This November a Republican – businessman John Cox – will be one of two gubernatorial candidates in the state of California. This is significant because of the Golden State’s unique “jungle primary” system in which the top-two vote-getters proceed to a run-off election regardless of party.
The “jungle primary” was championed by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. His reasoning was that eliminating party-identification in a race would give Republican candidates a better chance in a deeply blue state. Of course, the effect was just the opposite. With so many blue voters, the controversial system virtually guarantees that the top two candidates are Democrats. The result has been that many voters not aligned with the Democrat platform have been repeatedly forced to choose between candidates that don’t in any way represent them.
Among the conservative set California has long been the object of scorn and ridicule. Many residents who complain publicly about the increasingly oppressive and wasteful state government (including myself) often receive responses that range from, “You people keep voting for this!” to “You need to just move. It’ll never get better!”. Such comments are unhelpful and frankly, rude.
Moving is an expensive proposition no matter where you live. For many California residents the reality is that their income barely covers their day-to-day living expenses. Saving for a move out of state is more than a notion.
Also, Californians don’t “keep voting for this”. California is a huge state. Many residents consistently vote down intrusive regulations and excessive taxation. Unfortunately those voters face two gigantic problems. The first problem is that the interests of Californians who live in rural and suburban areas (which make up the majority of California’s geography) greatly rival the interests of those who live in urban centers. The second problem is that 80% of Californians live in urban centers – most notably Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
A look at the voting map from Tuesday’s primaries shows the problem in full detail.
Democrat Gavin Newsom pulled a “Hillary” and secured most of the coastal dwellers. Everyone else chose the Republican candidate.
California desperately needs a state Electoral College.
John Adams faced varying opposition to his support for an Electoral College, but being from a largely rural, farming and having traveled to city-centers in other colonies as well as overseas he intimately understood the differences in lifestyle and interests. He knew that geography was a huge determining factor in values and needs. Adams recognized that as Americans gravitated more towards urban centers it would shift populations, devaluing the vote of those who lived in less populated states.
What was to stop a presidential candidate from simply ignoring less populated states on the campaign trails and only catering to the concerns of states with larger populations? Americans had just fought a long, bitter war against the centralization of power. A popular vote would only drive the country right back toward the problem they had fought so bitterly to eradicate.
An Electoral College assures every citizen that their vote counts no matter their economic or geographical circumstances.
Here in California a great example of how divided the interests of our population are is the issue of water. With a large portion of the state being desert or having desert-like conditions, water is an important factor in prosperity. Unsurprisingly voters who gather in large urban areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco overwhelmingly skew left on most issues, including the environment. They typically vote for water restrictions, conservation and bans on activities and materials that may (or may not) effect the environment.
However, while city voters are gleefully choosing water restrictions, farmers from California’s Central Valley have had their livelihood’s throttled over the past few decades. Farmland has dried up. Cattle farms have been choked out of livestock provisions, leading to worsening conditions for the animals or forcing cattle farmers to abandon their trade altogether. Behemoth corporations – which urban voters also hate – are becoming the only entities capable of maintaining farming operations. Gone are the family farms of the past. This is the era of “Walmart and Amazon” farming.
Because the Central Valley and other areas like it house fewer residents, they are routinely ignored by gubernatorial candidates. What’s the point in wasting all that time listening to people in Modesto complain about losing generations of hard work when the votes you need to win are concentrated in just three cities?
The current living conditions in California are the result of centralized power. You only matter here if you live in one of three cities. You need only to look to every gubernatorial election commercial to see it. What are the issues they highlight in their 30-second spot? Not the absolute desperation of farmers trying to feed their crops, that’s for sure. If you’re excited for more money for food stamps, a crappy public transportation system and a non-existent high speed rail to nowhere then you’ll enjoy the glut of election ads.
A state Electoral College would be an absolute game-changer in California, even in county/local races. Unfortunately the current system gives Democrats a monopoly on power. It is hard to imagine any one of them looking at that voter map and choosing to give voters who live outside of the major urban centers a fair shot.
But imagine for one moment what things might look like if we somehow managed to officially lend the same weight to the voters of the Central Valley as we do to the voters of Los Angeles.
Any candidate who ran on the issue of giving us an Electoral College would definitely get my vote. Unfortunately at this moment, that isn’t worth very much.