There are few articles that have published about California’s nonpartisan, top-two primary system that seem interested in factual information about Proposition 14, the 2010 ballot measure written by the Independent Voter Project and approved by California voters to reform the old closed primary system. One particular article, published on SFGate.com, didn’t even allow the authors of Prop. 14 to speak on why we wrote it, what our expectations were, and what we believe has unfolded to date.
The article, written by Carla Marinucci, interviewed Bob Mulholland, a Democratic campaign adviser and good friend, on how the political landscape has shifted under “Top-Two.” Bob compared the primary to the Kentucky Derby.
“Can you imagine a Kentucky Derby with two horses?” he asked. “This is the way the communists run it.”
I had coffee with Bob on Saturday and he used the same analogy in our spirited, private conversation. However, unlike Marinucci’s article, I was given the opportunity to respond.
Bob looks at the world through the eyes of an insider — it’s about “the race.” Horses win races, not the audience.
However, elections should be about voters, not candidates or political operatives. Nonpartisan primaries shift power from political parties to voters. Closed primaries allow political insiders to manipulate the field of candidates in the primary in order to prevent a competitive race in November.
In a closed system, third parties are used by the two major parties to siphon votes away in the November election so that the major party candidates can get elected without getting a majority vote. Bob’s closed primary view of the Kentucky Derby would produce a race in which 10 horses would run, and 9 would be three-legged nags that have no chance of winning.
The article also comments on the governor’s race and says that Governor Jerry Brown’s considerable lead in statewide polls, along with Tim Donnelly — a tea party favorite — placing second, further indicates that the nonpartisan, top-two system favors the most ideologically-extreme candidates. Except, Brown is actually benefiting from being a moderate Democrat in a solidly Democratic state (and from being a governor during a time of immense budget surplus).
The fact that the Republican Party cannot muster strong contenders is a harbinger of where things are headed, and is not an indicator of anything related to Prop. 14.
By 2018 (maybe sooner), there are likely to be more independent voters in California than Republicans. Partisan insiders want to disenfranchise these voters, and whether it was her intention or not, Marinucci’s article is a part of this effort.
For more information on the growing national movement against partisan primaries, visit EndPartisanship.org.
Editor’s note: This article was written as a response to the article, “How top-two primary system has changed California politics,” written by Carla Marinucci and published on SFGate.com on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.