Schwarzenegger's Win

More

The biggest news out of California last night was not an election: it was the endorsement of a ballot initiative, Proposition 14, that might radically change the type of candidate who seeks and wins congressional and statewide officers. The "Top Two Primary Act" allows voters of any political party to pick anyone who qualifies for the ballot for a particular race regardless of party. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sees Prop 14 as a big piece of his legacy.

The practical effect will be incentivize candidates to avoid the trap of having to run one type of campaign to win base voters and another type of campaign to win the general election. It is conceivable that, with such a system in place, Senate candidate Carly Fiorina wouldn't have felt it necessary to sharply tack to the right. But the same system would have required a lot more energy and expenditure from the incumbent, Barbara Boxer.  

Who funded the initiative? Chamber of Commerce types, who know that pragmatic candidates won't want to alienate business interests in the state. It was opposed by activists from both parties, who believe it to be an incumbent protection measure of first order. 

Good government types are cautiously pessimistic, because they knew that third party candidates now have virtually no chance to being elected to statewide office unless they're charismatic and spend a lot of money. Richard Winger of Ballot Access News opposed Prop 14 and notes that California now has one of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country. 

Will candidates with new ideas be disincentivized from running? Will California only nominate candidates who reflect the median political values expressed by a California voter? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Will candidates have more power to shape their campaigns than political parties?  Unknown, unknown, unknown and unknown.

And will this system survive a federal court challenge? A similar scheme in Washington State is already being challenged in federal court. 
Jump to comments
Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In