POLARIZATION and partisanship are a plague on American politics [...]Paul Hogarth from our campaigns team, and a Calitics veteran, has already hit Schumer hard on the California angle. But I'm going to pile on, below the fold.
We need a national movement to adopt the “top-two” primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff. This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.
California, which probably mirrors the diversity of America more than any other state, was racked by polarization until voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that adopted a “top-two” primary system.
Let's be honest. Just one party is polarized, and that's the GOP. That's their problem, not Chuck Schumer's or anyone else's. Let Reublicans fix their own shit. But even both parties were polarized, so what?
Partisanship is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our nation's being. There's nothing wrong with it. It gives people without the time and inclination to research every single candidate a guidepost upon which to base their voting decisions. It gives people a flag to rally around, a cause to stir them to action. That's why parties exist. And voters should be allowed to determine the direction of their own parties. That's not a problem that needs solving, and even if it was, his solution does nothing to do so.
The top-two primary system is a plague, removing the ability of voters to choose their party's nominee, electing unrepresentative officials, reducing candidate choice, and crushing voter participation.
I love Schumer's fantasy that California was once polarized, and now it isn't. You know why it's no longer polarized? Because Democrats now have a super-majority in both chambers of the state legislature and a governor of the same party. In other words, polarization has disappeared BECAUSE of partisanship, and specifically, the ability of one party to convince the electorate that it's the best choice for the state.
This isn't rocket science. It's simple math. Count the number of Democrats, then count the number of Republicans. Yet here is Schumer saying crazy dumb stuff like this:
The [top-2 system] has had a moderating influence on both parties and a salutary effect on the political system and its ability to govern.Ha ha ha ha! California Republicans are just as batshit insane as they always were. They're just in the deep minority were they can do no harm. Put DC Republicans in the deep minority, and national polarization will also end. One-party rule has a way of squashing conflict.
Then there are situations like CA-31, where two REPUBLICANS ended up facing off in the general election in a 57-percent Obama district. How did that happen? Well, a gaggle of Democrats ran, but just two Republicans. So the multitude of Dems split up the vote, and a solidly Blue district ended up being represented by a right-wing Republican. Tell me again how that is a "moderating" influence, much less democratic?
Worse off, the threat of a split ballot means the parties must limit the number of candidates entering the race. So rather than have a clean and honest inter-party debate about who the best nominee is, parties are forced to arm-twist candidates off the ballot. The top-2 limits voter choice, not expands it.
But the biggest indictment? It kills voter participation. This is what proponents of California's top-2 system said when debating the ballot proposition that enacted it:
Allan Zaremberg, President/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of California said that in yesterday's primary, voter turnout was around 30% -- and that vote, as in most primaries, determined most of this elections elected officials. "That's not democracy," he said. Prop 14 will allow a majority of voters to turn out in the primary.Dear god, 30 percent is bad! So what happened when Californians voted under the new system? This:
So yes, Schumer is wrong. Very, very wrong.
Or very right, because there's also this, as Paul pointed out:
The top-two primary in California was supposed to rescue “moderate” Republicans like Abel Maldonado from the threat of a Tea Party challenge. But as state Democratic chairman John Burton predicted at the state party’s 2010 convention in Los Angeles, it was really more about helping big business elect more of their Democrats—with cross-over votes from Republicans.If you're a corporatist Dem, then a top-2 system in an era of GOP decline makes lots of sense, a perfect way for corporate interests to undermine a populist people-centric Democratic Party.
And if that's Schumer's goal, then his idea starts making a lot of sense.