The California Target Book, which I publish, just mailed out to subscribers its updated analyses of the key congressional and state legislative races in California this year.
What stands out is that even in the most competitive races, the overwhelming majority of voters decided to not vote.
Early this year, Congressman Henry Waxman announced that he would not seek reelection, opening up a Congressional seat for the first time in 40 years.
Waxman’s CD33 includes some of the wealthiest communities in the country, stretching from the Palos Verdes Peninsula north to Malibu. It also includes Beverly Hills and the surrounding Los Angeles neighborhoods of Bel Air and the Pacific Palisades.
No fewer than 18 candidates filed to run in the June Primary, a full smorgasbord that included former Los Angeles City Controller/Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, Torrance/South Bay state Senator Ted Lieu, local NPR radio personality Matt Miller – all Democrats – and Marianne Williamson, a well known spiritual teacher, author and lecturer who ran as an independent (No Party Preference). Elan Carr, a deputy district and Jewish community activist, was one of thee Republicans on the ballot. They spent a combine $4.7 million reaching out to voters.
More than 76 percent of the voters declined to cast a ballot, the turnout was just 23.5%.
It was worse in the heavily Latino San Bernardino County congressional race in CD31, an open seat due to GOP Rep. Gary Miller not seeking reelection. Two strong Democrats: Redlands City Councilman Pete Aguilar and attorney Eloise Reyes who was endorsed by EMILY’s List; and two strong Republicans: Navel intelligence officer Paul Chabot and Capitol Hill staffer Leslie Gooch, were the serious contenders battling it out. Only 17 percent of the voters turned out.
Statewide, the voter turnout was an historic low of just 25%.
This is well beyond voter apathy. This, I believe, is an electorate that is so disgusted with politics in America today that rather than attempting to change it through the elective process, they are tuning out.
I wish I had a solution to the problem. Weak presidential leadership and a gridlocked do-nothing Congress is a big part, but also is the way campaigns are waged today. There is too much money – mostly from outside interests – being spent to fund too many TV ads and too many mailers that regurgitate the same hyper-partisan rhetoric we can hear daily on FOX News or MSNBC.
What we are seeing is the collapse of our two-party system, with neither party any longer being able to appeal to the vast majority of voters.