Following the overwhelming triumph of his Proposition 13 two years ago, Howard Jarvis emerged as an instant celebrity, widely acknowledged as the father of a "tax revolt" said to be sweeping the nation.
Today, in the wake of Tuesday's 5-to-3 defeat of Proposition 9, his proposal to cut state income taxes in half, Jarvis appears to be returning to political oblivion. The same politicians and pundits who once sought his favor now are beginning to forget him like a bad dream.
"Howard Jarvis' success in 1978 went to his head. He made the mistake [of thinking] that if Californians would pass one initiative, they'd pass another," said Gray Davis, top aide to Gov. Edmund G. Brown jr., once a admirer of the tax crusader. "Califorians have concluded that enough is enough."
Disappointed and characteristically cranky, Jarvis was forced to admit defeat Tuesday night as the returns brought news of the landslide against Proposition 9. He also had to fight off the notion that with this defeat, Howard Jarvis' once phenomenal political rise had just as abruptly come to an end.
"What I am sponsoring is a revolution with pen and ballot box and like the American Revolution, will see a few defeats," Jarvis said in an angry, hardly conciliatory concession speech. "Tomorrow morning, we'll start a new initiative against the bureaucrats and shove it up their rears."
California voters also defeated by a wide margin Proposition 10, a landlord-sponsored measure to repeal all current rent control laws and restrict new ones, and Proposition 11, a measure to impose a 10 percent surtax on oil company profits and earmark the proceeds for mass transit.
In Santa Cruz County, Calif., voters rejected a local measure that would have prohibited any company in the county from manufacturing any device used in a nuclear weapon. The Pentagon and Lockheed, which has a plant in the county, were watching that vote closely.
While Jarvis thundered about continuing his battle against big government, taxes and his arch enemies from the public employe unions, others in the Proposition 9 camp were openly blaming Jarvis' vitriolic campaign style for damaging the initiative.
"It ended up that Howard Jarvis was the issue," said University of Southern California economics professor Arthur Laffer, a leading advocate of Proposition 9. "He used to be entertaining, but he's not so entertaining anymore. It's too bad, because Proposition 9 was a very good issue."
Laffer, one of a number of economic advisers to Ronald Reagan, also maintained that the defeat on Proposition 9 could signal a shift in Reagan's campaign strategy. California voters' overwhelming repudiation of the proposition, Laffer conceded, could push Reagan away from the "supply-side economics" he has been stressing in his campaign, including his support for the Kemp-Roth income tax cut bill, which, like Proposition 9 is based in part on Laffer's economic theories.
Another leading Proposition 9 supporter, state Senate Minority Leader William Campbell, expressed the opinion that perhaps it is time for the 77-year-old Jarvis to step aside as leader of the anti-tax movement.
"There's no doubt that the opposition effectively made Howard an issue in the campaign," Campbell said. "He's a crusty old curmudgeon who doesn't hide his feelings. People look at him and not at the issues. I think maybe he should be de-emphasized."
Jarvis started the year as one of the most popular political figure in the state, according to some polls. But on election day, according to a Los Angeles Times survey, 63 percent of the voters held an "unfavorable" opinion of Jarvis.
Despite the defeat of proposition 9, however, Jarvis and his closest aides seemed determined to press on with other, potentially even more bitter, initiative campaigns. They claimed the proposition was defeated by a public fear of service cuts that would be made by vengeful politicians if the measure had passed. Jarvis' aides say their next ballot measure will identify precisely where they want government expenditures cut.
Jarvis' campaign manager, Harvey Englander, said the new initiatives will be unveiled within the next few weeks. They are expected to focus on cutting back the numbers of state employes and their pensions.