It is time to abandon the anti-democratic “Top Two” system – Press Enterprise

My colleague Sal Rodriguez recently lamented how “republicans have basically thrown in the towel in this gubernatorial cycle.” That will create an even bigger landslide for Governor Gavin Newsom’s re-election in November this year. It’s possible his only challenger is a Democrat.

The GOP definitely needs to come together in almost every way. But there is another culprit for this becoming a one-party state: voters in the Top Two Primary system were tricked into passing as Proposition 14 in 2010.

The result: In 2016, the US Senate faced two Democrats, not Republicans: Kamala Harris, now Vice President, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez. The same thing happened in 2018 when incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein ran against former Senator Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles councilman who is now running for mayor.

What kind of “democracy” is this, where the only choice is not between the parties?

Sure, Republicans would still have lost that November election. But wouldn’t it have been good to get some other ideas?

Just as bad, Top Two killed third in California. Remember when a November election up until 2010 listed candidates from the Libertarian, American Independent, Green and Peace & Freedom parties? The ballot papers sent to voters contained their political ideas.

And in the American political tradition, third parties often advanced policies later adopted by the major parties. Eugene V. Debs ran five times for the Socialist Party. Some of his proposals (unfortunately) became part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

After the Libertarian Party (more to my liking) was formed in 1971, their skepticism about government taxes and regulations grew in influence until they became part of Ronald Reagan’s winning platform in 1980. The Green Party has evidently influenced the Democratic Party’s environmentalism, particularly in California.

And with war raging in Ukraine, wouldn’t it be valuable to get the Peace & Freedom Party’s perspective in the US Senate race, rather than just incumbent Democrat Alex Padilla and – likely – another Democrat?

Top Two also reduces dozens of races for the Assembly, Senate and US House of Representatives to pointless exercises for Republicans. This eliminates the “junior varsity” feature of the old primary system, which gave new, inexperienced candidates a chance to race and show off their skills. The best could then move up. Now no one is moving anywhere – except maybe to another state.

On Jan. 4, Secretary of State Shirley Weber counted 47 percent of voters nationwide as registered Democrats, 24 percent Republicans, 23 percent no party preference, and 6 percent other. So it’s almost 2-to-1 democratic.


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