The results of the Nov. 2 elections contain both wins and losses for education and other social services in California, according to City College professors Jim Miller and Larissa Dorman.
At the federal level, Republicans won control of the House of Representatives, where their party will control 239 seats versus 188 for the Democrats. Democrats lost a few seats in the Senate but will still hold a majority with 53.
“It’s going to basically mean grid-lock,” English professor Jim Miller said. “The Republicans only have one house, so they won’t be able to effect any new change. They’re just going to stop things that Obama and the Democrats would want to do.”
In California, voters approved Prop 25, which changes the legislative vote requirement to pass the state budget from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority and calls for legislators’ pay to be withheld if a budget is not passed in a timely manner.
“What we’ve had in California for the past 30 years or so has been a situation where one-third of the legislature is holding everybody else hostage,” said Larissa Dorman, political science professor and BEAT faculty advisor. Ideally, Prop 25 will stop small groups of legislators-“often very right-wing conservative Republicans”-from blocking budgets that the majority supports, which should be beneficial for “students and social services,” Dorman said.
According to Dorman, Jerry Brown’s win over Meg Whitman should also lead to legislation that supports education and social programs. “Had [Whitman] won, what that would mean for students at City is higher tuition, less staff to help less faculty, and potentially the privatization of education, which would mean we would all have University of Phoenix-style campuses,” Dorman said.
“We’re back to the same divisive and divided national politics that we had before Obama,” Miller said. “What the right did very successfully … was, with millions of dollars … fund and stimulate this kind of know-nothing, right-wing, anti-tax movement, the Tea Party.”
The shift in national politics can also be attributed to voter turn-out and civic participation, Dorman said. According to CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research On Civic Learning and Engagement, voter turnout for citizens ages 18 to 30 was about 20 percent, 6 percent less than 2006.
“I think that one of the main issues is that … a lot of students went out and voted for Barack Obama and then that’s it,” Dorman said. “You can’t go and elect Barack Obama for president and expect everything to change overnight, even if that’s what he is guaranteeing you. You have to apply pressure to the political system to force it to change.”