Poll-a-pism: An Election Lasting More Than Four Hours

The title is a riff from the commercial for the erectile dysfunction drug, Cialis. Obviously, all elections last more than four hours, but this particular one feels unnaturally lengthy.

I think part of it is specific to California and the sheer, soul-crushing drudgery that flows from the predictable nature of politics here. The coastal counties are dominated by Democrats who are, in turn, supported by public sector unions. The central valley is somewhat more diverse, with some Republicans sneaking into office because they are social conservatives.

The State legislature has a democrat super-majority, which tends to minimize any competition of ideas or policy prescriptions. About the only countervailing force is the democrat governor, Jerry Brown, who has been acting in a more centrist manner than he needs to, given the construct of the legislature. In any event, the current state of political affairs has created a drama-free zone.

Then there is the fact that many of the major policy issues manifest not through the legislature, but through measures placed on the ballot by interest groups. There are six of these state-wide measures on the ballot this year, which means that in addition to ads from candidates, the airwaves and your mail box are filled with ads about the ballot measures. The ads drone on, day after day, to the point where you want to turn off your TV and radio.

I used to think that such ballot measures were a good way to involve the public in setting policy, but have long since concluded that it is very problematic. For one thing, I doubt that most voters read the measures and accompanying analysis. For the most part, the voters’ opinions on the measures are a reaction to the cleverness of the ads, which are often simplistic and misleading.

For example, there’s a measure that would require doctors to be subject to drug and alcohol testing. The ad for the measure shows a doctor in a bar, downing a scotch as his pager vibrates in front of him. The ad does not say anything about the other part of the measure, which increases the cap on malpractice awards three-fold and adjusts it for inflation thereafter. Neat trick, huh? The ad against the measure does the exact opposite, warning voters of increased healthcare costs, but saying nothing about the testing provision.

The other problem with the ballot measure system is that it takes the elected legislature out of the process. They don’t vote as a body on these policy changes. If the elected legislature isn’t interested in making policies addressed by the ballot measures it is probably out of political cowardice, or recognition that the policies speak to a narrow set of interests, or both.

Fortunately, the election is on Tuesday, so our long national nightmare is almost over. Don’t forget to vote.

5 thoughts on “Poll-a-pism: An Election Lasting More Than Four Hours

  1. I wish all campaign contributions were illegal. The government could allot a certain amount of money, the same to very candidate and issue, to inform the public, but more than that should be forbidden. However since it’s the people who benefit from campaign contributions who make the laws, that will never happen.


  2. I would like to see a hybrid system where every candidate is provided with a base amount of media access (including advertising), but campaign contributions are still legal. For me, giving money in support of a cause (political or otherwise) seems like protected speech, but when candidates have to spend so much time asking for financial support it skews the policy discussion.


    1. Almost nobody in office who is likely to run again will vote in ways that offend the people who finance their campaigns. That means our country is really governed by the rich people. We might as well go back to the Middle Ages. Of course there exceptions and I’m being too negative, but it is a real problem.


      1. There was a guy in the legislature back in the day named Jesse Unruh (you probably remember him). He had a saying that if you couldn’t eat their food, drink their booze sleep with their women, and then vote against them the next day, you have no business being in politics.


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