really decide on the two local measures, seeing as how I don’t know the local affairs well enough. However, I think the general idea of binding arbitration is sound, and we use it in Norway by rule.
That’s the last of it.
So again, I hope you take my advice seriously. Thank you again for your interesting offer. I hope you, Santa Clara, California and the United States of America have the very best future money can buy, and I hope this election works out; for all of us.
Oh, and good luck with the rats. You might want to see The Departed by Scorcese. It’s all about the rats.
All the best,
PS: an update. Bitch PhD has some interesting points to make on the propositions as well. She has pointed out some flaws in prop 90 and prop 88 I was not aware of, and somehow missed in the documentation. I must have read them too late at night. She also has some interesting points on prop 1A-E. I think she might be right about 1A, but 1B I'm still not convinced on.
[I moved this up top because I deliberately left it down below in order to keep the ProSalong thing up top.]