Open primary advocates posit that an open primary could produce more moderate candidates. But why would we want that? California’s value at least partially lies in its ability to innovate, experiment, and grow from its progressive, extreme heritage. Not political extremism or religious extremism, but California’s tendency to be at the edge of issues, for better and worse. California’s national role is tied to this edgy state-identity, which would all be mournfully lost if an open primary pushed the state to be more moderate.
Californians are self-selecting extremists. Our adventuresome, enterprising bravery and risk-taking pays off in paradigm shifting innovation.
We were Native Americans that emigrated across the Bering Strait’s land bridge, subdued after hundreds of years by avaricious Spaniards searching for riches.
Then we were miners rushing the West for gold, but who really cashed in by inventing blue jeans.
Then we were farmers; Okies, abandoning the drought ravaged Midwest for the land of plenty, captured by Steinbeck’s loving adjectives.
We were 50s boomers, inventing urban sprawl and highways and suburbs.
We were movie stars fashioning the cult of celebrity, marking generations with glamour, red carpets and Hollywood. We were hippies, defining a movement in the Haight Ashbury.
We were surfers rebelling without cause, enabled by Oneill’s invention of the wetsuit.
Once we grew out of being hippies, we were Reagan supporters, endorsing some of the most conservative and longest-lived economic policy the US has ever enacted.
Then we informed the female experience as the home of the pill, the Barbie doll and popular cosmetic surgery.
We were Latinos increasing our majority via tireless work, delicious food, warm culture and a strong drug trade.
We were entrepreneurs, defining the potential of the Internet, changing the face of information exchange at the click of a mouse, which California also invented.
We were vintners, embarrassing the French with one fell white zinfandel. Home of the popsicle, both McDonalds and Alice Waters, Berkeley and Simi. This vivacious history of immigration, production, toil, strife and joy is rich with dichotomy and complementary extremes, but not moderation.
Our cities aren’t moderate; they are unique, specific and extreme in tone. We have LA, the US capitol of asphalt, smog and fun. We have Mendocino, which, between the weed and scenery, provides a haven for those who need to get away. We’ve got Bakersfield, hot as hell and just as tough, and Mariposa, nipping on Yosemite’s heels. There’s San Diego, where bikinis are acceptable business attire, San Francisco, where quality of life matters in a way found nowhere else, and Santa Cruz, where animal rights activists pose the greatest criminal threat. We have sizzling deserts and lush valleys, snow capped peaks and craggy coasts; Redwood forests and Joshua trees. California is the state where opposites embrace.
The pull of the extremes housed in this one state produces the diversity necessary to yield the aforementioned cultural, retail, technological and social inventions. Moderation would only kill this precious and autobiographical quality. Like our terrain, history and cities, our politics are blended. Californians like politicians that stir it up. We like movie stars. We like flaming gays. We like hard line conservatives and devoted Democrats. We produced Hiram Johnson, Hoover, Nixon, Milk, and seven supreme court justices including Earl Warren.
We like the bold ruckus created by the lack of moderation.
Independents aren’t even suited by moderation; they are as unique voters as anyone else who deserve some extremely independent.
The extremes and scale represented in California give it its unique role in the US. California is like having Massachusetts and Texas in one state, and it is precious for that. California leads the US; what goes down in California spreads. From Prop 13, adopted in many states after California, to the other end of the political spectrum with gay rights leadership, and the Prop 8 reply, the Californian experience serves as a dialogue for the nation.