The Half Truths the Nation May Hear About California Elections


As polls close just about now -- 8 p.m. -- it's 11 p.m. on the East Coast. What will the national media say about California and the message its electorate is sending?

They will say three things, each of them only half true.

1. The Great Exception. California goes its own way in the midst of a national GOP sweep.

If the polls are right and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown is a relatively easy winner, that will provide a big piece of evidence. The fact that Democrats will hold their Congressional seats will also be cited, though that is largely a product of gerrymandering and California's highly segregated political geography (with a blue Democratic coast and a red Republican inland). Results of the U.S. Senate race, which is expected to be closer than the governor's race, may come in too late -- after the East and Midwest goes to bed -- to affect the story line, even if Republican challenger Carly Fiorina wins.

2. More worried about the environment than jobs.

The expected defeat of Prop 23, a ballot initiative that would have suspended California's landmark climate change law, also will be billed as putting California at odds with a national mood described as pro-job and anti-environment.

Ignored in this will be polling that shows Californians, who live in the state with the country's third highest unemployment rate, are just as concerned about jobs as other Americans. They just didn't like Prop 23 -- in part because some Californians have concluded that leadership in regulating climate change may give the state an edge in developing clean energy industries that produce more jobs.

3. Skeptical of legalizing marijuana.

Exit polling data is trickling out that suggests Prop 19 is on its way to defeat. (Yes, NBC has exit poll data but it has not been shared with this blogger -- I'm putting two and two together from reports in the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times).

But polling has shown that most Californians lean towards legalizing marijuana. But a majority is wary of how Prop 19 does -- and of legalizing marijuana while it's illegal nationally. 

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