The Lesson of June 2010: Corporate Power Can Be Beaten
By Robert Cruickshank
In looking at the disparate results of the June 2010 election, there are two themes that stand out to me:
1. Republicans will do what they are told by their corporate masters. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina won their primaries because they spent an enormous amount of money to tell Republicans that they should vote for CEOs because they're smarter than everyone else and more likely to beat the Democrat this fall. That's it.
Joe Mathews has a good take on Whitman's victory, but it really does come down to her money. Same for Fiorina. Both dominated the messaging and TV airwaves with their ads, and did so early and often.
But it's not only the money - it's who they are. The Republican Party is the party of big corporations, with a voter base that believes big business can do no wrong. Look at the maps: Props 16 and 17 did very well in the Republican-friendly counties of Southern California. Prop 16 went down in the Central Valley partly because of voter anger at PG&E over the smart meters, but in SoCal where PG&E is unknown, Republicans said "sure, let's give corporations whatever they ask."
2. Corporations can be beaten. For the rest of California, however, unlimited corporate power is not seen as a positive thing. Letting them dominate and distort our elections with their money is rightly seen as a huge problem, whereas to Republicans it's business as usual.
The defeat of both Propositions 16 and 17 is a major victory for progressives whose importance cannot possibly be underestimated. PG&E spent $40 million to pass it. The opposition? They spent $100,000. But with groups like the Courage Campaign (where I work as Public Policy Director) pitching in to help educate and organize voters, we were able to mobilize progressive activists to get the word out about this bad proposition, turn out to the polls, and make sure Prop 16 went down. Prop 17's story was very similar, with opponents being outspent 10 to 1.
We weren't able to beat Prop 14 or pass Prop 15. The voters really do want major political change, and don't yet understand the benefits of public funding. But Prop 15 did much better than Prop 89, which suggests victory for clean money is near.
As we go into the fall campaign season, the arc of this election is now clear: it is a battle between corporate wealth and populist democracy. Our victory in Prop 16 and Prop 17 show how we can win that battle. Time to build and organize to win again in November.
Robert Cruickshank is the Public Policy Director at the Courage Campaign. He is also a contributing editor at Calitics.com.