The secret about failed initiatives
If you're looking for quick and simple argument for the defeat of Proposition 19, California's ballot measure to legalize marijuana, probably the quickest and simplest one you'll find is that it was an initiative and most initiatives fail.
People tend to have a bias toward the status quo, meaning that initiative opponents tend to be more motivated to spend time and money than the supporters. What's more, voters in states that make frequent use of ballot initiatives — a friend of mine calls them "extreme democracy" states — tend to be cynical about supporters' motives. Perhaps the best illustration of this phenomenon is in Washington state (another "extreme democracy" state), where I-1098, which would help close the budget gap by raising taxes on income earned in excess of $200,000 per year, and I-1105, which would have cut the state's liquor tax and privatized sales, both failed on the same day.
The composition of the electorate matters as well. As Matt Yglesias observes, Prop 19 failed to lift youth turnout, but might have passed in an election year. But the basic fact of the matter is that "more of the same" is good enough for voters more often than not.
(cc photo by Flickr user Troy Holden)
Nicholas Beaudrot is the joint author of Donkeylicious, along with Neil Sinhababu.
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