The federal government has been something of a train wreck lately. The shutdown was just the latest in a seemingly endless parade of partisan bickering and dysfunction. Not long ago, California’s government suffered from similar problems: intense partisan conflict and late, out-of-balance budgets. In response, voters approved an independent redistricting and a “top two” primary. The first denied incumbents the power to directly draw their own lines and the second let primary voters choose any candidate, regardless of party, with the top two candidates advancing to a fall runoff. The goals included empowering independent voters and clipping the wings of partisan extremism. California has now seen on-time budgets and progress on several major policy fronts. Democrats have reached a dominance not seen in decades, yet have not passed a tax increase and on many key bills have even supported the position of pro-business organizations more closely associated with Republicans. This has generated a lot of interest outside the state. Could these reforms be the medicine for what ails D.C.? Not so fast. We’re getting ahead of the evidence.
The new district lines did create havoc for many incumbents, causing several retirements for example. But the elections themselves were not quite as competitive as some have suggested. Four in every five races was decided by more than 10 points, and only three incumbents running for the legislature lost reelection.
The new primary system did change the rules, and 28 general-election contests featured the novelty of pitting two candidates of the same party against each other. But all but nine of the 153 winners in the general election would have made it out of the primary and won under the old rules. And of the same-party races, fundraising, personality or geographic power bases might have explained more than “moderation.” One study found that voters could not even figure out which candidates were moderate and which were extreme, while another study found that the positions candidates took in the 2012 campaign were actually more polarized than before.
Full Article: Has California cured its political dysfunction? Not so fast..