Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Badly done, California

As you might suspect if you know me, I was pretty psyched last night. All the Senate races I had hope for went the way I wanted. Even better as I really didn't expect the woman to win in North Dakota. That jerk Joe Walsh in Illinois rightly lost his House seat to the Iraqi war vet who lost both her legs. Her veteran status isn't why she deserved to win, though. The complete jerk things Walsh said about her are why he so thoroughly deserved to lose. And it looks like the equally despicable Allen West in Florida has lost his House seat. Sadly, we're still stuck with Michele Bachmann, but I had resigned myself to that. Marriage equality winning in all 4 states that voted on it definitely helped me get over the Bachmann win. And I take special joy in Tammy Baldwin's Wisconsin Senate win because I got to vote for her in her first Congressional race, when Madison voters made her the first open lesbian in Congress. I think it's fabulous that she will now be the first openly gay person to the Senate.

And as you all know, or can guess, I was quite pleased that the President won re-election.

For someone who has always followed politics as closely as I have and whose values and views have always been decidedly liberal, it was a pretty good night.

But, there is a but. And it's a pretty big but. There was one vote I cared about more than all the others (well, except the presidency). One result that would have induced the biggest joyful crying jag ever. California voters had the chance to do something big. They got to vote on the death penalty. Straight up and down popular vote on whether the state would abolish the death penalty.

The state of California is drowning in debt. The state is broken. It is crushed by an unworkable taxation process and an unwieldy (and costly) voter referendum system. The state can't afford its schools, its prisons, its courts. Prisons are so overcrowded, federal courts have stepped in to demand solutions, even if that solution is the premature release of inmates. Meanwhile, the state has over 700 inmates on death row and none of them are anywhere close to execution. Litigating these cases takes forever, in large part because the state can't find enough lawyers to represent all these capital defendants. And there are other procedural problems that have to be resolved with the method of execution. The bottom line being that these people aren't going to be executed, but they're right now an endless drain on the state's limited criminal justice resources.

The voters of California could have put an end to all of this ridiculousness. Could have saved themselves somewhere around $100 million a year. And could have saved over 700 lives in the process.

By the time President Obama spoke last night (after 1 am), only 20% of the vote totals were in, so I had to go to bed not knowing how that would turn out. So it was only late this morning that I saw the awful news that the repeal effort had failed. The voters of California chose vengeance. They chose vengeance over fiscal responsibility, emotion over logic, anger over rationality.

It breaks my heart.

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