In the 2008 elections, a bit over 13 million people voted in California. Obama won about 8 million votes, while McCain won about 5 million.
On May 19, 2009, California held a special election to decide if taxes were to be raised to the tune of about $15 billion dollars (to try to close an enormous financial deficit for the state government), or if the state politicians would have to do the hard work of cutting spending. About 4 million people voted, with 2 to 1 margins _against_ the tax increases.
Therein lies a tale. Given that Obama was well known to have favored enormous government spending programs, and tax increases that would be needed to support them, how is it that so many people voted for him, but against the same policies for the state? It’s actually pretty simple. A very large number of people who voted for Obama didn’t know much about his policies or stances on important issues, nor about his history as a politician and activist. The media put forward an attractive image, acting as his unpaid campaign staff, and the public bought it, but professional polling has demonstrated that Obama voters were disproportionately ignorant of fundamental facts about Democrats, Republicans, Obama, McCain, Palin and Biden.
So why didn’t it work this time, too? Why was the turnout in California less than a third of the presidential election’s turnout? Why did those who did turn out vote 2 to 1 not to raise taxes in California?
Simply, the only people who voted this time were people who were reasonably aware of the issues, enough to have an opinion about them. Given that public employees in California, whose jobs and pay are imperiled by cuts in the state budget, probably voted 4 to 1 FOR the tax increases, and given that there was probably a higher percentage turnout OF those employees than the general electorate, the result is even more decisive. If you aren’t a public employee (including teachers, bureaucrats and staffers, etc.), the odds are overwhelming that you voted NO on the tax increases, if you voted at all.
There are a number of reasonable observations:
1) People who are aware of what’s actually happening in government, who care enough to vote their opinion about it, and who don’t have a personal agenda (i.e., they work for the government), are overwhelmingly likely to vote more conservatively in fiscal matters.
2) It is likely that the large majority who voted NO on tax increases also voted for McCain. Of course, there will be a few examples to the contrary…. but not many.
3) California’s fiscal future is being shaped, at least to some degree, by McCain voters, not Obama voters.
4) It is likely, given the size of this sample, and the generally leftward tilt of California as a state, that if a national election were held today to raise taxes in order to “balance the budget,” but no other issue was on the ballot, the result would be similar. With no _face_ on the ballot, many of those new, Obama-smitten voters would be hard pressed to make an appearance at the polls. And the generally better informed conservative electorate would be more likely to vote.
5) The media, and Democrats, will do their very best to keep anyone from noticing the implications of the California rejection of higher taxes.
6) The job of the Republicans is to continue to tie the Democrat party, justly, to high taxes and high spending, in the public mind. This will require some courage and resolve, and a refusal to succumb to the minor guilt that remains over excesses of spending by Republicans during the Bush years. At this point, they are like someone who merely stole a car being afraid to point out the people who are robbing Fort Knox. Obama and the Democrats are preparing to spend us into deficits FOUR TIMES the size of anything Bush every dreamed about, and that will have to be paid for, sooner or later, with higher taxes.
7) Expect the media to have very little to say about California’s rejection of higher taxes, with national Democrats saying even less. (On the other hand, if the high tax initiatives had passed, you can imagine the result being trumpeted far and wide as representing “the public will,” can’t you?)
The simplest way to explain all this: the people who have jobs in the private sector (and who know something about what’s going on in state government) voted overwhelmingly against higher taxes. Public employees voted for them, mostly. People who fit in neither category couldn’t be troubled to turn off Oprah and get to the polls…. which is likely why they were watching Oprah in the first place.