The Top Two and CA Politics

The Top Two has now passed, and as Mike, Thad, and I have written (not completely joking) in a few Facebook conversations with other political scientists, at least this gives us all some natural experiments to study.

I’ve been quoted as being against the top two in Oregon and in CA, mainly because it was sold in OR and somewhat in CA as solution to all the ills that bedevil our political system.

Our colleague John Sides has written a number of good posts over at summarizing the discipline’s position on the top two, which can be distilled down to one phrase: not much.  It is unlikely to have much of an effect on election outcomes, partisan polarization, etc.  That might be used as an argument to pass the initiative, but I think some of us don’t like messing around with constitutions just in the hopes that something good will come out of it.

This post would not be complete without a shout out to Rick Hasen who has been an able advocate for the measure.

Nonetheless, the system is now in place, and save a successful court challenge, political scientists will be all over California elections for the next few cycles to see if this system really will awaken independents, decrease partisan polarization, and resolve problems in the California legislature.