Yet, on the state level, we saw the slim defeat of Prop 15, Schools & Communities First. Prop 15 was a symbol of transformational policy, turning the tide against an era of neoliberalism. So many of us grew up in a time when all “respectable” politicians have bought into the same consensus that starved budgets for public schools, afterschool programs, health clinics, housing, and transit barely scraping by were necessary sacrifices. Prop 15 would have taken the fight straight to the mega corporations reaping the real benefits of California’s broken tax system and racial caste system, reclaimed their billions in loopholes and restored the resources people need to learn and grow, to have shelter and home, and to heal and be cared for.
Prop 15 was also a symbol of a change in politics – led not by the usual power players in Sacramento, but by a grassroots coalition built over years, made up of community organizers, people of color rooted in neighborhoods no one thought had power. We were organizations used to working unnoticed on the margins of the big political plays made by influential people who spent their days in the halls of power. Our strategy was to build organized grassroots voter power to mobilize communities of color that the polls and political commentators never expected to turn out to vote. As California’s demographics changed with a rising electorate of young people of color, we knocked on doors to mobilize millions, transforming once-conservative strongholds into swing battlefields.
Ten years of building this strategy, and right as we geared up for the biggest election of our lives, a global pandemic hit, decimating our door-to-door field operation overnight. No door knocking machine to connect with voters in our communities and defeat the anticipated onslaught of corporate attack ads through face to face connection and trust. No campaign field offices up and down the state buzzing with the chatter of dozens of clipboard-wielding volunteers alive with energy and excitement. Just people sitting alone in their living rooms, plugged in to quietly ringing phones in a world where nobody answers their cell phones for strangers. Yet somehow still we came within just a few percentage points, counting votes for a week after the election. This was the margin of 3 or 4 percentage points that we knew our field campaign would have closed.
Prop 15 wasn’t the only disappointing loss in California’s propositions. In a year of corporate initiative spending unprecedented in American history, prop after prop in CA went for whichever side had more money. We need to fix this deeper issue of money’s influence in California politics. As the state’s economic inequality widens farther and farther, so will our political inequality, reinforcing each other through the corrupt interplay of corporate lobbying and campaign spending and laws that set the rules of the economy. This spiral will keep spiraling unless we say enough is enough and fight for real democracy.
With the election season over, we will now turn our focus to solidifying our relationships with the newly electeds and bringing forth policy priorities that will drive bold, progressive change to weather this ongoing pandemic crisis and emerge as a city that champions our shared values of racial, economic, and environmental justice. We will continue on this arc of justice and fight for an Oakland for All.
To view our original analysis on each candidate, measure, and proposition, please visit our 2020 Voter Guide page.