Still no competitive elections
September 14, 2012
By Joseph Perkins
By Joseph Perkins
For much of the baseball season, I’ve been following Sports Illustrated’s weekly rankings of all 30 major league baseball clubs.
But I stopped following back in July when it ranked the Boston Red Sox, not even leading its division, the sixth best team in all of baseball, ahead of a dozen teams with better won-lost records, including five actual division leaders.
SI’s MLB Power Rankings came to mind when I read Ballotpedia’s just-released State Legislative Electoral Competitive Index, which asserts, “California’s legislative elections in 2012 are more competitive than most of the country.”
My suspicion was that the authors of the Ballotpedia analysis must have been smoking the same medicinal marijuana as the geniuses responsible SI’s baseball rankings. Because it is as much a joke to rank the Golden State’s legislative elections the nation’s most competitive as it was, back in July, to rank the Sox major league baseball’s sixth-best team.
Where both SI and Ballotpedia went wrong was by basing their rankings on some one-off statistical matrix that had no correlation with true-to-life results, which are all that matter in baseball and elections.
Indeed, in baseball, it’s all about winning percentage. And, in elections, it’s all about the number of seats claimed by Democrats and Republicans when all the counting’s done.
Ballotpedia’s methodology for ranking the competitiveness of legislative elections was based on rather simplistic criteria: whether an incumbent is running; and, if so, whether the incumbent faced a primary challenger; and whether there is only one major party candidate in the general election.
On these bases, Ballotpedia declared California’s election the nation the most competitive.
And the Christian Science Monitor went so far as to attribute California’s supposed electoral competiveness to two putative political reforms the Golden State instituted in recent years:
Taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and giving it to an ostensibly nonpartisan commission. And scrapping the state’s traditional primary system and replacing it with “Top Two” primary in which voters may cast their ballots for any candidate, and the top vote getters advance to the general election, irrespective of parties.
CSM actually suggested that California might be a political model for the rest of the states. Which made me wonder if its political writer was in the same room as the SI geeks and Ballotpedia analysts, toking on California’s medicinal.
Here’s the reality: California has become a one-party state. Democrats hold every statewide elective office. We have a Democrat governor. And both houses of Legislature are Democrat-controlled.
The much ballyhooed political reforms the Monitor mentioned haven’t done squat, as borne out by a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California.
“The primary results were broadly what might have been expected under the old system,” concluded Eric McGee, co-author of the PPIC report.
Indeed, every Democrat incumbent advanced to the November ballot. As did every non-incumbent Democrat backed by the party.
I don’t foresee the Democrat domination of California’s electoral politics ending anytime soon. At least not without real political reforms that create truly competitive legislative districts that guarantee Democrats fewer safe seats.