Many had hoped that the first round of the 2018 elections in California would bring big changes and surprises. It doesn’t look that way.

Instead, the election’s preliminary results – it will take a while until everything is counted and final — mostly showed all the things that haven’t changed.

And chief among these lessons of stasis was this: Republicans remain very much California’s second party.

That lesson ran counter to headlines from a week ago that the GOP was now the “third party” because the number of people registering to vote as having no party preference – like yours truly – had surpassed the numbers registering with a Republican preference. (No one in California is actually a Republican, or. Democrat anymore; technically, we only get to register our preferences under the top two system).

But registrations don’t decide elections. Votes do.

And Republicans still vote – and at a much higher rate than the registered nonpartisans. Indeed, while the numbers are early, voters of Republican preference seem to have voted at a higher rate than voters of Democratic preference.

That’s why John Cox easily made the top two, and why Kevin de Leon still may not. Republicans may not win big races, but they remain in the game. Which is why fixing that party – so that it’s a force for conservative values, not racist nationalist ones – is an urgent priority in California, and across the country.

This is a reminder that California cannot transcend the basic realities of America’s partisan politics. Lord knows we’ve tried – with top two, with other measures to weaken parties – and yet partisan affiliation still rules the day. And for all those top two defenders who say that the system is producing more moderates, how do you explain a governor’s race between a more progressive-than-thou former San Francisco mayor and a Republican businessman who earned the second spot with the assistance of a president so far right he isn’t even on the democratic spectrum?

Any successful political reform – unlike the top two horror show – needs to be built on our partisan realities. There is little to no work going on in California to do that. There is no time like the present to start.