Pondering the Punditry on Primary Day – a Recap of Our Series on the California Primary June 8th

by on June 7, 2010 · 5 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, Organizing, San Diego


Twelve states including California will be holding primaries on Tuesday, June 8th , and pundits everywhere will be poring over the results desperately seeking to validate the memes that they’ve put forward in the 18 months since Barack Obama was inaugurated as President.  Are the American people angry because the President has been unable to undo the damage done to the economy over the decade preceding his tenure? Are all incumbents endangered?  Will the tea party redefine Republican politics?  Are Democrats an endangered species?

The first thing that you need to know is that there is a BIG difference between the “people” and “the voters”.  Off year elections typically attract only about 35% of the electorate. Presidential elections attract about 60% eligible voters. That means that eighty million people didn’t nationally vote in the last Presidential election.  In 2008, thirteen million people voted in California; ten million didn’t. Only seven million are expected to vote this June.

Despite all the punditry pointing towards the Washington or Sacramento “establishment” as the root of the “problem” in our country, the real problem boils to down to the fact that most of the time, most people don’t vote. And by most people there’s a 65% probability that we’re talking about YOU.

I’ve been working on a get out the vote drive during the past few weeks for a non-profit group.   We work directly from the records of the registrar of voters. We can, therefore, determine how often a registered voter that we’re talking to has actually voted. Part of our work involves asking people to please vote in the upcoming election. Nearly 100% of the people we talk to claim they already vote in every election. The only problem is that were talking to voters who have a paper trail indicating that they’re infrequent voters. So nearly everyone we’re talking to is probably lying. This is the dirty little secret about voter participation.

I just filled out my mail in ballot this weekend. I know that many of the choices we’re offered just flat out suck. But, you know, we’d have better choices if the rest of you guys would simply make the effort to vote.

vote eye-chartHere’s the recap of my series on the Primary races, along with the money quotes:

Part One The Governor’s Race

You’d think, with all the negative TV advertising we’ve seen lately, that there were only two GOP candidates for Governor.  But, nooo, the Republicans are not about to let themselves be outdone by the Democrats. They, too, have seven candidates running for the Big Office.

Nobody knows how to do politics nastier than Republicans, and gillionaires Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner are doing their level best to smear each other via a television campaign so expensive that, by itself, it could probably solve the Golden State’s budget woes.  Thus far nobody stands accused of child abuse or violent crimes in this race, but there still some time left before Election Day and anything’s possible.

Part Two  The Minor Parties

Traditionally third parties in the United States have arisen out of or in response to broad social movements.  Most –like the temperance parties of the 1800’s– rise and fall within a few years as the core issues underlying them are absorbed into the platforms of the mainstream political organizations. Third parties are also historically prone to sectarian infighting, which tends to limit their broad appeal.

Part Three  – Louie, Louie

And you thought being Governor of California was a crappy job? Obviously being Lt. Governor is not so bad, as no less than THIRTEEN candidates are vying for the job. It must be the benefit package, I think. Or maybe you get a corner office. Plus it can be a great stepping stone for the right kind of ambitious politician.  Many have tried, most have failed.

Part Four – The Statewide Ballot Props

Part of the legacy of California’s electoral process is that anybody with a pen and a clipboard can, in theory, get a proposed law placed on the ballot.  The reality is that it either takes a grass roots campaign with thousands of committed volunteers or a major donor willing to write a check big enough to sponsor thousands of paid canvassers to gather signatures.

Part 5 – Local Ballot Measures

The concept of the non-partisan, City Manager form of government (along with the initiative, referendums, and recall, plus a woman’s right to vote) hails back to Progressive movement of the early 20th century. The corruption in cities and the state legislatures around the country was legendary. Progressives knew the ease with which corporations and powerful franchises could control governments–outside the public’s view—and wanted to guarantee the people could remedy the problem.

The fact that lots of similar deals regarding pensions were cut in cities and states with differing forms of governance seems to have escaped proponents of a Strong Mayoralty in San Diego.  They also seem to have forgotten the copious promises inherent in deregulatory madness that swept the nation during the Clinton and Bush eras that unlimited growth and prosperity were at hand.  As we now know, this unlimited prosperity turned out to be a giant ponzi scheme, and the pension funds of thousands of unions, companies and cities were left holding the bag.

Part Six  – The School Board Races

At school board meetings De Beck’s inability to hide his disgust with anybody who dares to disagree with him is seen by many as an embarrassment to the School District.  It’s a shame, because the man has always been full of ideas and was willing to ask tough questions during this year’s budget hearings.  While there is some truth to the charge that he’s being opposed by the SDEA this time around because of differences with the teachers throughout the budget crisis, the root cause of their anger has more to do with his cozy relationship with the U-T, whose editorials regularly equate unions with [insert fear inducing word of the week here].

vote_aquiPart Seven  – The Race for Sheriff

The 2010 race for Sheriff of San Diego County does not have a candidate who will be remembered forty years from now.  But there’s plenty of fear going around in this year’s race.  Guns nuts are up in arms.  Illegal aliens are being demonized.  And the stench of conspiracy wafts over the contest like a bad day in the wetlands east of Dog Beach.

To hear the charges and countercharges in this race, you’d think that San Diego was in the midst of a tsunami of rape, murder and pillaging.  The fact is, though, that crime in our neck of the woods is headed downward.

Part Eight – The Race for US Senate

Has the phrase “liberal” been redefined by the right as a pejorative adjective?

The “purity purge” is on in Republican politics. They’re being gutted by the tea partiers, and trying to out-crazy them to survive.  If you can watch this race and somehow detach yourself from the politics being pitched, it’s almost as entertaining as watching “American Idol” on mute with the sound track of “Hell’s Kitchen” running in the background.  {Bleep}

Part Nine – The City Council Race for District Two

Faulconer claims the benefits of dry beaches aren’t debatable. So there.  He knew the local booze hounds would forget all their angry rhetoric after a couple of Happy Hours, and he considerably enhanced his image in other voting districts of the City, where he’ll need the support should he decide to run for higher office later on.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby June 7, 2010 at 11:52 am

You can make sure you are registered to vote here: http://www2.sdcounty.ca.gov/rov/Eng/Evoter_query.asp


Jon June 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Doug, you obviously did a LOT of hard work putting all of this together for the OB Rag readers. I just want you to know I appreciate all that went into it. Thank you.

I’m really looking forward to voting at the mortuary tomorrow. I’ve always wanted to go in there, but didn’t want to crash someone’s funeral. That’s typically not as well received as crashing a wedding or house party.


Molly June 8, 2010 at 8:10 am

Just noticed that there wasn’t any coverage of the County Board of Sups races. Why didn’t the Rag cover them? Not to disparage the rest of the coverage which was great


doug porter June 8, 2010 at 9:39 am

you’re right. basically, i ran out of time. the supers races were well covered (h/t to City Beat and Voice of San Diego) and i was trying to fill in what i perceived to be the gaps in local media coverage. given the conservative bent of most primary voters, it’s probable that the incumbents will win handily.
when you’ve got millions of dollars in slush fund monies to hand out, it makes incumbency almost impossible to beat. i did discuss this some in the article about the local ballot props: as much as i dislike the GOP’s deathgrip on the County Board, I think that term limitations haven’t really changed the political landscape for the better.


doug porter June 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm

check out ob rag staff (frank & doug at least) live blogging the election results tonight at sd.votes.com


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