Education Opinion

Is California Exceptional, Progressive, or Just Weird?

By Charles Taylor Kerchner — November 10, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

On Tuesday, California, again, showed that it was moving in a different direction than the country as a whole.

Even the state’s 55 electoral votes were not enough to pull Hillary Clinton from the mass of negative ads, Wikileaks, the FBI, and high disapproval ratings. Other states in the Blue Wall fell,

California stayed true.

While Clinton was losing and Republicans holding control over the U.S. Senate and House, California voted Democratic and approved a series of progressive ballot measures, including continuing a higher income tax rate on those making over $250,000 a year to pay for public education and health care (Proposition 55), restoring bilingual education (Proposition 58), and allowing billions in construction bonds (Proposition 51).

The Clinton electoral map (left) shows the familiar pattern of two Californias: the richer more populous coastal areas, including the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco metropolitan areas, and inland counties of the central valley and north. Clinton carried the coast, and also all of Southern California, including Orange County, once a GOP stronghold.

But on the education initiatives, the division was not so stark. The bilingual education initiative was approved in every county, a 72% majority statewide. As I wrote recently, this vote closes a political era when organizing against immigrants and non-English speakers was politically attractive. It no longer is.

The income tax initiative also gained a majority in more counties than Clinton (see left).

The state also approved an additional $2 tax on cigarettes, a measure to trim sentences from non-violent offenders and thus reduce the state’s prison population, and toughened gun regulations.

In Los Angeles, voters approved a sales tax increase to fund mass transit and freeway improvements.

An initiative to abolish the death penalty failed. But support for abolition grows. Three decades ago, California Supreme Court justices were recalled from office for refusing to enact the death penalty.

An effort to impose price controls on pharmaceutical drugs also failed. Proposition 61 was by far the most heavily financed of all ballot measures, drawing well over of $100-million to defeat the measure, mostly from big pharmaceutical firms. Bernie Sanders and allies pushed back hard, but they were not sufficient to pass an awkwardly drawn proposition that failed to get major newspaper endorsements.

And, of course, California passed a measure legalizing recreational marijuana. So, if you find yourself depressed by the election, immediate relief is yours. If you can’t get progressive, at least you can get weird.

Maps: California Secretary of State

The opinions expressed in On California are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.