A response to Digby – actually to David Atkins
To the regular readers of this blog: I’m sorry that I haven’t been blogging here. Since last October or November, I’ve been a bit obsessed with – finally – getting into shape through bicycling. So much so that I started another, bike specific blog, which you can see here. I’ve now (knock on wood) acquired the habit of exercise, so I’m no longer as obsessed, and will start turning my attention to other things, including this blog.
I write today because, in Tuesday’s election, I cast my vote in statewide elections for third parties – Green across the board except for the Governor’s race, where I couldn’t resist voting for Cindy Sheehan. And just now, I read this blog post of David Atkins on Digby’s Hullabaloo blog: It’s time to repeal the top-two primary in California. Please read it now, as the rest of this post is my reply.
In the State Controller’s race you identify as a brush with disaster, I was one of the voters for Laura Wells. And I wanted to explain my vote, and my reasoning behind it. Normally, I would have replied as a comment on your blog post, but it seems there are no comments enabled on the Hullabaloo blog, thus I’m responding here.
Among the many things that I consider dysfunctional in our country (and I’m sure we agree on most), one that particularly raises my hackles is that I have rarely felt free to vote for a candidate I really want in an election. In my 35 year voting history, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve voted FOR a candidate, instead of a strategic vote AGAINST a Republican with a chance of winning who I detested. It is for this reason that I welcome California’s top two primary. Quite simply, it allows me to, occasionally, vote my conscience instead of my fears.
Generally, I consider myself a Democratic Socialist, with heavy Green leanings. But until the top two primary was enabled, I switched parties often – between Democratic and Republican. I registered as a Democrat when I’ve thought the Republicans had no chance of winning (allowing me to choose the best of a usually weak Democratic field) and as a Republican when I felt there was a strong Republican with a chance of winning (and my vote was for any OTHER Republican – except the truly crazy ones. And no, I didn’t vote for Orly Taitz)
I consider our two party system to be broken. And I see the top two primary as a possible (although nowhere near certain) way to attempt a fix. It allows third party candidates to have some hope, albeit small, of being considered seriously in a general election. Is this likely to happen? No. At least not for quite a few election cycles. Will it create problems? Yes. It already has. Not only in the case you cite, but look at the CA 25 congressional race. The top two were both Republicans. While the demographics of this district make it unlikely that a non-Republican could win the seat, the top two primary has ensured that there will be no voice with even a thin veneer of reason in the race this fall.
But no solution – including the status quo ante – is without problems. What matters are the lessons we learn from those problems. And the more distinct methods we try, the more problems we discover, and the more we can learn from them. Will we learn from Tuesday’s primary? That remains to be seen. I’m hoping that the takeaway is: That the parties who fail to rally around a single candidate in the primary will be at high risk of not even appearing on the general election ballot. This should scare both major parties.
So what IS the solution? Frankly, I don’t think there is a single solution. #GetMoneyOut would help immensely. As would reclaiming the part of the Commons we call the airwaves, in the form of some sort of requirement for (nearly) equal airtime for ALL candidates – regardless of ability to pay. As would a few others I think you and I could both list.
But the solution is not to return to the status quo ante – at least not yet. Two election cycles is – in my opinion – not anywhere close to enough to declare the top two primary to be a failure.
And as for my vote for the Green in the State Controller election? Frankly, it stemmed from a lack of THIS voter’s education. I freely admit that I took NO time to look at the record or positions of ANY candidate. And that too is a problem, as I’m certain that I’m only one of many – perhaps most – of the people who voted Tuesday who had no idea of the positions of their chosen candidate. But in my (slight) defense, I did have a clue: the party affiliation of my chosen candidate.
I invite you to reply in the comments.