In war, it’s good to have the high ground. And with his perch on top of the ballot, Jerry Brown has that it.
But is the high ground such a blessing in ballot initiative politics?
The answer, as Brown is already discovering, is no. When you have the high ground, everyone can see you. You make an easy target for shots from below.
You also command attention. And attention has generally not been good for ballot measures. The more people learn about an initiative, and all its little pieces, the more there is to dislike.
And it only takes a bit of doubt to get a no vote.
Risk-averse voters, when they’re adopting a measure with taxes and constitutional changes with ramifications they don’t understand (and that even the authors of the measures may not fully appreciate), don’t want to see controversy and flaws. They want to be reassured, and made comfortable, that an initiative doesn’t have much downside risk, that there’s a broad coalition behind it.
All the shots from other measures, at the big initiative on the high ground, may make opposition look bigger than it appears.
Brown might well have been better off hidden further down the ballot.