The California primary is a notorious Johnny-come-lately. This year is no different.
Donald Trump has, incredibly, already emerged from a crowded field as the presumptive Republican nominee. And though Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are neck and neck in statewide polls, New Jersey’s primary is expected to put her over the top, delegate-wise, before the voting ends here.
But by other measures, California’s elections are immensely consequential. People who vote here shape the world’s eighth largest economy.
We wag the dog on climate change, culture, education and most other issues. And though voting here started May 9 for mail-in ballots, there’s still time before Tuesday to think about what’s at stake in this election, and send a few messages.
Dignity matters. The GOP may have a tradition of falling in line, if not in love, with whoever lands enough delegates to clinch its presidential nomination. But no tradition is worth blindly handing the free world’s most powerful office to an unfit con man from a reality show.
It is clear by now that a vote for Trump is not merely a vote against Clinton, or Sanders, or left-wing “political correctness.” It’s a vote for a retrograde bully who won’t be controlled if he gets to the White House, and whose sole skill seems to be in sowing smallness and hatred.
Memo to California Republicans: You’re too good for this guy. So is this country. You know what an inclusive party can look like. Even on the Republican ballot, there are other choices. You don’t have to roll over and let America be used by him.
Foreign policy matters. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tribal thrill of a presidential election. But in electing a president, we’re also picking a commander in chief whose first duty is to keep America safe.
Of the remaining candidates, Clinton, a former secretary of state, is by far the most prepared and ready for that job. It’s not even close. In a speech Thursday in San Diego, she eviscerated Trump on foreign policy and national defense, raising important questions about his temperament and his knowledge of the world.
She didn’t mention fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders, but he, too, pales next to her qualifications and experience.
Taxes matter. On ballots across California, there are 90 local tax and bond measures, a result of California’s convoluted tax system and the misguided notion that one-off ballot measures are a substitute for intelligent fiscal policy.
Do your best, but don’t be afraid to let your representatives know that voters are tired of trying to digest all the measures cluttering ballots. Some are worth supporting, including Measure X, a parcel tax extension for libraries in Sacramento. But others are just ballot-box budgeting. (Think Sacramento’s Measure Y, which would tax marijuana cultivation to fund children’s programs.)
Some officials, including Sen. Bob Hertzberg and Controller Betty Yee, are working on reform proposals. We think taxes should be broadened and applied equally. For instance, it makes little sense that most services aren’t subject to sales tax when we live in a service economy.
Women matter. Whatever your views on Hillary Clinton, her rise underscores an imbalance in government that has distorted decision-making in this country for too long.
Women make up a slight majority of the U.S. population, but according to the Center for American Women and Politics, only about 20 percent of the U.S. Senate and House members are female. Less than a quarter of state lawmakers are women, from statehouses to governors’ mansions, and only one big-city mayor in five is a woman.
Some 34 candidates are running for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and the two front-runners are both qualified and female. Meanwhile, more female legislators could arguably hasten progress on fundamental issues from family leave policy to pay equity and subsidized child care.
Money matters. Campaign spending has run amok, and not just federally. In California, where Democratic voters dominate most of the 120 legislative districts, moneyed interests are fighting over which Democrat is most acceptable or least objectionable.
Business interests with a stake in legislation align with charter school advocates to back candidates who are perceived as less liberal. Organized labor and environmentalists back candidates they think will toe their line.
Combined, they are spending no less than $23.7 million to elect or un-elect candidates in eight Democratic seats, and a few Republican seats, for jobs that will pay $104,115 a year. Voters are treated like bystanders. Beware of last-minute attacks.
Transparency matters. Trump’s nonstop spew of falsehoods and Clinton’s lesser but still offensive parsing on emails are only the clearest illustrations of the need to insist on the whole truth from those we elect.
A local case in point: Sacramento’s mayoral election, in which one candidate buried the lead, as reporters say, about whom he was representing in his day job, and the other conveniently allowed voters to think she had once worked as a public defender, when she hadn’t passed the bar exam and her only such gig was as an intern.
Former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg wasn’t asked directly, so he didn’t disclose that he was doing legal work for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It took an opposition researcher’s public records request to unearth that tidbit.
Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby let some voters think she was an ex-defense attorney who simply chose not to use her law credential. It shouldn’t take a game of 20 questions to get to the facts.
Ambition matters. That’s true throughout the ticket. For example, whether to be a big city is one of the key decisions voters will make in Sacramento’s mayoral race.
MWD aside, Steinberg has the stature and ideas to help Sacramento take the next step in its development and take full advantage of the energy and excitement created by the new arena opening downtown in October. Ashby has represented her council district well, but is not as polished or prepared to lead citywide.
Locally and globally, we say: Go big.