Will the hot-button ballot measures pass?

Some voters will decide on GM food, human trafficking, marijuana legalization and symbolic opposition to Obamacare

Topics: Marijuana Legalization, Election 2012, GMO, Genetically modified food, Obamacare, Colorado, California, Sex Work, Monsanto, Human Trafficking, , ,

Will the hot-button ballot measures pass?

Labeling GM food; fighting Monsanto:

On Tuesday Californians will vote on whether genetically modified food sold in supermarkets will have to be labeled. In an effort to defeat the ballot measure, food and agribusiness giants including Monsanto, Nestle, Dupont and Pepsico have together spent over  $45 million, the Guardian reported Monday.

Although supported by anti-GM and anti-Monsanto activists, Proposition 37 only goes some way to inform Californians about the genetically modified foods on the market. The measure does not cover restaurants and does not require GM labels on meat from animals fed GM corn. However, many pundits believe that if Proposition 37 passes in California, it will lead to national mandatory GM label requirements.

Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and a host of environmental and food activist groups have thrown their support behind the ballot measure, which Michael Pollan described in the New York Times Magazine as a referendum of sorts on the strength of the food movement. In its favor, a damning (but widely criticized) French study that found that Monsanto’s GM corn caused tumors and organ damage in test rats and bolstered support for Proposition 37. However, writing in Slate Monday, Keith Kloor stressed that the proposition is premised on paranoid, “junk science” about GM foods and should not be the linchpin to anchor an important food movement in U.S. politics. Indeed, contentious claims over the health risks of consuming GM products fail to directly challenge the ruthlessness with which leviathans like Monsanto strong-arm farmers worldwide in order to expand their agricultural  monopolies.

A late September USC/LA Times poll found that Proposition 37 looked likely to pass, with supporters outnumbering foes 2-to-1. However, after a mammoth spending effort — Monsanto alone spent $8 million — Tuesday’s result is less assured. “It’ll be a miracle if it passes now,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the “Just Label It” campaign, which is spearheading an effort to draft a federal labeling law. Even if 37 does pass, there is little doubt that its powerful opponents will be swift to mount legal challenges.

Human trafficking in California:

Another hotly debated California ballot measure aims to fight human trafficking, but, as Salon reported last month, could do more harm than good. Writer and sex worker advocate Melissa Gira Grant has extensively expounded upon the failings of Proposition 35, which would increase fines and prison sentences for convicted human traffickers. The measure, Gira Grant notes, dangerously conflates “sex work” with “human trafficking” and as such fails to understand the challenges faced by coerced laborers outside sex work, while simultaneously threatening to label consenting sex workers as sex offenders. Anti-trafficking advocates, sex workers and attorneys who oppose Proposition 35 say the measure would end up being tough on trafficking survivors.

Meanwhile, 35′s defenders, including anti-slavery and anti-trafficking groups (backed yesterday in a HuffPo Op-Ed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.), see the measure as a necessary step in the fight against human trafficking in a state where three cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego) are considered high-intensity trafficking areas by the FBI.

The Los Angeles Times came out against the measure, which according to the Daily Kos will “undoubtedly pass.” The problems with the bill are not widely enough known and understood to persuade the majority of California voters to choose “no” on a proposition framed as a blow to human trafficking.

Marijuana legalization:

Outside of same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization could be the hottest measure on the ballot this year as voters in Colorado, Washington and Oregon will decide whether to legalize recreational pot use. The measures in these states go further than decriminalization (already in place in 17 states) and would permit legal but highly regulated sale of the drug.

In Colorado, where it’s estimated legalization could earn the state up to $22 million in annual sales taxes, the polls suggest a high possibility that the legalization measure will pass. Bloomberg News reported that “in Washington state, the measure could generate as much as $1.9 billion in state revenue over five fiscal years, according to the state’s Office of Financial Management.” However, if any legalization measures pass (and Colorado’s is seen as the most likely), it will spark a national debate: State legalization defies federal efforts to crack down on the drug.

Anti-Obamacare measures, which can go nowhere:

Meanwhile ballot measures in several states, which offer voters the chance to “ban” Obamacare, can be seen as either merely symbolic or symbolically petulant. As the American Prospect noted:

In Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Wyoming, voters can ostensibly decide to ban any and all mandates that residents get health insurance. But these “bans” would exist in name only. That’s because the measures would violate Obamacare, which requires that the state’s residents get health insurance or pay a fine (which the Supreme Court calls a tax). These measures will have no practical impact—Article VI of the Constitution makes federal laws the “supreme law of the land”—but that’s not the point. The idea is to show just how much people dislike the law.

Because these ballot measures can have no practical impact, little polling has been done. “Still,” noted the Prospect, “logic indicates they’re likely to pass.”

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>