One-party rule inhibits representative government




If there ever was doubt about Marin being a one-party stronghold, new data from Registrar of Voters Lynda Roberts puts it to rest.

Of Marin’s 155,431 registered voters, 56.2 percent are Democrats. In second place with 23.4 percent are those, like myself, who declare No Party Preference (NPP). Coming in third, Republicans compose only 16.3 percent of the county’s electorate, down slightly from last year.

Marin is within California’s mainstream, where 44.77 percent of voters are registered as Democrats, 25.9 percent GOP and 24.5 percent NPP.

California’s political moderates have tended to register as independents since the Republican brand became toxic. It’s not just Donald Trump. With the exception of sparsely populated rural counties, Californians don’t have an appetite for the political right’s go-it-alone ideology.

Everywhere it’s been practiced, one-party rule inhibits representative government. By definition, elections in one-party bailiwicks are dominated by topics meaningful to the majority party’s coalition partners.

If we had viable two-party elections for the state Legislature we wouldn’t be talking about the format of multi-gender bathrooms or questioning the science of climate change. It’s why reforming debt-ridden public employee pension set-ups are always deferred until another day. California’s public employee unions call the shots within the Democratic caucus just as the National Rifle Association puts fear into the hearts of GOP legislators.

In a one-party jurisdiction, moderate candidates of the dominant party are at a disadvantage because the party’s most ideological have the organization and funds to overwhelm the process. There’s no institutionalized political center to supply volunteers, cash and campaign management for centrist candidates.

The only way to disrupt the current dysfunctional system is to spawn a new political movement melding the center-left and center-right into a pragmatic majority. How different might America be if we, like Canada, had three instead of just two serious political parties?

A centrist party allows existing parties to fulfill their destinies.

Democrats could rush past the mild democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders and become the California version of Britain’s Labour complete with a local Jeremy Corbin. Public employees, aficionados of identity politics and “protected class” victimization wouldn’t have to tolerate pesky “Business Democrats.”

Likewise the GOP would remain an uncompromising party yearning for “strongmen” like Trump, opposing immigration, favoring lower taxes and opposing all unions while fearlessly calling for “open carry” laws. Republicans wouldn’t have to endure Country Club Republicans out of touch with the party’s blue collar base.


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That leaves everyone else to join a new party, enabling the Golden State to meet its full potential. All that’s needed to accomplish this political earthquake are folks with energy, money and will power. That’s just what 19th Century California poet Sam Walker Foss sought when he cried, “Bring me men (and I’d add women) to match my mountains.” Might there be Marinites willing to take a leadership role?

•••

Assemblyman Marc Levine should be Marin’s unofficial elected official of 2017 for his efforts to change the state’s land-use definition of San Rafael, Novato and unincorporated Marin from the preposterous “urban” to the obvious “suburban.” The impact is crucial, as the distinction determines the “default density’ for future high-density housing projects when it comes to state mandates.

The Greenbrae Democrat had Marinites’ back when he endured barbs from urban legislators, housing activists and, hypocritically, the San Francisco Chronicle. The city loves density when it comes to “suburbs” but takes a pass when high-rise projects are suggested for the Sunset, Marina and Richmond districts or in any of its other “people scaled” neighborhoods. Levine’s wily maneuver was to insert the change in the state’s must-pass “budget trailer bill.” It was successfully finalized when Gov. Brown signed it.

Columnist Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley writes about local issues on Sundays and Wednesdays. Email him at spotswood@comcast.net.

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