Lessons from the Left Coast Primaries

On the minds of Left Coast voters are some major concerns, which happened to be revealed in California’s recent primary elections.

It’s been said, “As California goes, so goes the nation,” so it may be that California’s primaries are also a foreshadowing of things to come in November’s general midterm elections.

Democratic Party turnout in the Golden State was dismal this time around. It may be an indication that liberal and even moderate Dems are experiencing a lack of enthusiasm.

At the same time, the primary election results showed that Republicans and Independents are deeply concerned over rising crime rates, exorbitant gas prices, and soaring food and housing costs.

Two of the Left Coast’s largest cities let their electoral voices be heard loud and clear.

In San Francisco, a far-left prosecutor was actually recalled. The electoral earthquake occurred when voters overwhelmingly chose to terminate District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s job right in the middle of his first term.

Boudin, a public defender-turned-district attorney was fired via a recall election, primarily for his policies of non-prosecution of criminal activity, lenient sentencing of criminals, and abolishment of cash bail, all of which resulted in a horrific spike in violent crime.

The ousting of Boudin should serve as a warning signal for politicians and government officials, apart from political affiliations. Those who promote, pursue, and implement policies that de-fund law enforcement agencies, reduce sentences of convicted felons, release back into society those who have not yet completed their prison time, eliminate cash bail, and abuse prosecutorial discretion may be in for a day of reckoning.

Boudin’s removal may also be a predictor for another elected official, one in Los Angeles County. A campaign is underway to recall District Attorney George Gascón, who appears to be cut from the same left-leaning political cloth as the aforementioned San Francisco prosecutor.

Before Gascón set his sights on destroying the criminal justice system in Los Angeles, he was Boudin’s predecessor as the district attorney of San Francisco.

The primary elections in Los Angeles were illuminating, particularly when it came to the mayoral race. Real estate developer Rick Caruso, a former Republican, came in first, with Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass finishing second. The two are set to face one another in November, and right now Caruso appears to have an edge in the upcoming race.

Caruso left the Republican Party in 2019 and registered as a Democrat in 2022. He ran a campaign that emphasized a tough on crime position and a determination to address the homeless crisis.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who survived a recall vote in 2021, was able to avoid any serious competition in the recent primary election, partially due to the unusual manner in which the state currently conducts its primaries. This November, Newsom will face the second-place primary election finisher, GOP state lawmaker Brian Dahle.

A whole lot of voters who participated in the Golden State’s primary were understandably confused by the ballot. What they saw, in addition to the incumbent Newsom’s name, was a dizzying array of 27 gubernatorial candidates, 14 of which were labeled as Republicans. Those who, prior to casting their votes, researched the candidates’ qualifications and positions on issues had quite a difficult and time-consuming challenge.

It wasn’t always like this. Years ago, via a ballot initiative, voters eliminated conventional closed primaries and replaced them with a so-called blanket primary system. Consequently, all candidates appeared on the same ballot in the form of a list. The top vote-getter from each party advanced to the general election.

The Supreme Court actually struck down this system, saying that it violated a political party’s First Amendment right of association. However, with a push from then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California voters passed a new electoral initiative for something called the “top-two” open primary system.

In this system, all candidates on the list from all political parties, along with non-affiliated candidates, appear on the same ballot, with the top two finishers, regardless of party, advancing to the November general election.

This system and other types of open primaries frequently have unintended consequences that seriously undermine the main purpose of primary elections – to afford political parties the opportunity to pick their own candidates.

The conventional closed primary limits participation strictly to those who are designated party members. This concept relates to the previously mentioned right of free association contained in the Constitution.

Open primary laws violate the freedom of association of a political party, because they force a party to allow outsiders to select its candidates, a patently unfair and non-representative construct. Such primaries enable members of opposing political parties to subvert the nominating process.

Additionally, the California top-two primary system and similar designs oftentimes create circumstances that are disturbingly disenfranchising to voters.

In 2016, listed on the primary ballot in a run for U.S. Senate were 34 candidates. The top two finishers ended up being members of the same Democratic Party.

The top two vote-getters happened to be Loretta Sanchez and the now-Vice President Kamala Harris. Both emerged from the Senate primary as the lone candidates listed on the general election ballot. Their political parties, ideological positions, and policy proposals were, for the most part, identical.

This left voters with no real choice. However, Harris had the party backing, and she ended up winning the senate seat in a low turnout election.

The top-two primary system hasn’t delivered the increase in voter turnout that its proponents promised either. Since 2012, when the top-two rules took effect, turnout in primaries has averaged just 37.6% of registered voters.

In the recent primary, only 16% of the roughly 22 million mail-in ballots sent to voters were cast, and based on the count thus far experts believe the final turnout will be a record low.

Conversely, in a conventional closed primary system the top vote-getter from each partymoves on to the general election, thereby giving voters a bona fide choice.

This is what a functioning republic looks like.

Maybe it’s time for another visit to the Supreme Court.

California Bill Flies in the Face of James Madison

James Madison was a giant of a man.

Born on a Virginia tobacco plantation in March of 1751, he was the eldest boy in a family of twelve children.

Being smaller of stature and suffering from ill health, he would be unable to see battle during The Revolutionary War. But fight for his country he would in more ways than he could ever have imagined.

Young Madison attended the College of New Jersey, which would eventually become more famously known as Princeton University. At the time, the institution was actually an evangelical seminary.

A protégé of sorts, he studied directly under the tutelage of the college president, Reverend John Witherspoon. This would be where young Madison would develop an untold appreciation for individual rights, limited government, and, most importantly, the freedom to worship.

Reverend Witherspoon was attune to the importance of the development of an internal moral sense, an ethical compass, if you will, which he viewed as being instilled in all human beings by God.

As destiny would have it, Reverend Witherspoon would not only influence young Madison, but he himself would go on to be the only active clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence.

One time during his travels in Virginia, Madison came across a jail in which a group of Baptist preachers were being detained. The ministers had been arrested as a result of their open expression of their religious beliefs.

Madison was so deeply affected by the injustice he had witnessed, he rushed off a prayer request to his friend William Bradford “for Liberty and Conscience to revive among us.” The experience would further spur him on to become a fierce advocate of religious liberty.

He expressed his passion for religious freedom in his involvement with the new constitution that was being written for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Strengthening a clause that was written by George Mason, he transformed the language of the text from a government grant to an inalienable right.

Over the next decade Madison would be involved in various other religious liberty battles. And in 1785, he would pen one of the most powerful defenses of religious liberty ever written, the “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments.”

After the Constitution, as Madison wrote it, was ratified by Congress in 1788 and came into effect in 1789, many leaders wanted to add additional material containing the fundamental rights with which government could not interfere. However, the Constitution itself specifies that the adding of such material can only be done through amendments.

Madison initially opposed the idea of putting additional amendments into the Constitution. As the author of the Constitution, he considered his work so complete that no additional amendments were thought to be needed.

He and his colleagues believed that the Constitution placed enough limits on government, via the separation of powers, to safeguard individual rights.

Madison was also concerned that listing some freedoms in amendments, but not others, would lead government officials to believe that they could do whatever was not explicitly forbidden by the document.

It was providential that Madison had a friendship and political alliance with Thomas Jefferson. He actually served as the third president’s secretary of state.

Jefferson had written a series of letters from Paris, France, attempting to persuade his friend to change his mind about the Bill of Rights. Madison did eventually come to believe that amendments setting forth our rights might impress upon the nation the importance of placing limitations on state power.

Madison became the point man for the Bill of Rights, taking on the mantle not only of drafting the amendments, but of also shepherding the founding document through the legislative process. Drawing on Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights and Britain’s Magna Carta, he wrote the Bill of Rights and presented it to Congress in June of 1789.

The Bill of Rights, which of course includes our cherished First Amendment, was ratified on December 15, 1791.

Among myriad other amazing accomplishments, Madison served as secretary of state in the Jefferson administration. Then following in the presidential footsteps of his friend, he became the fourth president of the United States in March of 1809 and served until March of 1817.

President Madison would be cut to the core if he were here to witness what is currently being proposed in California – a bill that would actually dismiss from service those members of law enforcement who hold certain religious and/or political beliefs.

Under the pretext of seeking the elimination of “hate speech,” the proposed law would virtually place the government in the position of denying police officers the ability to be employed or to remain employed, based on their Christian beliefs and/or conservative principles.

The legislation’s name is a misleading one, the California Law Enforcement Accountability Reform Act. It would require law enforcement agencies to determine if potential hires are guilty of thought crimes. It would also allow existing officers, who are subjectively determined to hold incorrect or unapproved beliefs, to be fired.

The California Assembly Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider the piece of legislation on April 6. But its language is so broad and ambiguous it stands as a textbook violation of the protections of religious liberty and freedom of speech, which are engraved in the First Amendment.

While our First Amendment rights weren’t specifically enumerated in the original text of the Constitution, Madison ensured that the rights would be enshrined within the amendment process.

He authored the inspired words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Read it and weep California. Madison is.