We will know for sure who the winners are tomorrow in California’s November, 2014 election, but we can surely state a day ahead of time who the losers are: our voters, who barely knew there was an election going on. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported on a poll showing that a whopping 42% of voters, when asked, did not even know that Jerry Brown was on the ballot running for re-election as Governor on November 4! Yet Brown is ahead in the polls by double-digits, and is so confident of victory, that one of his controlled committees for statewide ballot propositions has accepted a $100,000 contribution from Phillip Morris without any media outcry that Brown has comprised his values for the tobacco company’s money! Voter turnout is expected to be around 46%, a historic low, and well below the 70% turnout registered in the last mid-term election in California in 2010.
Why are voters not participating? Because the Democratic politicians running for statewide office are basically shoe-ins. They are not running vigorous campaigns to win, not advertising on TV and radio much, not debating their GOP opponents, because they do not have to do so to win. Liberal Democrats and their labor union allies have simply swamped our political system and now dominate it so thoroughly, it looks almost impossible for a Republican candidate to win a statewide election. The Democrats have the support of Big Labor, but they also have the support now of Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Soda, Big Telecommunications, and Indian Gaming, because they are in total control. The result is a lack of much any meaningful debate over how to solve California’s problems and in that, no competition of ideas in the public policy market, and an even further marginalization of the “loyal opposition” GOP, who are ignored and even further diminished in getting their ideas out to voters. One-party dominance of California’s state politics is here, but has been developing for awhile. In 2010, Democrats swept into victory in every single statewide office. By 2012, they won Democratic super-majorities of over 66% in both houses of the state legislature, putting them in total political control of the state. In the meantime, the Republican Party has struggled to just to participate in the debate and make a showing over solving California’s many problems. Party registration is at a historic low of just 28.2%, something like 15 points behind the Democrats.
Republicans may be posed to make very modest advances in California this election, in a national election that looks wonderful for the GOP outside this state. Perhaps California will deliver a net pickup of just one Congressional seat for Republicans in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. Maybe Republicans can also break the Democrats super-majority control of one of the Houses of the state Legislature tomorrow. However, tomorrow’s election is looking to be an inconsequential one for the state, with Democrats maintaining their literal stranglehold on political power in the state government. And it looks like California will now start having many more inconsequential statewide elections in the future because of the lack of competition the Democrats now have and the “one-party” state they now run.
Not too long ago, liberal pundits used to complain about the “dysfunction” in California’s state politics. They would blame the Republican minority in the Legislature or the initiative system for the alleged “dysfunction” but what they were really saying is that the Democrats did not have total control. Now the Democrats do have total control, and what has been one of the results? Poverty, the now well-known fact that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. And that happened under Democratic control.
Students of history might note that citizens in East Germany were able to vote, but unable to participate in a meaningful election for 57 years, from 1933 to 1990. Elections that were held during this period were inconsequential and meaningless, with no real influence on public policy. Citizens gradually lost most of their civil rights and freedoms during this period. But by 1990, inspired by the cataclysmic fall of the Berlin Wall, voters finally won the opportunity to participate in government and cast a meaningful vote.
Perhaps California needs a similar cataclysmic event to make elections meaningful again. Democratic control and dominance of public employee union special interest political spending to keep Democrats in control in California surely means less meaningful public debate, fewer challenges to the ruling authority, and a void of new ideas to help solve California’s many problems. The solutions California will get from the Democrats in control in future will predictably be “same old – same old” packaged as something new, with increasing voter apathy and even more meaningless elections. It is hard to believe that current voter apathy in the state will reverse itself on its own in future. Democracy itself is therefore at risk in California’s future, and that is sadly the real dysfunction of California’s politics.