SAN JOSE, Calif. - Californians are confronting a dichotomy between political thought and action.
It's been more than a week since election night and while ballots are still being counted, could it be that progressivism does not hold the political sway in California as once thought?
“California has always leaned a little bit closer to the right when it came to the way it votes on ballot initiatives,” said Dr. Matthew Record, a San Jose State University political scientist.
Three cases in point buttress his assessment.
Late Tuesday, Proposition 22, that was backed by large rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft passed. The measure overrides lawmakers and the courts to keep drivers independent and able to set their own hours. Opponents argued a progressive approach would mean defeating the prop, thus giving part-time workers full-time protections.
“It is conservative by a lot of means and it supports the businesses' efforts. But workers did get a lot of wins in this. And I think that’s what everybody saw,” said Aaron Hageman, owner of Delivery Drivers Inc. and a proponent of the initiative.
Proposition 15 sought to tax commercial and industrial properties on their market value, not the original purchase price. The money would have gone to education and government funding, but voters rejected the measure.
“I think timing is everything, right? And this was not the right time for Prop 15,” said Vanessa Bergmark, owner & CEO of Red Oak Realty.
She said progressive-minded voters peered down the road on Election Day, at what tax increases would do to commercial and industrial property owners.
“And if they can’t make that tax bill, if they can’t roll that into the cost of doing business, they’re gone. And how does that affect you? Well, I guess your bookstores close. Your pizza stores close. Your restaurants, your cafes, your bars. Someone’s got to pay,” said Bergmark.
Proposition 16, which would have reintroduced affirmative action as consideration for hiring and contracts at the state level, also lost at the polls. Experts said the move represents politics, not California's shift away from progressivism.
“You might see a ballot initiative brought directly to the people either because it is generally thought that it is too right-leaning, too conservative, to business-friendly for the mainstream democratic party. Or it may have been brought because it’s too far to the left of the mainstream institutionalized democratic party,” said Record.
With ballot initiatives relatively easy to put before voters, and no shortages of issues, experts say California will likely continue leaning left in politics, but acting differently when it’s time to voting.