I Will Have Voted
By Rob Terrell
There's something about the allure of public office that attracts the
freaks. I remember my friend Ruffin's trip to DC a few years ago, just
before the 1992 election, and the strange circle of people he met on
the mall who were campaigning for the highest office. He described a
fairly insane guy whose election slogan was, "Haynes holds the
reigns." Haynes didn't win.
But he's in good company, at least he would be if he moved to California,
because we've got a swarm of sickos running for office. In fact, I just
received a catalog of these crazies, the "California Voter Guide," courtesy
of Secretary of State Bill Jones, who himself is one of the wackos listed
inside as needing employment.
I'm exaggerating, of course. A few of these people are probably sane. But
very few of them can write well, nor argue their positions compellingly. I
know this because, in the voter's guide, each candidate was given a few
hundred words to pitch themselves. They also get a photo beside their
description, and in most cases (using the Nixon/Kennedy style vs. substance
debate as a guideline) they'd be better off without it.
I guess they're really not insane, just really bad at public relations, and
plain awful at figuring out what the public needs to hear them say. Look at
page 65 of your voting guide, for instance, and you'll find Edmon V. Kaiser,
who says in his description that he was "declared a gentleman by an act of
congress." Or just below him, Jan B. Tucker, who doesn't have a Master's
degree but has "completed 22 units" towards it. That's a comfort, Jan.
Planning on finishing that degree with night courses once you're in office?
Or look at Edmon Kaiser's opening line: "I am willing to serve, (for a
limited time)." Grammar and punctuation aside (not being conditional for a
State Treasurer) I'm concerned about this limited time dealie. Is he willing
for a limited time? Or promising to serve for a limited time? Or is this
just a limited time offer, come and get it while it's hot?
J. Carlos Aguirre: "I am a Vice President and co-founder of a 17-year-old
Santa Ana-based mailing service company now producing $9 million annually in
revenue." That's about 1000 times smaller than the state's GDP, Carlos. Hey,
I've played Monopoly, maybe I should run?
Page 69: Candidate Robert J. Evans, Peace and Freedom party, needs to chop
the ol' lip-brush before having a campaign photo taken. You can't see any of
his mouth, the mustache is so bushy. I won't vote for him. What's he hiding?
Page 53: Harold Bloomfield, Natural Law party candidate for Governor, says
"I have authored 17 books, several of them international best sellers,
including 'Healing Anxiety with Herbs'..." which how exactly makes you
qualified to be governor? And speaking of the Natural Law party, I'd be
remiss if I didn't mention Jane Ann Bialosky, candidate for Secretary of
State, who doesn't list any biographical information for herself but says:
The silent functioning of nature, in its infinite organizing power,
'transforms earth into diamonds, an empty seed into a tree, colorless
sap into the rose.' Creativity and orderly action are embedded in
silence, fully awake, self-referral field of our own consciousness,
the transcendental basis of everything, pure spirituality.
What the fuck? Hey, Jane, pot brownies once in a while, not every day, okay? I'll even
agree that nature, if properly harnessed, would be the perfect Secretary of
State, but lacking the technology to turn rocks into bureaucracy, we'll need
to elect someone with actual skills. (I have more to say on the Natural Law
What's scariest, as I flip through trying to find more and more egregious
examples, is that party is pretty much irrelevant to the idiocy of the
statements. Don't the major parties have some editor who looks over these
things? For god's sake, it's getting harder and harder to trust in a
two-party duopoly when the major parties are grammatically indistinguishable
from the minors. The one thing I could count on from the Republicans--God
bless you, Mr. Will--was strict E.B. White writing, but apparently style
guides are a luxury out here in the frontier state.
Despite the inability to write about themselves, they brag about writing
laws. Here's a count of the number of people who "helped write" the infamous
"three strikes and you're out" law: seven, almost an even split between
democrats and republicans. If you're using this as your sole criteria in
choosing an Attorney General, you're screwed, because both the Democrat and
Republican candidates "helped write" it. In fact, two different guys claim the
"I wrote the three strikes legislation" brass ring, and one's a democrat
(Bill Lockyer) and another's a republican (sadly, I can't find him again).
There's a strict polarization down the three strikes line: Democrats and
Republicans, who both clamor for the credit of creating it; and everyone
else, who thinks it's abhorrent and must be scrapped. Not that "everyone
else" means more than ten percent of the population, but can you say "major
class issue looming"? Can you see power blocks forming? Ahh, don't be
worried. Shit, when the American Independent, Libertarian, Peace and
Freedom, and Green parties have their inevitable love-in and merge to form
the American Indietarian GreenPeace party, we'll be right back where we
started in 1988: we'll have a Democratic party again.
A Modest Proposition
I love propositions. I just love 'em. It's not just because they reaffirm my
faith in the common person to worry endlessly over pointless banalities. No,
it's because they hearken back to original democracies of Greece--none of
that Roman representative government shit--where one person was really one
vote, and elections scandals weren't about Chinese contributions but
kidnapped voters and murdered officials. Now that's an election!
It gives me a tiny little thrill that I, Representative Terrell
(representing half the voters of 6211 Telegraph Ave Apt. 33) get to go in
there and vote on actual legislation. Laws! Glorious laws. Maybe in
Washington they're greedy, but out here in California we've democratized the
power and the influence. Fuck it, call me Senator Terrell. Frankly, I'm mad
Of course, I don't have the luxury of a congressional staff to do the
tedious reading of the propositions, so I have to slog through it myself.
And who has that kind of time? These things read like, well, legislation.
"Before the private utilities could charge customers for the transition
costs of non-nuclear generation (other than the costs associated with
renewable electricity generation facilities) the utilities would be required
to demonstrate to the PUC that these costs could not be recovered in the
competitive market (with a fair rate of return)." There's four pages of
that, all just for Proposition 9, and that's just the description, not the
text of the law!
Luckily, just after it is two pages of: arguments in favor of Proposition 9,
arguments against Proposition 9, rebuttal to arguments in favor of
Proposition 9, and rebuttal to arguments against Proposition 9. These read
like the script for TV attack ads. From the rebuttal to the argument against
Prop 9: "With their record of deception, who can believe them?...It's time
to stop playing games with California's energy future." Like the proposition
itself, it's impossible to parse, but for opposite reasons. The proposition
is too information-dense, and the arguments are too information-devoid. In
the end, you just have to find the signatures of people you like
("Hmmm...Ralph Nader says yes on 9...but David Horowitz says no...") and do
a little celebrity deathmatch in your head to see how you'll vote.
But there's an easier way. At the very front of the voter's guide, there's a
chart. It lists all of the propositions and gives a summary, a "what your
yes or not vote means" column, and a few sentences for and against. Such as,
"If horsemeat is outlawed, only outlaws will eat horsemeat!" That's the
actual argument (rather persuasive, eh?) against Proposition 6, which "makes
possession, transfer, or receipt of horses for slaughter for human
consumption a felony." It's not quite as simple as being a U.S. Senator
(handed a 3 x 5 card from his aide as he walks into the Senate chamber for a
vote with a "yea" or "nay" written on it) but damn it, it's close, and I'm
once again feeling that Viagralike feeling of political empowerment!
It's a wacky proposition, that Proposition 6. Apparently people in France
like to eat horsemeat from horses that come from California, and apparently
some people in California think butchering horses for eating is gross, so
they'll just outlaw the sale of it: "Horses are an integral part of
California's heritage and deserve to be protected." Here's how the con
argument ends: "Just say NEIGH to nutty, unconstitutional proposals by
wealthy socialites with nothing better to do."
Did I mention that each side lists their web page address?
http://www.savethehorses.com and http://home.earthlink.net/~tebrown for
those of you inclined to do your civic duty and research this important
issue. They talk about the web growing exponentially every month...and this
is the crap it's filling up with.
I'm actually tempted to choose a position on these propositions based on
where their committee for or against is located. The "Californians for
Smaller Classes" is located in Sacramento, and I imagine they're a serious
bunch of concerned citizens who use their close access to the capital to
lobby the legislature directly to further their passionately-felt cause. The
"Protect Pets and Wildlife-Yes On 4" group, however, is located on Wilshire
boulevard in LA, at an address that is deep in the heart of a wealthy
westside neighborhood, and only offers close and direct access to the beach.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-= How To Vote -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Since this is my first California election, I'm betting I've got beginner's
luck and will get all the votes right. So here's my guide to voting:
Prop. 1 - No, make those environment-tainting bastards pay! Ha ha.
Prop. 2 - Yes. There was no "No" argument, so it must be okay to vote Yes.
Prop. 3 - No, so I don't have to register as a Democrat or Republican to
vote in a primary.
Prop. 4 - No, don't let a bunch of sissies stop us from using steel traps.
Believe it or not, the Audobon Society agrees with me on this one.
Prop. 5 - Yes. I didn't even mention this proposition. It's a biggie. Do I
vote in favor of letting Indians set up casinos when and wherever they want?
This has become a huge moral issue, being called "Indian Self Reliance" in
their ads. Methinks they mean "reliance on gambling addicted non-indians,"
but I see their point. Most of the anti-5 ads have been paid for by Nevada
casinos. And true to my newly-minted Westerner's outlook, I hate
interference from outsiders. Vote Yes.
Prop. 6 - No. Let them eat horse.
Prop. 7 - No. It's complicated. Trust me. No.
Prop. 8 - No. If schools had expelled students for drug posession when I was
at Grimsely, I would have lost most of my friends.
Prop. 9 - No. Again, it's complicated. No one can say what this proposition
would do, since it depends on an expected massive court fight to settle
rates and figures. We don't even know what a yes vote would do. So go with
the status quo. If I'm wrong, well hell, that's why we've got a legislature.
Prop. 10 - Yes. This would tax cigarettes to pay for additional early childhood
education, something proven to improve soviety. In addition, my girlfriend would
never speak to me again if I didn't advocate for this (torn as she is between her
love of cigarettes and early childhood education), and Rob Reiner's annoying
presence aside, it's actually good. Plus, the anti-10 ads have been so ridiculously shrill
it's fun to vote against them.
I was going to launch into a diatribe about the Natural Law Party, but let's save that
for another day. I've got to keep my voting hand from crimping up. Only fourteen hours to go!
November 3, 1998