Robert A. Levine May 29, 2018
California is supposedly the land of the American dream, where a girl can become a star overnight and a guy who can code can establish another billion dollar start-up in Silicon Valley. Its economy is equivalent to about the sixth largest nation in the world. If anything good can happen in America, it can happen in California. But bad things also happen in California. There are earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, and other natural disasters that periodically remind inhabitants that California is not paradise.
And some disasters are man-made like Harvey Weinstein who made his name in the California film industry and sexually abused women all over the world. There are also political disasters that are man-made, sometimes arising unexpectedly out of experiments that initially seemed benign and actually an advance over the present system, but did not turn out that way. I am describing the non-partisan “jungle” primary which was originally entertained as a way to elect more moderate candidates from both parties instead of extremists.
The way it was supposed to work, two or three Republicans and two or three Democrats would run for each position and the top vote-getters on each side would wind up battling each other for the position. In a progressive state like California, it was also thought possible that the top two vote-getters might be facing off against each other from the Democratic Party. It was believed as well that in 2018, the Democrats might pick up five or six House seats in California to help them win back control of Congress. They need to gain a total of twenty-three seats nationwide.
But right now it looks like that might be a California dream. Hillary Clinton won a number of the California districts held by GOP members of Congress and with anti-Trump enthusiasm running rampant in California, it seemed likely that the Congressional seats would swing to the Democrats. However, perhaps the level of enthusiasm was a bit too excessive on the Democratic side. The incumbents in two districts, Republican Ed Royce and Darrell Issa decided not to run for re-election and this inspired a number of Democratic newcomers to run for the seats. Even in the seats that are not open, more Democratic candidates than expected are trying to beat the GOP incumbents. That level of enthusiasm may look good, but it ain’t.
Like too many cooks spoiling the broth, too many candidates from one party can spoil the primary for that party. Because the top two vote-getters will face each other in the election in November, too many Democrats running in the primaries may split the votes among them, leaving two Republicans to run against each other. For instance, say there are six Democrats in a primary contest and two Republicans. The six Democrats each get from 10 to 12 percent of the votes for a total of 70 percent. Of the two Republicans, one gets 16 percent and the other gets 14 percent.
Obviously, the district favors the Democrats but because so many were running in the primary, the two winners are both Republicans. This means that a Republican is bound to represent the district in Congress. And similar situations may occur in a number of California districts the Democrats were counting on to regain control of Congress. The Democrats are working hard to try and convince some of their candidates to drop out so the strongest among them can win the races, but that’s not so easy to do. In a mid-term election that seemed to suggest a Democratic wave was coming, all the Democratic candidates believed they had a chance to be elected to Congress. Now perhaps they know better. It was only a California dream.
Anyway, Trump’s poll numbers have started to creep up, so maybe there won’t be a Blue Wave election after all. A suggestion for both parties- have pre-primary primaries in California and only let the top one or two vote-getters run in the real primary.