Hey, why not January? Two days before the Iowa caucus? I do object to the fact that two states which are 99 percent white set the tone for the whole primary season.
As Ben Franklin said, the definition of “insanity” is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Once again, California politicians complain that our state never gets to choose a presidential nominee because the race is over by the time it gets here. Now the state legislature wants to push up our presidential primary even earlier than before – in the vain hope that we will decide from a wide-open field in 2008. But other states have the same idea too and we may end up having a national primary on February 5th – only one week after New Hampshire. While a February primary could be seen as a boon for progressive activists, the subsequent low-turnout June election poses grave risks, particularly given the attempt to qualify a statewide initiative to ban rent control.
The February primary is a bad idea for many reasons, and California should not fuel the madness. First, it is unlikely that California will get to decide the outcome of the presidential race, even with an earlier primary. Second, a front-loaded schedule puts insurgent candidates at an insurmountable disadvantage, virtually guaranteeing that the establishment candidate (i.e., Hillary Clinton) will win. Third, pushing the whole primary schedule further back forces candidates to campaign even earlier and raise even more money. Fourth, having two California primaries (the presidential one in February and the legislative one in June) will help right-wing propositions sail through in a low-turnout election.
Already, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is gathering signatures to place a “son” of Proposition 90 on the ballot – probably for June 2008. While its language makes it sound less extreme than Prop 90, it is actually worse because of its retroactive effect and would eliminate rent control in California. The religious right will also try to place an anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot – it would also likely be voted on in June 2008.
California’s a very blue state – but past elections have shown that a low turnout can pass right-wing propositions. In March 2000, California had a low statewide turnout — the average voter’s age was fifty – and the state passed a legislative ban on gay marriage (Proposition 22) and a drastic juvenile justice initiative (Proposition 21) by healthy margins.