Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Crimjust implications of elections: Weed wins, Trump voters in Oklahoma backed criminal justice reform

Elections are funny things.

Oklahoma's seven electoral votes went to Donald Trump yesterday by a whopping 65-29 margin. On the same ballot, the same voters approved reducing user-level drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor and doubled the state's property theft thresholds. That measure, Prop 780, won by a 58-42 margin. A companion measure requiring savings from the move go to treatment and rehabilitaton programs won 56 percent of the vote. Prosecutors and law enforcement interests bitterly opposed the measures, but voters turning out for Trump didn't care about establishment endorsements, voting for less, and less expensive government.

Based on that analysis, one might be forgiven for imagining the Orange One emerged victorious last night because criminal-justice reformers came out, and perhaps could even continue such a delusion until Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie is named Attorney General. But the truth is, Donald Trump ran on a tough-on-crime platform antithetical to these measures. So this outcome reinforces Grits' confidence that the election cannot be interpreted as a repudiation of Right-on-Crime-style conservative justice reform, even if federal policy is poised to become more regressive.

Meanwhile, voters legalized recreational use of marijuana in four more states, approved medical marijuana in three, with two more remaining too close to call as of this writing. So recreational pot is now or will soon be legal in seven states (plus the District of Columbia) representing more than one in five Americans, with more than half of states having approved medical marijuana regimens.

Among Texas races, Grits had been closely watching the District Attorney race in Nueces County where Mark Gonzalez, a zealous defense attorney with "Not Guilty" tattooed across his chest, eked out a reform-minded victory against a Republican opponent while Trump carried the county. Results in Houston - where Democrats won the DA and Sheriff races - were less remarkable and closer in line with partisan trends.Hillary Clinton carried Harris county overall, with Dems also picking up numerous judicial seats. Still, advocating for criminal-justice reform didn't hurt candidates in Texas races and in Nueces it arguably helped.

As expected, Rs swept all the statewide races in Texas, including at the Court of Criminal Appeals, where the addition of rookies Mary Lou Keel (who, incidentally, lost her home county) and Scott Walker could easily tip the balance of the court toward the Government Always Wins faction. At the Lege, Dems picked up five seats in the House, leaving them at what looks like a 94-55 disadvantage, pending the special election here in my own district to replace Dawnna Dukes.

Big picture: Grits found the election less alarming and more amusing than most media observers. While the national election was a degrading, circus-like spectacle, Texas' races were remarkably unremarkable. Not much changed here with the election of Donald Trump; it's the rest of the country which just became more like Texas.


Anonymous said...

Voters ousted Joe Arpaio in Arizona for Sheriff, that was a pretty big deal.

Lee said...

We elected Lex Luthor president.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Exactly, Lee! He's a comic book character. So why are people indisposed to view his candidacy for its entertainment value? There's a moment in every Superman story when the hero has been vanquished and Lex Luthor ascends to a seemingly unstoppable position of supremacy. That's the part of the narrative we're in now. How will it end? The suspense is killing me! :)

Worst case, IMO the American political system is resilient enough to handle a demagogue in power for four years. And besides, I don't think we can say for sure yet what that will look like.

I said in the post the US has become more like Texas. Well in Texas, because the GOP controls all of government, they're more likely to disagree with one another and less likely to vote along partisan lines. They break into factions, collude with Democrats, and defy party leadership much more readily than in D.C.. Add to that a President whose main claim to fame is his ability to cut "deals" and I'm mildly optimistic that this may not be a complete train wreck. By contrast, Rs would have obstructed Hillary's every move from day one.

Is it a great outcome? No. But after the primaries, there wasn't going to be a great outcome. Is it the end of the world? Not remotely. At least, not yet.

Eeyore said...

At least we can say we all got to vote in the last American election.

Jefe said...

Oklahoma also took the brave step of allowing beer to be sold in grocery stores, as well as letting ice to be distributed from from liquor stores. They may be inches from barring their capricious death penalty ...not.

Anonymous said...

Can we expect Trump to be nominated within two weeks of his inauguration and ultimately receiving the Nobel Prize like his predecessor?

Miketrials said...

I think your analysis of the national election is spot on. Hillary would have been Barack redux, with the Rs declining to agree with the Ds about even the need for the restroom after too much coffee, or, god forbid, beer. I'm only disappointed that the Senate didn't swing, and that the next SCt justice won't have Nino's charm or charitable view of the role of the jury or statutory construction. I too will trust in our resilience, and pray the train stays on the tracks for the most part.


Anonymous said...

Sadly as much as Oklahoma showed up for reform on Tue, they have no concept that the legal system lacks the responsibility to have the privileges provided to them under SQ 776.