Does California’s broken top two system now threaten the future of humanity?

I’m not joking. For those of us who see Trump as a threaten to the existence of the species, the answer is actually yes.

Before Trump, top two was merely a thoughtless and irresponsible political reform. It eliminated primaries, suppressed turnout, and encouraged political gamesmanship.

But with Trump in office and casually threatening nuclear war, the stakes are higher. The world needs a real Congressional check on Trump’s power, but California’s top two might prevent that from happening.

To slow Trump down, Democrats need to take back the House. And to do that, they need big pickups in California. They would have them in a normal election system, but top two could make that harder.

Because the top two eliminated primaries (though the state mistakenly labels the first round of voting a “primary”), all the candidates of all parties are together on the ballot. Democrats have produced a wave of many challenges to Republican Congresssional incumbents in California. In a normal system, that would be a good thing. But under top two, that could be disastrous for the party.

Why? Because only the top two candidates regardless of party advanced. So the many Democratic candidates in a race could split the vote into such tiny pieces that they all have fewer votes than two Republicans, even if the number of the votes for Republicans is much lower.

Harold Meyerson, writing in the LA Times, recently offered one scenario.

“Suppose — and it’s anything but a wild supposition — that the Koch brothers funding network, or some other group of mega-rich donors, decides to fund two Republicans in each of those races, giving those candidates a decided advantage. Suppose the three leading Democrats in each of those races stay in the race, along with the other Democrats still in the field. (There are seven Democratic candidates in Royce’s district.) Suppose, in the June primary, the total vote for the district’s Republican candidates comes to 44%, with the two leaders each winning 20%. Suppose the total vote for the district’s Democratic candidates comes to 54% (let’s say 2% goes to minor party candidates), but it’s split so many ways that the leading Democrat gets just 19%.”

Such a phenomenon in a couple of races could keep the House out of Democratic hands, and allow Trump to pursue whatever planet-destroying policies come into his head.

Still, the state’s goo-goo reformers – like Lenny Mendonca and the folks at California Forward – continue to trumpet the top two as a positive reform, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Perhaps they’re betting that after the apocalypse, no one will be alive to point out just how disastrously wrong they were.