For the last several years we’ve been told that “40 is the new 30” and that “60 is the new 40” and that “20 is the new 15” (although I think that only applies to tips). If all this new math means that once pivotal numbers like 30, 20 and 60 don’t mean what they used to, I think we should expand this idea to other numbers in life. If 40 can be the new 20 then why can’t a size 12 be the new size 8? Maybe the “Top 1%” is really just a new-fangled “Talented 10th”?
This fascinating new numbering system means that we have to look at the 61 to 39% approval of North Carolina’s anti-gay marriage Amendment 1 in a different light as well. 60 is not really 60 anymore. 60 is really just the new 50, and ballot initiatives across the country in recent years have been making that very clear.
There was a time not too long ago when 60 votes or 60% was a really big deal. 60 votes meant a supermajority, 60% meant the state was clearly right or left, it meant that any attempt to combat or overturn that issue was political disaster.
But not anymore. Over the last few years dozens of referendums have passed in states across the U.S. by around 60% that do not seem to tell us much about where the people are truly leaning. Consider the examples below for the last 2 years alone.
Ohio Issue 2 Fall 2011
After getting elected in the Republican sweep of 2010 new governor John Kasich decided to use his new political capitol to go after state employee unions. He passed Senate Bill 5 which would have ended collective bargaining rights for state employees in important issues like salary and healthcare. Voters hated it so much that groups that seldom work as allies like cops, teachers and state nurses put forth Issue 2 to overturn the bill. Issue 2 passed, overturning SB 5 by a whopping 61 to 39 and Kasich’s have taken a similar hit.
Here’s the funny part though. During the exact same voting day voters overwhelmingly voted 66 to 34% for Issue 3. The bill was a clear rejection of Obamacare as it would exempt Ohions from President Obama’s healthcare mandates.
Mississippi Initiative 27
In the fall of 2011 Mississippi voters voted 62 to 37% to require all residents to present a government issued ID at a polling place in order to vote. Everyone knows this was a thinly veiled ploy by the Republicans to hurt Democratic voters who were more likely to not have driver licenses or other official forms of ID. But it passed by a huge margin showing that Mississippi remained a blood red GOP state, right?
Wrong. During the same November election by a whopping 58 to 42% Mississippians rejected the “Personhood Amendment”. This law would have would have constitutionally deemed that life begins at conception, thus all but ending legal abortion in the state.
California Proposition 23
In the fall of 2010 Californians had a choice between the California Jobs Initiative and the Dirty Jobs Prop. Of course these were two campaign names for Proposition 23. Prop 23 would have suspended parts of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 a bill that required the state to make a series of changes to improve the environment. The bill would’ve essentially stopped any of the environmental laws from going into effect unless California retained an unemployment rate of 5.5% or less for 3 fiscal quarters (something that hadn’t happened in decades.) California voters saw through the political smog and rejected the bill 61.5 to 38.5%. This proves California is a left wing state that wouldn’t give up environmental improvements to pander to big businesses, right?
Wrong. In the same election Proposition 24 passed overwhelmingly 58 to 41%. What was Prop 24? The bill would have suspended massive corporate tax breaks initiated by Governor Schwarzenegger to big business and supporters of his campaign. Voters voted to keep anti-business environmental regulations and corporate tax breaks by almost the same margins.
In the last 2 years alone we have a red state (Mississippi), a blue state (California) and a swing state (Ohio) all voting for and rejecting major ballot issues that are the major fault lines of America’s political landscapes –during the same elections!
So do we look at the 60% voted for North Carolina Amendment 1? 60% of North Carolina voters reject gay marriage – but likely an equal amount would keep abortion legal, or reject a bill imposing health mandates. These ballot initiatives are as much a reflection of effective issue campaigning and occasional low turnout. That 60% who voted yes are really just the 50% of the state population who cared enough to turn out in larger numbers. Voters may feel passionately about one issue in a vacuum but as a whole, the public – across all kinds of states – appear to be moving towards moderate common sense solutions. Something that both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama should be aware of when the campaigning gets hot this fall.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.