Yolo County has generally been a reliably Democratic County. In 2004, Kerry received 59% of the vote in Yolo County to Bush’s 39 percent of the vote. In fact, Yolo in 2000 was one of only six California counties to oppose Proposition 22, which limited marriages to those legally sanctioned unions between a man and a woman.
So it comes as a bit of a shocker to see Arnold Schwarzenegger win Yolo County by double-digit margins. Did Yolo suddenly become a Republican County? As we look down ticket, the answer is an emphatic no, all Democrats down ticket won by at least double digits and some gained over 60 percent of the vote. The only other Democrat to lose was Bustamante who lost by three percent, in a race that he lost by huge margins statewide. It’s safe to say, Democrats in Yolo County outperformed their margins of victory statewide.
I am left to the conclusion that a large number of otherwise reliable Democratic voters switched sides to vote for Arnold. While Angelides ran an amazingly flat race, I think Democrats quickly forgot about the 2005 special elections where Arnold went after unions, teachers, nurses, etc. Did Arnold suddenly become a Democrat?
On Monday, the Sacramento Bee wrote an article, “Fears of welfare, health cuts.” Apparently the state of California is projected a $5.5 billion shortfall and the fear among advocates for working families and the poor is that he is going to once again balance the budget on the backs of those individuals who can least afford it.
To make matters worse, yesterday, the Bee ran an article, “$10 billion plan for new prisons readied.”
“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing to roll out a plan next year that will call for about $10 billion in construction for prisons, jails and medical facilities, and include support for a sentencing commission, according to sources familiar with the proposal.
Sources said the breakdown on funding would allocate about $4.4 billion to prisons and re-entry institutions, $4.4 billion for county jail and juvenile beds and $1 billion for medical facilities to satisfy court monitors in two federal cases overseeing health care and treatment of the mentally ill.”
We already spend around $6 billion per year just on correctional facilities. Do we need improved prison facilities? By all means. But this is a question about budget priorities and the distribution of very scarce resources. The governor is threatening to cut money to the poor while additional money is being allocated to correctional facilities.
The thing about correctional facilities is that they are in essence a “black hole.” When you put money into education, you are making an investment–you are putting money into educating our youth now, so that they can be more productive in the future. When you put money into health care, you are making an investment–you allow people to get medical treatment now which allows them to live better and more productively in the future. When you put money into prisons, you are throwing it into a black hole. It bandages the problem of having too many inmates, but it does nothing to prevent people from ending up in prison to begin with.
It is very simple. When Democrats vote for Republicans, even moderate Republicans, even when there is a strong Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature, they are voting for priorities and Republicans place prisons as a priority over health care, over the poor, and over education.
That is the bottom line. But it is a lesson that Yolo County Democrats have not learned. Many prominent ones have continued to back Republicans in non-partisan races over Democrats. That is part of the same problem, because now you are advancing the career of young Republican officeholders at the expense of Democrats for what is at best a short-term gain. When Republicans get elected to office, we know what happens and we know whose priorities suffer. We ought to never forget.