Proposition 14 And The “New” Politics in California: Is It A Positive Reform?

California adopted a new election system in its primary election last Tuesday, and it will go into effect in 2011. Only Washington State and Louisiana have a similar system to what California is putting into effect next year.

Under the new system, anyone can run for any political office, and party affiliation need not be put on the ballot or even discussed by the candidates. The top two in the primaries will be on the election ballot in November, making it possible in many cases that two Republicans or two Democrats or even two fringe candidates would be the finalists for the office being contested.

There would be no requirement that anyone reach any level of support of the electorate. Just the top two would be competing in the fall, which means that if there are a large number of candidates in the primary, the top two could have together a very small percentage of the total primary vote.

The theory is that more moderate candidates would win out, and there would be less confrontation between the liberals who control the Democratic party and the conservatives who control the Republican party.

But is this a realistic assumption? Most major candidates would still be identifiable as either Democrats or Republicans, and the chance of having more extremist candidates such as Rand Paul or Sharron Angle appealing to a small percentage of voters and ending up as finalists grows more likely!

The new system also promotes those with more name recognition and those with large amounts of money having an even greater chance of being the nominees. It also promotes the role of corporate interests in being able to get the candidates they want, who could have a small percentage of the total vote but enough to be the two favored final candidates for the seat in contention.

Does this new system promote “democracy”, or is it just an attack on political parties? Realistically, it is not “democratic”, but rather promoting the power of money more than ever, and undermining our long tradition of political parties!

As much as people condemn and complain about political parties, it is precisely those institutions that have promoted true debate and real changes over the two hundred plus years since Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson first organized groups, in face of the opposition of George Washington, to offer alternative choices and stabilize the political disputes that were obviously part of reality in America in the 1790s!

Political parties, despite much that has been asserted by many people who are ignorant of our history, are essential elements of the American democratic system, and deemphasizing them is NOT a good thing!

California will be an interesting experiment, but to say it will be a great success is being overly optimistic! The question is whether it will spread across the country, as often what starts in California is the beginning of a trend!

Hopefully, that will not be the case on this particular issue!

One comment on “Proposition 14 And The “New” Politics in California: Is It A Positive Reform?

  1. Dale Sheldon-Hess June 10, 2010 1:40 pm

    California isn’t the first run of this “experiment” though.

    Washington state tried the same thing. In 2008, every general election contest was between one Republican and one Democrat. And the state congress became no less polarized.

    Californians fail to study history, and so are doomed to repeat it.

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