Independent Candidate Steve Stokes Challenges Two-Party System in California

Mr. Stokes is running in California’s District 28. He is running against the incumbent, Democrat Adam Schiff.

20 thoughts on “Independent Candidate Steve Stokes Challenges Two-Party System in California

  1. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    I don’t know why this link has stopped working. I’ll give it a few hours, but if it isn’t working by later tonight, I’ll pull the article.

  2. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    Interesting what he said about Top 2. It’s true that Top 2 is not a bad idea in theory, as D and R mean so little that just voting on the basis of party is no longer good citizienship.

    Like many reforms, this one seems benign. But it strengthens the grip on the political process enjoyed by monied interests by bracketing out parties altogether, including principled ones.

  3. paulie

    I don’t think it is a good idea even in theory, it shuts out all but the top two from many people’s consideration or awareness and also many of its backers know this and back it for that reason, and some of them even openly admit it is designed to do exactly that.

  4. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    Re. electoral reform, the objective should be proportional representation.

    That said, I’m inclined to prefer Top 2 to party primaries followed by first-past-the-post vote (eg the system in effect almost everywhere else in the USA). If people start paying attention to primaries, Top 2 offers better opportunities for resistance.

    I’m aware of the corporate push for Top 2 and its apparent utility as a fake reform to favor corporate interests.. It’s not hard to guess at the reasoning behind this. If enough states adopt Top 2, then that makes a large-scale 3rd party movement less likely. Even Dem and Rep parties can be difficult to control at the local level. Particularly if one of the parties is a heavy underdog, then anti-corporate candidates might get nominated. Top 2 assists the money power in controlling the process. If a straggler slips through the cracks and makes it to the final 2, then the money power backs the opponent in the media.

    However, perhaps Mr. Stokes is correct that Top 2 also offers opportunities. If it becomes more commonplace for non major party candidates to be elected then it becomes harder for the elites to control the discourse via control of the 2 parties. Even if most people see the 2-party system as the sham that it is, most still strongly prefer one side or the other. which turns out to be a powerful instrument of control.

    People stuck in Top 2 states should orient their electoral action around the open primary. If we can get some non corporate candidates into some of these Top 2 runoffs then that will get some attention.

  5. NewFederalist

    Green _w_o_Adjectives… even as I re-read your posts and understand as best I can your point of view, I still cannot see why Top Two is a good idea. I think your posts make excellent arguments AGAINST it. Perhaps I am missing something.

  6. paulie

    If people start paying attention to primaries, Top 2 offers better opportunities for resistance.

    There’s no incentive for people to pay attention to the primary because no matter what there will be a general election. If 50% plus one guaranteed that there would be no additional election that would be different. Also, timing matters. Voters pay relatively little attention to politics before Labor Day. That does not just change with a new voting system, particularly one that does not give voters much incentive to pay attention earlier.

  7. paulie

    Also, party labels become meaningless, for example a nazi can run as a Green and the Greens can do nothing about it. For candidates that don’t have a lot of money or a major party behind them their ballot label is the single biggest communication tool they have to the voters. Top Two renders that communication meaningless.

  8. Steve Stokes

    We just need to make sure Americans vote in every election. The primaries are most important because that’s where the principled grassroots candidates are. If a candidate can make it to the top-two general election as I have, it becomes a clear cut choice. There can be no claim that the grassroots candidate is splitting the vote which causes some to vote for the lesser-of two evils major-party candidate instead of voting their conscience.

  9. paulie

    About the only time a non-establishment candidate can get into the top two is when the election is basically a done deal before the primary even happens.

  10. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Steve, are you the only Independent who will be on the November ballot in California? (I feel like I should know the answer to this, but I don’t.)

  11. Richard Winger

    Top two supporters never answer the obvious question…if party primaries are no longer used to nominate candidates, what good are they? Just abolish them, as Louisiana has. There is no voting in Louisiana until November (this is true for congressional elections).

  12. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    “Also, party labels become meaningless, for example a nazi can run as a Green and the Greens can do nothing about it. For candidates that don’t have a lot of money or a major party behind them their ballot label is the single biggest communication tool they have to the voters. Top Two renders that communication meaningless.”

    Here we see part of the diabolical genius behind the corporate takeover of politics. We’re already at the point where people know the D and R labels are meaningless or next-to-meaningless. So the people applaud a reform that takes parties out of the picture and seems to return the political game to “independents”. As opponents of Top 2, it’s a difficult task to convince people that political parties are useful when just about everyone’s experience with political parties is bad. When I try to talk to people about alternatives like the Green party, a big hump I face is the perception that ALL political parties are corrupt and political solidarity is useless..

  13. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    Just to be clear I don’t support Top 2–at least Top 2 isn’t my goal. I support proportional represenation, complete transparency in elections, the right to recall/revoke represenatives, and so on.

    “About the only time a non-establishment candidate can get into the top two is when the election is basically a done deal before the primary even happens.”

    Yeah. That’s also exactly how it is now. The thing to like about Top 2 (which is the same thing I liked about the final 2 runoff elections that were held in San Francisco, where Matt Gonzalez was nearly elected mayor) is that the issue of lesser-evilism is pushed to the side. Now the main concern is getting enough votes in the primary to get to the general election,

    As far as the fact that people don’t pay attention except for the week of elections…this is a challenge 3rd party activists face whether they live in a Top 2 state or not. As long as people are disengaged and don’t give a shit we won’t make progress. Our challenge is getting people engaged–getting folks to vote in open primaries is part of that process. The point of such campaigns is not so much to win–it’s to bend people’s ears on the issues that matter to us…including electoral reform. .

    Regarding party labels and ballot lines, one thing I don’t like about the Green and Libertarian parties is that they often have their primary elections on the same ballot as the major parties. Imo it would be better for these parties to disengage from that system and have their own nominating process, perhaps via an internet vote. I know that’s asking alot, but I think it’s something an authentic opposition 3rd party will need to do to achieve credibility among the skeptical masses. Sure, someone in California can say they are a Green but what should really matter is who has the grassroots support of the Green party. Maybe the true Green candidate will get drowned out by more funding for the fake Green, but that’s a challenge we face regardless of electoral system.

  14. paulie

    “About the only time a non-establishment candidate can get into the top two is when the election is basically a done deal before the primary even happens.”

    Yeah. That’s also exactly how it is now.

    No, it’s not how it is now. Right now non-establishment candidates can get on as either the candidate of duopoly party A (usually in a district which leans heavily to duopoly party B) OR as an independent or alt (“third”) party even when the district is evenly split/race is close. The latter gives the ability to swing close elections, get a lot of notice that way, and extract concessions from the duopolists to head the opposition party off at the pass and keep it from becoming a major party. Alt parties such as socialists, progressives and prohibitionists a century ago and to a lesser extent more recent relatively-strong alt parties have used this dynamic to get media and members, build their parties and movements and get duopolists/establishment to “steal” some of their ideas and adopt them into law/policy.

    Top two shuts down the latter avenue (unless two duopolists don’t run in the primary, which wouldn’t happen if both duopoly parties are relatively strong, so in that case making it into the general electon has less impact because the voters and the media will largely ignore the race knowing it is not competitive). And it even helps shut down the first avenue, because instead of say a Ron Paul Republican running in a lopsided Democratic district or a strong progressive being the only Democrat to step up in a lopsided Republican district you may actually end up with two Republicans or two Democrats facing each other in the real election.

    The thing to like about Top 2 (which is the same thing I liked about the final 2 runoff elections that were held in San Francisco, where Matt Gonzalez was nearly elected mayor) is that the issue of lesser-evilism is pushed to the side. Now the main concern is getting enough votes in the primary to get to the general election,

    In a runoff there is reason to pay attention to the first round because it can actually elect someone. Not so with top two. And getting through the primary is virtually impossible except in a race that voters and media will pay little attention to in the real election because it is so lopsided. Getting covered as a “spoiler” is not ideal but at least you can actually get noticed that way, and some people will like your idea and even push the bigger parties to adopt them. Whereas with top two you can just be safely ignored in the primary usually in a crowded field with a meaningless ballot label and few voters or media paying attention at all. And if you so happen to make it through the primary you can still be ignored because you are in a non-competitive one on one race with an entrenched incumbent/successor and as far as the media or most voters are concerned you are not even a spolier you are just nothing. No reason to notice or care that you exist and thus no real benefit from running. Knowing this most non-establishment candidates don’t even bother to run in the primary, and the few that do get far less notice than they could have had even as long shot candidates in the general election. And building a different party brand is impossible unless you have megamillion$ since anyone can run with any label regardless of how inaccurately it describes their views.

    Runoff is way different. You can be noticed in a first round that people actually pay attention to because it can actually elect someone while having an answer to the people that worry about electing the “greater evil.” Also runoffs tend to be after the traditional election season in November. So again, a world of difference.

    As far as the fact that people don’t pay attention except for the week of elections…this is a challenge 3rd party activists face whether they live in a Top 2 state or not.

    Well, there’s a big difference when you get eliminated before people pay attention whereas in a non top one and a half state you are on the ballot and running during that time, **even in close elections that people actually pay a lot of attention to.** So no, it’s not the same in non top two states.

    Our challenge is getting people engaged–getting folks to vote in open primaries is part of that process.

    Top two is not the same as an open primary. This is a deliberate confusion tactic by top two backers. An open primary is when anyone can choose which primary to vote in regardless of which party if any they are registered with, not a blanket primary for the two duopoly parties merged into one with dishonestly labelled others thrown into the mish-mosh. Getting people to pay attention to that mess is a losing battle. Most people correctly deduce that they can start paying attention when the real election contest begins with just the candidates than can actually get elected. They let the tiny number of political junkies and electoral machine shills sort out the candidates to get into the real election for them. And besides they have other priorities in the spring and summer.

    The point of such campaigns is not so much to win–it’s to bend people’s ears on the issues that matter to us…including electoral reform. .

    With far fewer people paying attention during the primary non-election (kind of like the qualifying round for the olympics; a lot less people watch that than the actual olympics) there are a lot fewer ears to bend. In fact that is the actual fully intended point of top two which some of its big money backers have openly admitted.

    Regarding party labels and ballot lines, one thing I don’t like about the Green and Libertarian parties is that they often have their primary elections on the same ballot as the major parties. Imo it would be better for these parties to disengage from that system and have their own nominating process

    Agreed. But either way, it would still be better than having no control at all over their ballot label. And in many states they actually pick their candidates in convention or in the case of the Oregon LP by mail ballot to only registered Oregon Libertarian voters. Far different than having Jim Nutcase, Joe Nazi etc run under your party label and make it mean nothing to voters.

    perhaps via an internet vote.

    Not sure that has evolved to be secure enough yet, but maybe.

    Maybe the true Green candidate will get drowned out by more funding for the fake Green, but that’s a challenge we face regardless of electoral system.

    We don’t face the challenge of fake Greens or fake LP nearly as much in most states because they can be eliminated in the primary or convention and not sully the party name and brand to the voters in the general election. The process is not perfect but far better than what happens with top two.

  15. paulie

    Here we see part of the diabolical genius behind the corporate takeover of politics. We’re already at the point where people know the D and R labels are meaningless or next-to-meaningless. So the people applaud a reform that takes parties out of the picture and seems to return the political game to “independents”. As opponents of Top 2, it’s a difficult task to convince people that political parties are useful when just about everyone’s experience with political parties is bad. When I try to talk to people about alternatives like the Green party, a big hump I face is the perception that ALL political parties are corrupt and political solidarity is useless..

    Exactly.

    But top two eliminates that option effectively, regardless of what challenges it faces now.

  16. paulie

    Does the AFSP have any candidates of its own or ballot access anywhere or does it just endorse other candidates who are already running without the AFSP label? Does the AFSP offer any help beyond an endorsement to the candidates it endorses?

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