By Jim Miller
Most political observers are predicting bad results for the Democrats at the national level, but there are a few important races where progressives might be able to win key victories that will have a real effect here in California and a number of largely ignored down ballot contests where we can elect solid people while keeping some dangerous, incompetent characters out of public office.
More specifically, tomorrow we can:
1) Take a significant step away from the colossal stupidity of the last several decades of the war on drugs, senselessly draconian three strikes laws, a ballooning prison industrial complex, and surging economic inequality by passing Proposition 47. Proposition 47 would reduce six nonviolent crimes involving petty theft and drug possession from felony to misdemeanor status and divert hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings into education, crime prevention, and treatment.
As Capitol and Main recently noted, our current prison industrial complex is bloated and functions in a fundamentally racist and classist fashion: “The United States has the highest incarceration rate of all industrialized countries, counting more than 700 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 30 percent of African-American males aged 20 to 29 are ‘under correctional supervision’ — either in jail or prison, or on probation or parole. While a 16-year-old black teenager faces a 29 percent chance of spending time in prison during his life, the corresponding statistic for white men in the same age group is four percent.”
This ruins lives, drives economic inequality, increases the racial divide, and makes for a fundamentally unjust society. It’s long past time we start moving in the other direction. A vote for Proposition 47 is a vote for a saner, more civilized California.
2) Save public education in California by re-electing Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction and putting the brakes on the Wall Street take-over bid for our schools that Marshall Tuck represents. As I have outlined in previous columns, Tuck is the pure product of the privatization movement brought to you by the billionaire boys club and the corporate media. His candidacy represents a genuine threat to the core principles of public education.
As Diane Ravitch most recently put it, “Tuck is the candidate of the power elite, the billionaires who cynically employ fake rhetoric about ‘it’s all for the kids,’ when their real goal is to demonize teachers and invest in technology. They have zero commitment to public education as a civic responsibility.” But Tuck’s biggest liability, Ravitch reminds us, “is his contempt for public education. With him at the helm, public school students would have no advocate in Sacramento. But the oligarchs would.” Thus, she concludes, “The race in California is a test of democracy. Can the voters be hoodwinked by Big Lies and Big Money?”
The last Field poll shows that the race is an exact tie with 48 percent still undecided. Suffice to say, this is the one race in California where your vote really, really matters.
Let’s just say NO to this gigantic bamboozle and send Tuck packing.
3) Pay attention to local education races down the ballot. While Doug Porter and others at the SD Free Press have done a fine job addressing the larger issues at stake in the race for Congress and the City Council, I’ll make one last pitch for a few down ballot races.
Please vote for incumbents Maria Nieto Senour and Peter Zschiesche for the San Diego Community College District Board. I work in that District and it is a wonderful place to be for students, faculty, and staff largely because of the leadership of these two fine human beings. Senour’s opponent is a right wing crackpot and Zschiesche’s rival is totally unqualified with no significant knowledge of the issues we face. Zschiesche has ably led the District, understands what’s at stake for our students and has helped make the District a model of educational excellence, financial stability, and collegiality. These races really matter for a lot of people in San Diego—so please vote to re-elect lifetime educator Senour and community leader Zschiesche.
In two of the other local contests, please also consider voting for my colleagues, Rick Cassar and Adrian Arancibia, who are running for Mira Costa Community College Board and Sweetwater Union High School Board respectively. They are both long-time educators who know the craft and have kids whose futures are inextricably tied to the work that they do. Cassar is running against a homophobic, right wing, gun nut, and Arancibia’s opponent was tossed off the board but is running again nonetheless.
So, even if there are dark clouds on the horizon on the national scene, we can do a few positive things here at home.