Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Politics: State of Confusion

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - I've avoided commenting on politics in this most populous state of the union so far, but before departing it's hard not to make at least a few observations about the campaign that just about everyone I encounter wishes would just be over.

The Republicans were surely hoping for synergy when they nominated Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, for governor and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, for the senate. People impressed with accomplished businesswomen might decide to vote for the two as a block, as part of a campaign for change in the state. However, what seems to be happening based on some conversations I have had is that the faults of each seem to be rubbing off on the other, causing people that might support one of the candidates decide instead to support neither. Incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer--er, actually one of the outside-funded groups unleashed by the Citizens United Supreme Court case--has been running ads pointing out how Fiorina moved jobs overseas during her time at HP. However, I've heard people talking about Whitman as a foreign outsource advocate, when I haven't seen any ads accusing her of that. Similarly, while it is Whitman who has been accused by Democratic nominee Jerry Brown (yes, the infamous Governor Moonbeam who is again running for the post) of various legal indiscretions related to hiring an illegal immigrant, I've heard people say Fiorina is a hypocrite on immigration. If the polls are any indication, nominating two similar candidates may be backfiring on the Republicans--mud is sticking to both of them at the same time.

There is one thing that supporters of both Brown and Whitman seem to agree on--no matter which is elected governor, they won't be able to single-handedly lead the state out of its current politicized mess that leads to nearly four months without a budget. More systematic change will be necessary--and there's not much agreement on what that means.

With all the money floating around in the various races this election all over the United States, it is interesting that one of the more controversial propositions here in California, Proposition 19 on legalizing marijuana, has very little money going in to the either side. Moneyed interests apparently have little at stake with respect to whether pot is legalized. Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be much of a consensus amongst those in law enforcement on what impact the legislation would actually have--some seem to think it would reduce overall crime, while others think it may lead to trafficking to the rest of the country and thus new problems. Granted, I have not visited a college campus, but I have not heard any discussion of this proposition outside of one KGO radio show. Will many young voters really turn out to support this proposition and thus advantage Democrats that this demographic might be more likely to support? I haven't caught a whiff of it.

Personally, I mailed in my absentee ballot while on this trip. So, for me, this election is all over except waiting for the returns, which will not start to flow until very late on the first Tuesday in November.

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