September 09, 2012
Horse 1359 - California - Farewell, Promised Land
After much discussion on forum boards people think that my assessment of the 2012 Presidential race is mostly correct save for California. That westerly of states defies so much of American history that explanation is required.
California right up until the end of Reagan's Presidency more or less always voted Republican. This I suppose was in reaction to the then Southern Democrats who usually won elections south of the Mason-Dixon Line. During the terms of LBJ, JFK and Nixon, California blinked red-blue-red and remained red up until Clinton when it flipped and has remained blue ever since.
The reasons for this change in the last 30 years seem to be demographically obvious. California has a largish Hispanic population towards the south and places like Angeles have either staunchly Democrat voting Black communities or in the case of San Francisco, a socially "liberal" demographic and the capital Sacremento itself, has a tendency to swing either red or blue at a whim.
On a county by county basis, the 2008 Presidential Election showed a blue tendancy down the coast.
However, go to the other side of Interstate 5 which is like a giant sort of spine running through the state and you find that most counties vote Republican.
The big problem with trying to predict the future based on past performance though is that it's a bit like trying to fly backwards. You can see where you've been but not where you're going.
California at state level is racked with a crippling amount of debt ($386 billion). Although they have chosen a Democrat state Governor in Jerry Brown, this was in reaction to previous Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. At a national level, only this week the debt passed the $16 trillion mark. Indeed it is largely symbolic and the scope of a fourteen digit number is beyond the comprehension of most people but the fact is that whoever is encumbent when debt announcements are made usually suffers in the polls as voters decide on change for change's sake. The United States to less of a degree than Australia will tend to try to "punish" the party in government at state or federal level by voting for their opposite in at the alternate level. As a rule this is insensible but on a booth by booth basis, there is a statistical tendancy for it.
Unemployment nationally now stands at 8.3% and whilst this is only a raw statistic, the real world side of it is that people don't have jobs and find it increasingly hard to make ends meet. Add to this the utterly woeful state of health care in the United States generally (if you do not have a full time job), Obama's failure to pass the legislation he intended and many black voters especially in urban areas may feel as though their kid has failed them. Rather than vote for the opposition as per Australia because voting isn't compulsory in the United States, this might result in lower voter turnout.
Pair this with a toxic media environment, in which politics itself is reduced to a slanging match and a bizzarely strange state of affairs where the religious right are whipped into a frenzy every four years with the mere mention of the code words "abortion" and "gay marriage" and the environment is laid out for a higher than normal Republican turnout at the polls.
Don't get me wrong, I think that it will be a close run thing. Obama hit statewide results of 61-37 in '08. In '12 I suspect that neither Obama nor Romney will achieve more than half the vote. I think that California will vote Obama in the range 46-48 and Romney between 47-49. This very much allows for blend and the margin of victory could well be within 50000 statewide.
The places where the change will come will be in urban areas in LA and south towards the Mexican border; especially in and around San Diego.
The thing is though that California is a "winner takes all" state. Even if the margin of victory was a single vote, California sends 55 votes to the Electoral College. In that respect it acts like a single member constituency but unlike say a parliament where a single member makes very little difference, it is a bloc vote; just the single state of California will make the total number of Electoral College votes swing like a gate on a hinge.
California in essence is like a "6 point" fixture in English Football or the second Bledisloe match in rugby. It isn't enough to determine the outcome an election season but it is critical in and of itself to be very very important.
With an increasing sense of discontent with Washington generally and a sort of negligence by both parties to address Californian issues (because it's basically assumed to be a Democrat stronghold), I wouldn't be surprised if California flipped to red under people's noses and ergo why Romney will be president.
Or to quote a much older adage "Oppositions don't win elections so much as governments lose them". The Republicans are currently in effect the opposition to a Democrat presidency and I think that Obama has lived through an economic storm. Since the commander-in-chief of the United States and the place where "the buck stops" is Obama, Romney will be president but not because he will have done enough to win the presidency but because Obama will have lost it and specifically in California.
Posted by Rollo at 21:29