Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I haven't been posting lately, and for a variety of reasons it'll probably be another couple of weeks before I'm back at it regularly.  But I'm something of an election junkie, so here are a few observations from last night.

Propositions 34 and 36

Supporters point out that more than four million Californians voted to abolish the death penalty.  That's extraordinary, but it wasn't enough.  Proposition 34 lost by about a half million votes.

Is there a lesson in that?

Here's one.  Economic arguments against the death penalty in a weak economy have force, but not as much force as misleading stories about monsters being set free to rape and pillage and murder at will.  Here's another. If California voters won't vote for abolition, it's probably not a good idea for abolitionists to be aiming for a referendum in other states, either.

But while voters were turning down Prop 34, they voted big for 36.  That was the one to loosen the state's 3-Strikes law.  It passed with just over 2/3 of the vote.  That's a margin of more than 3 million voters which is downright impressive.

But notice that they didn't eliminate three strikes.  They just limited it.  Unless one of the three felony strikes involved guns, sex, or drugs, a third felony won't trigger an automatic 25-life sentence unless it's a particularly serious or violent one.  Or something like that.  Otherwise, the third strike just gets a sentence double what it would otherwise be.  So not paying for the pizza - if that's the third felony - may not lead to a life sentence.  Just years and years.  Which is better, but if I were in the Golden State I probably wouldn't be dancing in the streets over it.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Maybe if the democrats had actually made an effort to oust Killer Keller, there'd be good news on this one.  Maybe not.  In any event, they didn't and she got herself re-elected.

At the same time, and to the surprise I expect of nobody - least of all he - Mark Bennett's quixotic campaign for the Court of Criminal Appeals failed.


Arkansans and Montanans decided the scourge of Killer Weed is sufficiently horrifying that those who needs its health benefits should shut up and suffer.  They turned down proposals to allow medical marijuana.  On the other hand, those drug-addled voters in Colorado and Oregon and Washington voted to legalize a recreational puff.

Of course, Obama won re-election and his justice department has made clear that whatever the states might say, the feds will happily prosecute anyone caught with a few seeds.  It's not like it was an election issue or anything, and there's no reason to imagine that a Romney win would have changed that.  

But the legalization votes signal something important about a change in direction.  Not everywhere and not all at once, but it's a movement.  The drug war isn't anywhere near its last gasp, but there's some indication appearing that its worst excesses are maybe, just maybe, beginning to pose a problem.

Same-Sex Marriage

In state after state after state, voters have enacted bans of one sort or another on same sex marriage.  Those places where it's become legal have achieved legality by legislation or judicial decision.  (And there's a pretty good chance that SCOTUS will rule on the federal defense of marriage act, known as DOMA, this term.)  Until now.

Voters in Maryland and Maine passed referenda in favor of same-sex marriage.  It looks like maybe Washington State voters will, too.  And in Minnesota, while they sent Michelle Bachman back to Congress, they turned down an effort to ban same-sex marriage.

Immigration and Immigrants

If exit polling is to be believed, what everyone paying serious attention expected actually happened.  Latino/Hispanic voters went big for Obama and it's not because they're major fans of the Affordable Care Act or increasing taxes on those making over $250,000 or because they agree with his stands (or maybe half-getting up from his seats) on abortion or same-sex marriage or the right unilaterally to decide which Americans should be killed by drones.  

No, they voted for Obama because even if he didn't actually manage to get the Dream Act passed, he favored it.  And because he didn't announce that they should all be deported - and maybe even deport themselves.  And because he wasn't openly hostile to them.

Because, that is, the Republicans drove them away.  We don't want your kind, they effectively said, which is another way of saying "We don't want your votes."  Which if you're trying to figure out how to drive away voters is a pretty good approach.  But it can be a problem if they all come out and vote against you.  And if they're the fastest growing segment (at least by some measures) of American society.

On the other hand, Joe Arpaio cruised to an easy, and apparently unprecedented, sixth term as Sheriff. So maybe none of that applies in Maricopa County, where not much else that reflects either good sense or the Rule of Law does, either.


It should simply be noted that the Senate candidates who said the stupidest things about pregnancy and abortion all lost.  

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein offers a series of predictions.  This one is probably right.
I’m pretty confident that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire before Obama’s term is up. I’m also pretty confident that unless they die or become totally incapacitated, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia aren’t resigning.


The 1964-65 television season brought a short-lived dramatic series about a state legislator, James Slattery, played by Richard Crenna.  (It apparently played in Latin America in 1967.)

Here's how each episode began, and it's perhaps appropriate that I can only find it with Spanish subtitles.

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