My favorite part of every election is the rationalization afterward.
It's when the campaign manager for a losing candidate stresses the important issues he raised. It's when the breathless advocate of a ballot initiative highlights the momentous gains made in defeat.
I received such an email Wednesday from the Yes on Proposition 37 campaign -- the folks who want new labels on genetically engineered food -- headlined "Narrow Loss; Movement Victory."
Perhaps "narrow" is in the eyes of the beholder, but losing statewide by more than 500,000 votes doesn't strike me as the precipice of victory. It's like saying you nearly scored a touchdown because your punt wasn't blocked.
"Yesterday we showed there is a food movement in the United States, and it is strong, vibrant and too powerful to stop," the email read. That's one way to put it. Another is that 53 percent of all voters said this proposition was a really bad idea.
The proponents of Richmond's Measure N "soda tax" must be equally thrilled with the inroads they made. Only two of every three voters rejected their proposal. There are few things that 66.9 percent of all people agree on, but rejecting a one-cent-per-ounce tax for sugar-sweetened drinks apparently is one of them.
Advocates for both issues surely will blame the well-funded industries that poured millions of dollars into defeating them. Food manufacturers didn't want new labels, and beverage makers didn't want the cost of their drinks to go up. But that's only part of the explanation.
It's more likely that voters saw no need to fix something that wasn't broken. No one is dropping dead from genetically engineered food, and customers concerned about sugar intake don't need a new tax to keep them from drinking soft drinks.
Money may be a factor, but it doesn't secure outcomes. If it did, Proposition 30 (sales and income tax hikes) never would have passed. Opponents far outspent supporters but captured only 46 percent of the vote.
If money guaranteed victory, voters would have passed Proposition 32 (banning unions from collecting dues for political purposes). A political action committee in Arizona spent millions trying to push through that initiative.
What Tuesday's election results showed is that California voters are independent and unpredictable. They agreed to ante up more money for education -- K-12 and college -- but they drew the line at more funding for the Contra Costa Fire District. They saw the wisdom in relaxing the three-strikes law but not in eliminating the death penalty.
On the whole, voters showed a willingness to repair only that which they thought merited repair, regardless of outside support or advertisements aired.
This will come as little solace to Richmond Councilman Jeff Ritterman, the point man for Measure N, who saw a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks as a means of curtailing obesity and diabetes, but he did accomplish something.
He shined a light on a genuine concern. He educated people about the dangers of excessive sugar intake. The red wagon he pulled around, filled with 40 pounds of sugar (the equivalent of one year of soft drinks), didn't get his measure passed, but it conveyed a graphic message.
That might be just as effective as a tax would have been.
If I were in his shoes, that would be my rationalization.
Contact Tom Barnidge at email@example.com.