Top Two a Victory for Uncle Bob

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Dear Uncle Bob (Hertzberg),

You are the Great Gatsby!

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that “the test of a first-rate intelligence intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Uncle Bob, you are a first-rate intelligence.

I can’t tell you how much I admire the latest exposition of that intelligence.

I love how you have become such a voice, and a force, for more participation, more civic engagement and less domination by money and power. You’re backing legislation to make it easier for people to vote, for example. And I love that you are doing this while celebrating the new top two system, which as you know discourages participation and gives more power to the wealthy and powerful.

Not everyone is smart enough to pull that juxtaposition off.

That celebration will continue this week, with what I’m sure will be a first-rate-intelligent summit in Sacramento to discuss the wonders of the top two, hosted by California Forward (where you used to be a mucky muck) and other backers.

I sure hope that they won’t get bogged down in the collapse of voter participation in California, especially among the independents top two was supposed to benefit. And I trust no one will talk about the weakening of political parties, and no one will dwell on the sour truth that parties are the primary way of engagement in the democratic world.

That’s so negative, and what I love about you is you’re a positive guy. Instead, they should focus on all the people who benefit from top two – right-thinking, center-minded folks who are either rich themselves or have rich backers. You know, the right people — like you!

Because participation is money, and the top two creates so much participation. You need more money in the first round of the top two to distinguish yourself from all the other candidates in the clusterf–k. And in the second round bloodbath, you need more money to launch personal attacks on the other person in the race, since, when top two works as intended, you’re likely running against someone of the same party who doesn’t have substantive policy differences with you.

And, while the evidence is limited, the hope is that this is producing representatives who owe less to slimy things like parties or interest groups, and owe more to all the noble participants who gave them even more money than legislators used to get.

I just love reform that encourages participation like that!

Anyway, I don’t see your name on the agenda, but I hope you’ll drop by to take a victory lap. You deserve it.

Abrazos,
Joe

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