Election 2016 Part 6: State Initiatives, Final Thoughts
In the previous and penultimate post of this six-part series on the 2016 election, I covered the more necessarily (and needed) aspect of the fallout: left-wing self-examination, with trails of hope leading to what I hope is a hill of humility for the left wing. Alas, more recent events (one tip of iceberg, and another) leave me highly skeptical such humility is prevailing over bitterness and resentment. It’s as if two wrongs (Trump’s online dishonesty and insults, followed by the left’s) do make right?
Regardless, the passage of time will reveal a lot more about both Trump and the left, and we’ve got four years to address such. In the meantime, I want to take a relatively brief, final look at the election through the lens of subnational initiatives, specifically those in Oklahoma. A few of them are most interesting and have both Okla-centric and possible regional ramifications.
As a social conservative and spawn of the inner city, where the problems derived from alcohol abuse were numerous, obvious and devastating in surrounding streets and households, and who has dealt directly with the destruction caused by drunk drivers, I’ve long stated that I would eliminate all alcoholic beverages with the snap of a finger, for ever and ever, if I could. Not blessed with that power, we have to decide what to do with them.
In time, government has proved to be a terrible legislator of alcoholic beverages, with Byzantine, illogical, inconsistent (in space and time) and sometimes unconstitutional rules for them. Even nationally, the vacillation has been ridiculous; witness the 18th Amendment designating Prohibition, only to be followed by the 21st Amendment’s repeal of the Prohibition. That’s embarrassing on the world stage, not to mention a massive waste of time and tax dollars, to amend then un-amend one’s own Constitution on the same subject, in short order. Get it right the first time or don’t bother!
Ultimately I realize that the responsibility for responsible consumption is up to the individual. Laws against drunken behaviors exist for a good reason and should be enforced with fierce rigor. In Texas, full-powered beverages long have been sold in grocery stores, unlike Oklahoma, and liquor stores (much to my dismay) still exist and thrive after all these decades.
When I first got to Oklahoma and learned of the horrendously complicated Blue Laws and varying regulations revolving around 3-point vs. full-strength beer, and in what sorts of stores each may be sold, and on what days at what hours, my first thoughts were: “What kind of hopeless and stupid labyrinth of rules is this? Who does it benefit? Liquor stores and their lobbyists of course — certainly not consumer choice! What does it prevent? Certainly not drunk driving, which is a notorious problem here! ” My vote:
Over three decades too late, but better late than never, voters resoundingly approved this state question, which the liquor-store industry fought against even putting before The People. The fact that The People weren’t trusted to exercise the sovereignty of The People over themselves and their government told me all I needed to know about how to vote, aside from my objections to the stupid rules themselves.
While the change did not go far enough toward simplifying liquor laws and leveling the playing field between types of businesses, it’s great progress. The worst part is the timing — not until 2018! That’s crap. It should take effect immediately. Damn the liquor stores and their hollow victimhood-whining and booze-sale-funded lobbying. They should have seen this coming and been prepared years in advance, using successful Texas counterparts as templates. Foresight, foresight, foresight…
These collectively changed a variety of low-grade drug crimes to misdemeanors from felonies and redirected incarceration savings to rehab and mental-health treatments. For similar reasons as above, I hate the fact that mind-altering drugs, including pot, even exist. Their very use outside medical purposes is selfish, often destructive and expensive to society at large, and immoral; and I would make them disappear in an instant if I could. But that’s not happening, and we need to concentrate law-enforcement efforts on the supply side with education and rehab opportunity in mind to reduce demand. My vote:
Prison overcrowding is a major problem here as well, which was a motivator behind this and another part of the proposal that increases the monetary level of some property crimes needed to trigger a felony. I’m glad this passed also. The most appealing part is a surprising bit of ingenuity (for here anyway) that prison-cost savings could be claimed by privately run rehab organizations. Good move.
This measure would have increased some of the already highest state and local combined sales taxes in the nation another penny to THE HIGHEST IN THE NATION (see previously linked graph and compare at the 9.77% level). Why? Supposedly to fund public education. First of all, the current education-funding problems were brought about by a lack of rainy-day foresight over many years on the part of the legislators and both Democrat and Republican governors. And we’re supposed to pay the price for the shortsightedness of these dolts? Then came all the pleas to emotion and whiny sob stories designed to psychologically manipulate voters into supporting “the teachers” (when actual benefit to teachers would be minimal). My easy vote on this:
Go back and do it better, and smarter, than this knee-jerk, regressive crapola. One place to start: low-population Oklahoma has over 500 school districts for 77 counties! Ridiculous! They’re not still running the Pony Express north of here, nor do we get around on horse-drawn carriages and convey fastest messages by telegraph. There’s no good reason, in this era of instant communication and online education, to have more than 10 counties or school districts. Consolidate school districts and eliminate all that repetitive overhead and bureaucracy. Then go from there toward taxing mineral revenues at levels comparable to similarly oil-endowed, socially and fiscally conservative states like Texas and North Dakota.
Furthermore, why does anybody trust the state government to get this right, be honest and allocate such funds as stated–much less those who are most often hotly critical of state government for being untrustworthy? Remember how the state lottery was supposed to save education and ended up way oversold and offset by cuts elsewhere? Why is anyone so naive as to think this would be any different? Give a bunch of bureaucrats and politicians an inch, and they’ll take a mile.
There’s a good reason a lot of rank-and-file teachers (as opposed to their dues-collecting unions or out-of-state meddling busybodies) opposed this measure. Their own taxes, and those of their friends and loved ones, would have increased as well–and regressively in the form of a sales tax, no less.
Last Words on 2016 Election
Finally, as promised, I chose the most conservative down-ballot legislative candidates; nationally those choices won, statewide there were no senators up for election in my district, and my most-conservative state-representative candidate did not win (likely since this is a slightly left-leaning university town). So that goes.
Whatever else happens with Trump and the G.O.P. Congress, good or bad, I can take some consolidation the confidence in the most important legacy action (aside from the dealing with the national debt, which likely will be avoided): Supreme Court nominations. The more strictly Constitutionally constructionist and originalist, the better on this, since the Constitution is the first, last, and only binding legal word from the great Founders themselves on the role of Federal government.
While even Scalia and Thomas sometimes wandered too far off the literal words of the Constitution for my taste, they have represented the closest possible in the modern era to the true purpose of our highest jurists — not to interpret the Constitution, but to apply it. The two terms are not synonymous, and the Constitution’s black-and-white words are quite straightforward. Those words don’t need interpretation; they need application to problems of governance and federalism. With conservative and relatively originalist justices, we can shift the Court back off its dangerous, falsely fluid-Constitutional, trend- and fad-based, subjective, social-whim-based, interpretive leftist slant, hopefully for the remainder of my lifetime with a couple of justices roughly my age currently under consideration.