• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • March 25, 2016 in Columnists

    Why is California the political caboose of the presidential primary train?

    I call shenanigans on this primary election process.

    In every primary election, California sits on the sidelines while the rest of the country chews through the possible Presidential candidates and by the time the primaries wind up in California (and yes, we do go last), we’re left with the dregs. Never has this been more painfully obvious than this year. Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? Hmmm. Would we rather eat cat poop or dog poop? John Kasich is only rabbit poop — not nearly as stinky and at least has value as fertilizer.

    As for the Democrats, it might be a much tighter race had California actually been relevant in the primary process because Bernie Sanders sings the song of our people. But California’s not relevant in the primaries, and it’s about time we started objecting. Loudly.

    Where’s the logic in taking California’s piece off the game board? Moreover, where’s the equity? I googled around to try and find out why the state with the largest population, biggest agriculture and technology production, and the eighth largest economy in the world — yes, THE WORLD — is essentially cut out of the democratic process.

    I googled around for an explanation about California being the political caboose on this crazy train, and found nothing satisfactory. One explanation is that it’s more expensive to hold an election in, say, March, than in June. I’m not buying it. The same number of ballots must be printed and election staff hired regardless of when the election is held. It’s like your property tax bill. Whether it’s due in October or December, it still costs what it costs.

    The decision to neuter California in the election process was made by our so-called leaders in the state legislature. According to a KQED story, “legislators felt the large gap between the March primary and the November general election was contributing to increasing campaign costs, so they pushed the primary back to June.” (Dear legislators: see property tax example.)

    Ironically, notes the story, when California held its primary elections earlier in the year, the impact on voter turnout was huge: the earlier the primary, the greater the voter turnout. Why? Could it be any more obvious? It’s because our votes actually mattered!

    As for cost, you get more bang for the buck if more voters show up. They have to print enough ballots for all registered voters anyway, so wouldn’t it be nice if more ballots ended up in voters’ hands than in the recycling center? Furthermore, wouldn’t it be more financially beneficial if California could elect candidates that would best promote California’s interests? California’s economy is huge. Candidates that support our economy translate into increased revenue for our state. That mitigates spending a little more on our elections.

    The KQED story noted that counties are responsible for funding elections, and increased costs pinch some counties harder than others. That being the case, it’s for the greater good of all Californians to become relevant in primary elections, so gap funding from the state should be provided to help cover the alleged increased cost of an earlier primary.

    Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Enter the slime factor. Why would our state legislators choose to hold our primaries when voter turnout is at its lowest? I suspect it’s because the easiest way to shove unpopular legislation through is when the fewest voters will show up to oppose it. Bingo. Self-servitude is in a politician’s DNA.

    A second explanation for California’s late primary is that because California’s population is so huge, an early primary here would give California too much power in the process. The “logic” boils down to this: It’s unfair to let the majority rule, even though majority rule is the cornerstone of democracy; in order to be fair, we have to give the fewest people the most electoral clout.

    What sort of dumbfuckery is this?

    In practice, this means that all votes are not created equal. Voters in sparsely populated states have, pound for pound, more power at the polls than those in highly populated states. A vote in New Hampshire, with a population of 1,330,609 weighs more than a vote in California, with a population of 39,144,818. In what alternate universe is this democratic and fair? Maybe the same alternate universe that cooked up the superdelegate system?

    If there’s one thing that steams me about the Democratic party, it’s this superdelegate scam. Unlike delegates, who represent the will of the voters at the convention, superdelegates are free agents and can support whichever candidate they choose. I’ll give the Republicans a nod on this issue — the RNC doesn’t participate in this charade. In the 2016 Democratic primary, this superdelegate system hurts Bernie Sanders, because the Chosen Few vastly support Hillary. Although I too support Hillary, I want her to win fair and square, not because the system is rigged in her favor.

    Democracy. What a joke. Particularly for Californians.

    That said, California could have one last hurrah in this primary process, on the Republican ticket. Donald Trump hasn’t reached the magic number of 1,237 to secure the Republican nomination and California could serve as the proverbial monkey wrench in the works. This being The Year of the Rebellious Voter (whether Sanders or Trump flavored), we Californians should go with that flow and blow up the Republican primary.

    We could throw our mighty heft behind John Kasich and propel the Republican party into chaos with a brokered convention, or line up behind Donald Trump and give the RNC what it deserves. (No, supporting Cruz isn’t an option. Because, just — no. Even rebels have to have standards.) Either way, Californians have a rare opportunity to show the country what happens when you render the most-populated state irrelevant in the primary election process.

    Trump and Sanders supporters are giving a big middle finger to politics as usual. California should do the same. In the end, it may not make a difference, but it’ll feel great. And it’ll show ’em what it means to cut California out of the political primary loop: Ignore us at your peril.


    • Check out the fallout from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The ‘superdelegate’ was the answer to wrest control from a few key party members (remember the lovely, Mayor Richard Daley?). It took until 1984 to implement the change. Believe me, if Sanders would start winning consistently, the supers will follow.

      • I was only 9 then, so I don’t recall it personally. But I’ll check into it more. I believe that was what resulted in the riots, yes? What CSN&Y wrote the song “Chicago” about. I’m not so sure the superdelegates would follow Sanders, as they are committed to the DNC, and Sanders is not actually a democrat.

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