Sunday, November 30, 2008

Prop 8 by the Numbers

[Disclaimer: The numbers of votes and percentages come from the California Secretary of State. The number crunching (comparing Presidential and Prop 8 votes) is my own.]

The Text of the Proposed Law:
Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution, to read:
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

The Numbers:

Presidential Race (CA):
Obama: 8,063,473 votes (61.1%)
McCain: 4,902,278 votes (37.1%)
Other: 248,081 votes

Prop 8:
Yes: 6,838,107 votes (52.3%)
No: 6,246,463 votes (47.7%)


What the numbers mean:
13,213,832 votes were cast in the Presidential race in CA.
13,084,570 votes were cast on either side of Prop 8.
This is slightly less than in the presidential race, but very similar. In fact, fewer people declined to vote on Prop 8 than voted for “other” in the Presidential race.

If every person who voted for McCain also voted for Prop 8 (clearly an exaggeration, but it is reasonable to assume that a very large percentage did so), 1,935,829 Obama supporters must have voted for proposition 8. Yes, qualitatively we knew this was the case, but seeing that number has different sort of impact. (I would add that this is accurate even taking into account those who voted for “other” as it is likely that the vast majority, being more liberal on this issue than the general population (green party, peace & freedom, etc), voted against prop 8).

Recent Historical Context:
In 2000 Proposition 22 proposed to limit marriage to that between a man and woman in CA. This was at the time a legal fiction since there was already only marriage between straight couples but it was seen as preventative. In addition, this was a normal ballot measure, not a constitutional amendment, and was overturned by the court, along with other relevant statutory law, in May 2008, thus making same-sex marriage legal in CA and precipitating the current Prop 8.

Prop 22 passed easily with Yes: 4,618,673 votes (61.4%) compared to No: 2,909,370 votes (38.6%). Clearly there were many fewer voters in this election (It was the presidential primary in March 2000). Moreover, a majority of them were Republicans (4,153,693 voted for Republican candidates in the primary compared to 3,272,023 for Democratic candidates).

So, The relevance of the Prop 22 story is two-fold: If you simply look at the percentages, well, we’ve come a long way – to move from 61% to 52% in 8 years is actually remarkable. This extent of this change is undercut by the different distribution (republican/democrat) in voters (and quantity of votes) in the two elections. Nonetheless, I think that is still indicative of an ongoing cultural shift (this is my own conjecture, not proved by the numbers, but one can make a strong argument for this understanding).

[And next, on Postcards from Outer Space, a more qualitative look at Prop 8 and CA politics.]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another election season as a California expat

As I prepared for the election by having my biannual pre-election phone consult with my father I thought, how can I ever stop voting in California? I would miss this so much. It is our bonding time in a very real way, as my dad talks me through the various judicial candidates and ballot propositions – with my mom in the background adding her perspective and keeping him honest. It’s a Sunkist Family Special.

We Californians voted for Barak Obama by 61.2% compared to 37% for McCain. That was exciting, but it also means that on election night a bigger question was how the various ballot measures were going to turn out. There were 12 state-wide ballot measures, plus various county and local measures. (Prop 8 deserves its own discussion, so today I’ll only touch it in relation to the other measures.) People outside Cali seem to think Californians are totally liberal, but that misunderstands California politics. California is its own special snowflake (err, sun-flake?!). My theory is that California politics is in large part predicated on our ballot-measure voting system. That is to say, the general population is able to pick-and-choose their issues; opinions are mixed and people can vote their opinion on separate topics.

For an overview, Californian voters over my lifetime have tended to be: pro-choice, pro-environment, anti-immigration, anti-criminal (e.g. pro-three-strikes law, pro-capital punishment), and anti-though-increasingly-divided-on- gay marriage.

Thus some key results from 2008:
Prop 2: Farm Animals: Yes 63.4%, No 36.6%
Prop 4: Parental Notification: Yes 47.7%, No 52.3%
Prop 5: Nonviolent Drug Offense: Yes 40.3%, No 59.7%
Prop 8: Ban Same-Sex Marriage: Yes 52.1%, No 47.9%

Where Prop 2 requires better treatment of farm animals; Prop 4 would have required parental notification for abortion; Prop 5 would have improved treatment programs and reduced prison sentences for nonviolent drug offences; and Prop 8 amends the CA state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

[Coming up next on Postcards from Outer Space, a discussion of Prop 8.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When school meets the sabbath day

I don’t actually have a problem with talking about school (which is after all my “work”) on Shabbat. Maybe it would be different if I didn’t like what I did. Certainly I choose to avoid the aggravating related subjects (homework), but I am happy to talk about the content. After all, I chose to study IR because I’m interested in it. I’m fascinated with how the world works. Moreover, as mentioned previously, politics of all kinds are also a hobby.

On a day-to-day basis I get caught up in the frustration of coursework. So I actually really appreciate the chance to talk about what I’m learning. For one thing, it makes me step back and think about that question, and that helps put the whole school thing in perspective. So last week, when E asked me about international criminal law, I jumped at the opportunity to explain.

The problem is, as my friends used to point out in undergrad, that the stuff I choose to study is frequently depressing. Really. What did you learn about this week? Genocide. Not really shabbos dinner conversation. Not even for me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Addicted to Politics

Hobby of the semester: explaining domestic (US), and particularly California, politics to foreign students during the bus ride.

Hobbies more broadly: Minyan politics, domestic politics, disability rights, saving the world…

Oh wait, saving the world’s what I do professionally! Otherwise known as international politics. Hmmm…

Seems that it’s all politics. Anyone surprised?!

*Disclaimer: I did actually have other hobbies before I was a graduate student. Really.