From California Political Review Online
By William E. Saracino
Riordan Rides Again
The ‘No More Reagans’ Initiative
The David Duke primary system repudiates the man and the legacy being celebrated throughout the world.
“We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged to the same goals as our opposition and who seek our support. Turning the Party over to the so-called moderates wouldn’t make any sense at all.”
— Ronald Reagan, 1965
A small cabal of millionaire Republicans, tired of losing GOP primaries because they are out of step with GOP voters, has decided to change the rules. They are bankrolling a November ballot proposition that would force California to adopt the election system used by that paragon of civic virtue: Louisiana.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, former Assemblyman Brooks Firestone, and the usual suspects from the “new majority” plutocracy want California to adopt the system that produced Klansman David Duke as one of two final choices for Louisiana governor. Sounds crazy, but there is method to their madness.
The wannabe oligarchs’ system has all candidates of all parties appear on the same ballot for all voters in the “first” (primary) election. The top two vote getters for each office, regardless of party, would then advance to a “run-off” (general) election. The predictable result: urban voters would see November elections with two Democrats as their only choices, while elsewhere in the state voters would find two Republicans as their only choices. The plan effectively guarantees that third party candidates would never again appear on a general election ballot.
Initiative supporters want to bypass unfavorable internal GOP arithmetic. Most Republicans are conservative, so conservatives win most Republican primaries. Therefore most Republican office holders are conservative. To achieve their goal — eviscerating the conservative GOP base — these nabobs must elect more Republicans who talk and vote like Democrats. To do this, they must do away with primaries in which Republican voters choose their own standard bearers. Voila: the Louisiana system, allowing Jane Fonda, Cruz Bustamante, and Susan Sarandon a voice in reshaping the Republican Party.
This plan is fatally flawed in many ways. But Republicans serious about their Party’s future can focus on just one: had it been in place in 1966, Ronald Reagan would never have become governor, and, of course, would never have become president.
The political forbearers of today’s moderates tried mightily to defeat Reagan in ’66, something they now conveniently forget. In Brooks Firestone’s case his literal forbearer — father Leonard — followed up his 1964 exertions against Barry Goldwater with a 1966 primary effort warning the GOP that dangerous, intolerant extremists were attempting to take over the party. Care to guess who Leonard Firestone and his fellow ’60s moderates had in mind?
Happily for America and the world, Republicans rejected the scare tactics and ideological pabulum to launch Reagan’s career. But a Louisiana primary system in effect in 1966 would have brought far different results. San Francisco Mayor George Christopher, Reagan’s primary opponent, would have moved heaven and earth to win Democrat votes with a plea to help derail the wild-eyed radical Reagan. Big labor, already furious with the former union (Screen Actors Guild) president’s “anti-labor” positions, would have trooped their voters to the polls for Christopher to punish Reagan. The November election most likely would have been George Christopher vs. Pat Brown, and Ronald Reagan would never have been heard of again.
This scheme, too late to stop Ronald Reagan, takes direct aim at future Reagans and all conservatives of principal. Truth-in-advertising should dictate that this measure be labeled the “no more Reagans” initiative. That is precisely what it is.
Reagan’s words from 1965 ring true today. Republicans need no more candidates pursuing the same goals as their opposition. Turning their Party over to opponents of its platform makes no sense. The “no more Reagans” initiative repudiates Ronald Reagan’s legacy. Republicans who value that legacy might remember one of its most potent slogans: win this one for the Gipper.