Sunday, February 22, 2009

CA and the runoff primary

I'm bummed that personal matters and professional responsibilities have kept me from blogging lately, particularly during a time when California budget politics was going nuts. At any rate, as you likely know, California did manage to come to terms with its budget, finding a moderate Republican (Sen. Abel Maldonado) to cross over and vote to raise taxes. He seems well aware that his career in Republican politics is about over.

Included in the compromise was a provision to put a constitutional amendment before the state's voters that, if approved, would create Louisiana-style primary elections. In these elections, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would go to a runoff. In many districts, this would likely mean a runoff election between two candidates of the same party.

Schwarzenegger and Maldonado love this plan:

Schwarzenegger said the current primary system – which has led to few moderate legislators – discourages bipartisanship.

"It's not good for politics," Schwarzenegger said of an open primary system. "But remember, what is not good for politics is good for the people. That's the bottom line."

This is a pretty obnoxious line, assuming that politics is antithetical to the public will rather than the manifestation of it. But you can see why Schwarzenegger would be saying this sort of thing. He's governor because of a glitch in the party system; the recall election in California does not allow for party primaries. He likely would not have survived a regular Republican primary because his views on social issues are so out of step with those of GOP primary voters in California. More open primaries means more Schwarzenegger-like moderates getting into power. It potentially paves the way for a Republican majority in the statehouse, although that will take a lot of work to pull that off.

My take on the Louisana-style primary is far less positive than Schwarzenegger's. As I've written elsewhere, weakened parties tend to produce less accountable government and allow for greater corrpution. I'm really curious whether voters will approve this amendment.

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