Food for Thought
Last week I asked the question: Is our national nightmare nearly over? I don’t think we know the answer yet, but come Jan. 20—which can’t come soon enough—we may see the beginning of the end. One thing is for sure, the landscape of American politics has been significantly and permanently altered for the better. With the decisive election of a mixed race African American as our president, we have finally exorcized the demons of centuries of racial intolerance and bigotry. We have shown the world that we really can live up to the promise and potential of our democratic ideals and doctrines, and that we can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
I woke up this morning wondering if by analyzing the voting trends of our citizens here in Santa Clara County in context, we can discover something about who we are. It’s something that I would like to take a stab at, hoping that it will lead to a conversation about what it might mean to us as individuals and members of the community.
There are 788,821 of us registered to vote in the county, and 502,294 of us actually voted on Tuesday, a turnout of nearly 64 percent. More than half of us voted by mail. It is a respectable turnout, but unfortunately there are more than a quarter of a million of our citizens who did not take the opportunity to make their voice known.
The national turnout of the voting population on Tuesday is presently estimated to have been 64 percent. If that turns out to be the case, it is much larger than any presidential election since 1960, which was 63 percent (2004 was 55.3 percent by comparison). It testifies to the importance of the election to the American citizens as a whole. I think this can be attributed both to the extreme dissatisfaction with how the country has been run over the past eight years and the fact that the voters understand that a leader with extraordinary intelligence and diplomatic skills is needed to guide us out of the terrible problems the country is now experiencing. Obama clearly galvanized a public eager for a radical change of direction.
Here in Santa Clara County, we voted nearly 70 percent for Obama, which is significantly more than the national average. We re-elected our Democratic U.S. representatives and state legislators by a resounding margin. These facts obviously speak for themselves in terms of how the majority of us identify ourselves with a particular political party.
With the state propositions, we appear to have gone with the rest of the state on Prop. 1. The vote on the high speed rail was close, but in Santa Clara County we voted decisively “yes” and it appears that it will pass statewide. We have also voted overwhelmingly for the BART tax on County Measure B, but at press time the count was 0.4 percent short of the required two-thirds vote needed to pass it, though there were still thousands of ballots yet to count. Whatever the outcome, the majority of us obviously support public transportation projects and see them as the wave of the future.
Proposition 2 regarding the treatment of farm animals passed overwhelmingly in our county and in the state as a whole. This is one result that I am particularly happy about and I believe reflects well on our community.
We also approved the children’s hospital bond issue, Prop. 3, along with the rest of the state.
We joined with the rest of the state in soundly defeating the abortion notification requirement mandated by Prop. 4, and overwhelmingly voted no on Prop. 8 that bans same sex marriage. Unfortunately, the rest of the state went the other way on this. It is very sad that the referendum process is being misused by political reactionaries to deny civil rights to citizens in direct contravention of the word and spirit of the U.S. Constitution. We citizens of Santa Clara County, fortunately, did not join in this wrongheaded political witch hunt. However, this isn’t the last we will hear of this matter. Civil rights groups are already taking it to court as a violation of the state constitution. Like racial discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation will eventually fall.
Along with the rest of the state we rejected the T. Boone Pickens bailout measure of Prop. 10 and the similar Prop. 7. Our community knows a boondoggle when we see one and should be proud to join with the majority on defeating these issues. We also went with the rest of the state on the “law and order” issues (no on 5 and 6, yes on 9), redistricting (yes on Prop. 11) and mortgages for veterans (yes on Prop. 12).
So, what does this tell us about ourselves in the context of our place in the state and nationally? I think we could certainly claim to be an overwhelmingly liberal community, racially and socially tolerant, concerned about the treatment of animals, children and the less fortunate, and not afraid to support large public projects that benefit the majority of citizens, but able to reject those that do not.
Are there other implications to be drawn from our voting patterns? What do you think?