St. Abel’s Vanity, Willful Ignorance, and Prop 14

Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado has never been a favorite around these parts.  His budget machinations were cruel and unnecessary. He used the entire process merely to gain political advantage.  With any luck, we will be rid of him at the end of the year.

But his legacy just might live on in the muck that is Prop 14.  He came on to KQED’s Forum this week to discuss the “open” primary initiative. He had no facts. He had no support for his outlandish claims.  Just his gut.

Then the forum turns to California’s new lieutenant governor, Abel Maldonado, one of the main proponents of Prop. 14, and Richard Winger, one of the initiative’s more prominent opponents.  Maldonado’s performance is, in my humble opinion, a trainwreck.  He proceeds to list one complaint after another about the state government — it’s broken, it’s broke, legislators are highly partisan, they spend too much time on silly issues, they can’t pass a budget, politicians misrepresent themselves to voters, etc. — but then says that the solution is a top-two primary.  He never really explains how the latter would correct the former.

Meanwhile, Winger, to his credit, employs actual evidence debunking each of Maldonado’s claims one by one.  You say more open primaries would make it easier to pass a budget?  Well, it turns out the budget was plenty late during Calfornia’s use of the blanket primary a decade ago.  You say it would make the legislature less partisan?  Washington state used a blanket primary for decades, and they’re legislature is one of the most partisan in the country.  And so on.  And all Maldonado does is keep saying, “I’ve lived it.  I’ve been there.”  And then he repeats his talking points.  It’s not a very impressive spectacle. (Enik Rising)

See, you have to wind up St. Abel. Make sure he’s got his Talking Points down, and he can be Arnold’s voice in the Legislature, or really any other forum. But, ask him to explain himself, and this is what you get.

The problem with the “open” primary system is that it just doesn’t do what its supporters claim it will.  It doesn’t get people more involved.  As Seth Masket points out, if anything, it makes people less likely to vote.

But okay, maybe you still want a less polarized legislature.  Fine.  Would a top-two primary get you there?  Not really.  The evidence we have suggests that the effect would be small or negligible.  There turns out to be very little relationship between a state legislature’s partisanship and the openness of its primary elections.  Meanwhile, you’ll end up with many runoff elections between members of the same party, giving voters not of that party a lot less incentive to participate. (Enik Rising)

Here’s what you get with this mess.  In a purple district, you get candidates that will tack for the base to make sure they get into the general election.  If you get the lion’s share of the base, you are likely to get enough votes.  How do you do this? Get more polarizing. So, scratch that less polarizing thing.

And in districts where one party controls, you end up getting two candidates of the same party.  Let’s be honest, does a Republican have a lot of incentive to vote for either of two progressive democrats in a Blue seat? Would you want to vote between some of the two crazy Republicans we’ll get in a couple of these districts? Do you hold your nose and vote for the slightly less odious one? Perhaps, but it sure doesn’t inspire civic engagement to have to vote for some creep you disdain slightly less than the other creep.

3 thoughts on “St. Abel’s Vanity, Willful Ignorance, and Prop 14”

  1. What would happen to the write-in option in these “general election run-offs?”

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