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Elections in California Are a Farce, Part II

There are several comments to my piece “Elections in California Are a Farce” that deserve a response:

A common critique was that I am merely experiencing what progressive voters in some Red states experience, but in reverse, so stop my whining.  To this I disagree—at least in part—on several counts.

For example, Texas is—in theory—still a competitive state.  In 2018, Beto O’Rourke came within 2.6 percentage points of beating Ted Cruz.  Current polling shows Cruz in a tough race for reelection.  And, although not likely this cycle, there is still a glimmer of hope on the part of Democrats that a Democratic presidential candidate could win Texas.  The split between Biden and Trump in 2020 was a little less than 6 points.

In contrast, there is not even a remote possibility that a Republican would win a majority in either a presidential or senatorial race in California.  Biden beat Trump by 29 points in the Golden State.  Now, I know what you’re going to say, “That’s just because Trump (Boo! Hiss!) was so unpopular.  OK:  Obama beat Romney (every progressive’s favorite Republican—or is that Lynne Cheney?) by 21 points.  A little better, but once you get past 10 percentage points, who cares?

And I’m sorry to say that Steve Garvey’s “surge” is just another example of how impotent California Republicans have become.  Schiff toyed with Garvey like a cat with a mouse.  There are going to be a lot of Republican tears flowing in California on election night.

Furthermore, there’s a lot more political diversity in the supposed Red State monoliths than there is in California.  For instance, Ohio and Montana each have a Democratic senator.  Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas have Democratic governors.  In Arizona and Georgia—which until two minutes ago were considered DEEP RED STATES—Dems (or whatever Kyrsten Sinema is) control either all (AZ) or most (GA) of the big three power positions (two senators and governor).

That said, I do concede that an authentic democracy no longer exists in any state with a permanent, structural, governing majority wherein every political question is decided by one party—or perhaps even one person.  That goes for Alabama as much as California.  The difference being, California is the biggest, most powerful, most activist state in the Union.

However, the argument that “This is how DEMOCRACY! works:  the side that gets 50% plus one gets to do whatever it wants, so love it or lump it,” is hardly the argument stopper its users imagine.  There’s another word for that kind of exertion of power against political minorities—tyranny.

In a Republic, which the country-at-large still is (at least for the meantime) there is a balance of interests.  In our system those interests are represented by the states in the Senate.  Those interests are bolstered by the filibuster and the presidential veto (the president also being elected by the states through the Electoral College).

In California the requirement that tax increases are subject to a supermajority in the Legislature is a similar check on state power.  Of course, you need a 1/3 minority in at least one House to override such proposals.  Republicans are no longer able to muster that proportion.  Similar supermajority provisions for spending measures exist on the local level, which the Legislature is currently trying to undo in the form of ACA 1.

Finally, the charge that I am just complaining is a complete distortion.  In fact, I was actually arguing that, as dissidents in the Eastern Bloc countries came to realize, there is a way to resist tyranny outside of the political process, such resistance being futile in a state with entrenched party rule (hence the comparison to contemporary California).  This resistance can take many forms (in the case of Vaclav Havel’s Czechoslovakia it could involve going to a rock concert) but ultimately comes down to individuals refusing to comply with the various demands put on them by the state that serve not to protect order or justice, but the interests of the party.

In essence, my point is that attempts to effect change in California solely through party politics or elections will be in vain.

J.S. Scifo is a North County resident who has worked in national and state politics.  You can also follow him at J.S. Scifo on Substack | Substack.

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