California is a blue state. It is a very, very blue state. It is the state that single-handedly gave Hillary Clinton her pyrrhic popular vote victory in 2016. But the Golden State’s long-standing Democratic dominance means that politically diverse voices are often left in the wilderness and even more often, California voters are left with too few choices at the ballot box.

Up until two decades ago, this wasn’t true. While California was always more progressive and frankly different than the rest of the country, Republican candidates dominated the governor’s office and the legislature was a toss-up. Those days are long-gone and likely never to return.

California’s voter registration tells the story well. Despite its reputation as far down the left-hand side of the political spectrum, Democratic voter registration stands at about 43%, and has for some time.

During the state’s political transformation after Gov. Pete Wilson left office, the Republican party has experienced a steep and steady decline: now only about a quarter of the state’s voters identify with the GOP. In another few years it’s likely that Republican registration will fall behind No Party Preference (NPP.)

NPP voters might just be California’s political salvation. As noted above, neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties have been able to convince 25% of the state’s voters that they’re worthy of self-identification. Now, though, it is time for more candidates to start running as No Party Preference, or better yet, for a new political party altogether to emerge.

If more Americans than ever have negative opinions of the two major political parties, why is building a new one a) necessary or b) a good idea. There are several reasons. First, most voters are conditioned to look at party label as short-hand for a candidate’s beliefs.

This June, when a voter goes to the voting booth and sees a “D” or an “R” next to a candidate’s name, they can make a fairly accurate assessment of where that individual stands on issues, without any other information necessary. In fact, many voters will probably do just this, especially for offices further down the ballot.

When they see “Independent” or in California’s case “No Party Preference” next to a candidate’s name, it robs the voter of their pre-conditioned shortcuts. Unless a candidate, such as Steve Poizner, has the resources or natural ability to break through the noise of the political cacophony, labeling oneself “No Party Preference” too often leaves the voter in the position of having to guess about a candidate’s beliefs.

Aside from providing context for voters, political parties, when they operate correctly, also provide the infrastructure necessary to both recruit candidates and help them win their campaigns. They provide the volunteers, the field armies and the fundraising base from which candidates can draw to improve their chances on Election Day.

When they win, and that candidate is sworn in as a member of the legislature or Congress, or a statewide office, that same political party provides the mechanisms by which to both promote the politician’s message and provide protection from political opponents.

NPP candidates lack these resources. If they win, they may be the odd-person out, buffeted by both sides to cut quick deals to garner their vote. If they lose, the process, from self-selection to qualification, must begin all over again as there is no organization left to carry on the work of candidate recruitment.

California’s politics lacks the basic competition necessary to engender legitimate debate and produce policy solutions that benefit the state writ large. The two major parties in California are failing to produce any answers and the Democrats have no desire to give up their hegemony over statewide, legislative and local politics. Maintaining power and control are their main drivers.

Why do voters need more and better choices? Because California, for all its august history, its mystical hold it has on the country and the world, still has significant issues its leaders are both unable and unwilling to confront.

Three of the biggest threats to California’s future: lack of reliable water, too little affordable housing and an education system that does not serve its students confront the state’s leaders every day. Yet nothing of significant note has happened in years.

Interest groups on both sides of each of these issues refuse to allow any progress, reform or solutions based on beliefs that too often pit wealthy residents on the coastal plain versus the other 37 million residents of the state. This is not a recipe for short or long-term success and Californians deserve better.

However, the current system will not self-correct. Only new blood, new choices and new options in California’s politics will begin to allow the voices and concerns of all voters to be heard. The process will not be easy, nor will it take place overnight, but it must begin, and it must begin soon.

Reed Galen is Chief Strategist of the Serve America Movement. He can be reached at