Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Duality of States

I am amazed sometimes by the duality of our nature, in ourselves and in our institutions.

This evening, after waking up to a stock market party with a clear Obama hangover, I catch the evening's Investor's Business Daily and read about California's measures.

California is universally known to the rest of the nation as the archetypal liberal state. After all, it's home to Hollywood and San Francisco. And while it's true that they fulfilled their role in renewing their liberal voice to the nation in yesterday's voting, internally it's a different voice.

Voters had previously voted in legislation which clarified and asserted the definition of marriage, as being between a man and a woman. It was a big issue at the time, and achieved significant popular support at the polls, and general detraction in the press.

Rebuffed by the apparent will of their fellow Californians, those affected by the statute mounted challenge, and ultimately the State's supreme court rule the new law contrary to the State's constitution, and struck it down. Rebuffing the rebuffers.

Last night, Californians dug in their heels and took their will a step further, voting passage of Proposition 8 to amend the California constitution such that the effect of that previously passed, then struck, statute can be finally the law of their land.

This was a rather conservative move, and so the development of this story from a state with outspoken liberal representation nationally, and a sure win for the New New Deal Obamanians. And they kept it up too, striking down two rather liberal alternative energy proposals.

Contrast this to my home state, North Dakota. Recognized as a state filled with common sense conservative thinking self-reliant rural stalwarts. You want steady hands on so many tillers? We're your people!

We in North Dakota generally send-up Republican presidents and tend to favor conservative principles in our internal government as well. We do favor Democrats for national representation, but more the blue-dog type. We're mostly farmers, and we're acting in our own self-interest to bring home the farming pork. Dems are usually good at this.

In a second major surprise to me, my fellow North Dakotans acted largely liberally at the polls. We did send up our electoral votes for McCain, and Gov. Hoeven and his Republican administrators received large reapproval to go back to work. But in four ballot measures which affect our internal politics, in contrast to liberal California, conservative North Dakota took a liberal tack.

We had a measure to deal with future oil-industry tax revenue in a fiscally responsible way, setting it aside in trust and trying to only spend the interest on that trust, in the knowledge that while the state's blessed with oil, as a nation we won't use it forever: defeated.

A measure to rebalance our tax revenue (which has been generating steady real surplusses of cash) and lower our personal and corporate income taxes: defeated (what sane conservative vetos a tax cut? Not a credit either, but a real rate reduction?).

A measure to establish a new government program devoted to campaigning against tobacco use: passed.

And a measure to take the independent and corporate-style running of our state's workforce safety and insurance program (which had been saving we taxpayers money), and bring it back under the direct control of the state: passed. (Folks I talk to largely blame this one on allegations of a culture of corruption within the non-government board overseeing WSI's operations.)

All actions rather unlike the reputation for conservatism we're outwardly known for to the rest of the nation.

It's a strange and interesting duality. You might say Californians now have a little taste of what it's like to be a North Dakotan, and the same is true for me of them.


MattFacingSouth said...

I dunno, Andrew - California can be a very conservative state. After all, they did elect Arnold twice.

Apart from the liberal bastion of the Bay Area, the rest of the state ranges from fairly moderate to ultra-conservative. Once you get into the Central Valley, the political landscape turns pretty moderate - aside from the more-fiscally liberal parts like Sacramento. Once you head into the foothills and the Sierra Nevada mountains, politics do not range far from, say, those of West Virginia. Then you have the LA basin, where you have all types, including the biggest portions of the previously-mentioned minorities. While we're at it, we can't forget the ultra-conservative bastion of Orange County and what used to be conervative San Diego, though they're trending away from that a little in the last few years.

People not from California tend to forget there are a lot of church-going conservatives out there (I should know, I used to be one of them). Also, there are two minority groups that make up a large portion of the CA electorate that largely voted yes (one overwhelmingly so) on Proposition 8, so there are other cutural factors at work than the ones we are exposed to up here.

Finally, one cannot forget that there is a large populace of baby boomers and elderly out there - demographics which voted for Prop 8.

In fact, the largest demographic that voted against prop 8 was youth, followed by white females.

Regardless, it's hard to throw a label on California. Yes, they have vocal pockets of ultra-partisanship, but due to its massive population and the inertia that provides, it remains a very dynamic state.

Andrew said...

Matt, I take your comments on California and agree with them. Media has represented similar under-voiced center and right-leaning bastions of the state's population to me.

I would counter, though, that much like President G.W. Bush appealed to conservative voters and turned out to be a right-wing statist, and not conservative, Arnold has turned out to be a RINO along the same lines as NYC mayor Bloomberg, and senators Collins, Snowe, Specter, and sometimes McCain.

As goes CA, so likely goes the USA, and with all its current problems and sweeping new taxes in the offing, I think the center & right bases will either leave it to rot away, or reclaim it and divest it of much of its outsized government.

The same is likely to play out in the nation at-large here before too long.