Prop 1 Karma

These signs went up in the Northgate area, on the meridian of Northgate Way and 5th avenue. Who put them there? Did they get permission? Did they have to pay for it? What would have happened if Paul and I had gone out one night and removed all the “No on Prop 1” signs like we talked about?

I know what the anti-Prop 1 sign is supposed to communicate. But what I got out of it was this: Sixty bucks, really? Damn, you right wingers are petty.

I’m not really surprised that Prop 1 failed, any more than I was surprised when the teapartiers seized the House of Representatives in 2010. Weird, mid-cycle, less obvious elections tend to get a bigger turnout from that contingent.

Why? I don’t know. Some of it has to do with who those people are — older, less busy, less poor, etc. Poverty itself imposes a huge cognitive load, of the kind that causes people to miss deadlines and so on. Sometimes the right wing engages in active voter suppression of the populations likely to vote in favor of a more liberal or progressive agenda. Many low-income and disadvantaged voters effectively disenfranchise themselves — they believe, with some cause, that nothing will ever change for people like them, and as a consequence give up trying.

But sometimes it seems like mostly what’s going on is this: spite is a weirdly powerful motivator.

It’s rare to find a voter who will openly claim “I vote the way I do because I’m short-sighted, vindictive and selfish.” And yet if you look at most of the “reasons” people give for being against Prop 1, there isn’t much more to them than that. Oh, Metro is too “inefficient” so they don’t “deserve” any more money. The drivers get paid too much. It’s not the right KIND of tax. We already pay too much in taxes!

None of those are reasons. They’re after-the-fact justifications, and pretty pathetic ones at that. None of these people did a cost-benefit analysis and concluded based on evidence that the overall cost to the region of a sputtering transit system amounted to less than $60 per person per year. I mean, I would think rational people would be willing to pay $60 a year just to help keep crappy drivers off the road, but that’s not how they think of it.

It’s simple: they don’t want to spend their money supporting public transit. They’ll spend $600 in gas to save $60 in car tab fees, and count it as a victory.

It’s like the Koch brothers — they’re willing to spend millions influencing elections, in order to avoid spending millions in taxes. Do they come out ahead? Nobody knows. But that’s not the point. The point is that they WANT to spend their money gaming the system, rather than promoting the general welfare. In part, that’s because they have so much money that the money itself doesn’t matter to them anymore. What they want to do is “win” the way they perceive winning.

This sort of thinking has become really common among the right. I think, at one time, their self-image was that they were tough, but fair and practical. They framed their policy recommendations as, “this is the correct approach, even if it hurts some people.” But nowadays their attitude seems much closer to “this is the correct approach BECAUSE it hurts the people we want to see hurt.”

How do you govern a society where a significant, and motivated, chunk of the electorate feels that way?

It’s tempting to engage in psychoanalysis, to try to figure out what the hell is wrong with people, and to hope that you can just get through to them somehow, with a compelling enough argument, a plethora of indisputable facts, or an emotionally powerful appeal.

But, no. Some of those people can be reached, sure, and we shouldn’t write them off forever — but changing hearts and minds is only going to pay off in the long run. Today, the way you win elections for progressive and liberal causes, is by turning out the voters who want those things.

This is where I think Prop 1 really failed. April is already “owned” by tax day. Voting isn’t on anybody’s radar. Only a tiny percentage of eligible voters turned in a ballot, and of those people, the vindictive right wing outnumbered everyone else.

Anyway, I can be vindictive too, and have appealed to the powers with a series of tweeted curses. Alas, #Prop1Karma did not become a thing. I suck at this hashtag business.
If you voted against #Prop1, may the only convenient route from your house spend ten years blocked by never-ending roadwork. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may gridlock make you late for everything you ever try to get to. Work. Concerts. Court dates. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may your car get stolen whenever somebody with no car needs it to get somewhere.
If you voted against #Prop1, may you get a $60 parking ticket everywhere you take your car. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may gas go up to $10 a gallon. Only for you, though. Okay, I don’t really know how that would work. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may the parking rate where you work go up to $30 a day. Assuming it’s not there already. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may your next car be a “lemon” — and the car after that — and the car after that — #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may a person too old to drive plough a 1970s Cadillac right into the center of your living room. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may everywhere you drive be blocked perpetually by people on bicycles, skateboards & rollerblades. #Prop1Karma
If you voted against #Prop1, may your car throw a rod when you don’t have the money to fix it, forcing you to rely on public transit. #Prop1Karma