For lots of Californians — Democrats and Republicans alike — it’s a pox on both parties. And they’d like to see a new third party created.
There have always been people who were sour on both parties and desired another significant option. But their numbers have been substantially increasing in recent years.
And as we approach the 2024 presidential election, one question is whether this growing segment of turned-off voters will even cast ballots, or just snub the contest.
Start with the fact that national polling by practically every survey organization has shown broad dissatisfaction with the prospective choices of the aging President Biden and multi-indicted-and-also-aging former President Trump.
Polling by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that one-third of Californians have an unfavorable impression of both parties, including their own.
And 71% feel that the Republican and Democratic parties are doing “such a poor job that a third major party is needed.”
That seems highly unlikely to happen, of course. We’re set up for a two-party system — set up that way by the two parties in power that want to avoid added competition.
In California, we barely even have a second party.
No GOP presidential nominee has carried the state since 1988. That was also the last year a Republican won a U.S. Senate race in California. No Republican has been elected to statewide office since 2006. Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in the U.S. House delegation, 40 to 12, and hold supermajority control of both state legislative houses.
Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2 to 1, with independents — No Party Preference — slightly below the GOP.
But just because Democrats run the state government — along with most major cities — and hold a whopping advantage in voter registration doesn’t mean that their voters are doing cartwheels about the party.
The PPIC poll showed that 28% of California Democrats have an unfavorable impression of their party. And 70% feel a third party is needed.
Among Republican voters, 32% view their party unfavorably. And 61% desire a new party.
Independents, of course, already have opted out of both parties. They overwhelmingly would like to see a new party.
Overall among California adults, 51% view the Democratic Party negatively, 76% are down on the GOP and 33% don’t like either — up from 20% three years ago.
The grumpy attitude has gotten worse in recent years. In 2016, only 37% of Californians had an unfavorable impression of the Democratic Party. Just three years ago, far fewer people were negative about the GOP, 58%. In 2012, fewer than half the people thought a third party was necessary. Now it’s nearly three-fourths.
PPIC pollster Mark Baldassare blames Congress for most of the voters’ growing complaints. In the survey, 81% of voters disapproved of Congress’ job performance.
And the poll was conducted even before weeks of leaderless chaos in the House following the ouster of Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker. GOP rebels complained that McCarthy compromised with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown. In today’s House, that is an unpardonable GOP sin.
“It’s really about what’s going on in Washington,” Baldassare says. “A large share of Californians feel Congress is not working.”
The state Legislature may pass bills that voters don’t like, the pollster says, but “things get done. People aren’t left worrying about whether the government is going to run out of money or who’s in charge when Israel is attacked by Hamas.”
He adds: “There’s a growing and large share of voters who are going to decide whether they’re going to sit out the next election. Or look for a third party candidate and throw a monkey wrench into partisan politics. They want more choices.”
Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant and critic of the GOP for not adjusting to California’s growing ethnic diversity and progressive culture, says just because California is so ‘blue,’ that doesn’t mean it’s a Democratic state.
“Voters just don’t view the Republican Party as a real option. They’re choosing between the lesser of two evils. They still view the better choice as evil. Democrats are the less odious option.
“It’s not that Californians believe Democrats are doing a great job. It’s just that they’re afraid of what Republicans would do in power. Republicans are so out of step on culture issues in California.”
Dan Schnur, a former Republican operative who changed his voter registration to independent and teaches political communication at USC and UC Berkeley, uses a football analogy to explain how both parties have become more extreme than California voters.
“Most people are living between the political 40 yard lines and the parties have retreated to the goal lines — maybe to the parking lots,” Schnur says. “If a political party follows the whims of its most ideologically extreme members, it’s going to leave a lot of people behind.”
Younger voters — those under 35 — especially feel the need for another major party. That could be bad news for the future. Or good news.
The GOP was created out of the strength of a brave new American savior, Abraham Lincoln. The conservative Whig Party collapsed. God help us if the nation is ever threatened that much again from within.
But we did have a president and his minions — including this new Republican House speaker — try to overturn a presidential election three years ago. So few things are absolutely certain.