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My heart literally skipped a beat when I opened my mail-in ballot for California’s March 3 Presidential Primary Election last week. Despite the fact that the Democratic Party has opened up the primary to No Party Preference voters such as myself, none of the presidential candidates were listed on my ballot.
Instead, I was greeted with a rather ominous message:
“You are registered as a No Party Preference Voter. The party-nominated contest of President does not appear on this ballot. If you want to vote for President, contact an elections official. Otherwise, please turn over to begin voting.”
I panicked. I’ve been waiting three long years to undo the biggest mistake of my adult life, voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Voting for Sanders in the 2020 primary is a crucial step toward my rehabilitation. That vote, and my rehabilitation, now appeared to be in jeopardy.
Once my heart stopped going pitter-patter, I went to the Shasta County Registrar of Voters website, where there’s a link to request a second mail-in ballot from one of the three parties that have opened up their primaries to NPP voters: Democratic, Libertarian and American Independent.
If you’re in the same boat as me and the 4.8 million other Californian registered voters with no party affiliation, don’t hesitate to request a second mail-in ballot from the registrar online. The deadline for applying is Feb. 17. Your last chance to request a Democratic presidential primary ballot is at the polling place on Super Tuesday, March 3, just three short weeks away.
California’s 4.8 million NPP voters are not insignificant. At 25.5 percent of the electorate, they slightly edge out the 4.7 million registered Republicans who comprise 25.1 percent of the electorate. The 8.4 million registered Democrats take the lion’s share of the state’s electorate with 44.3 percent.
At stake in the Democratic Presidential Primary are 495 delegates, who will be parsed out to the top-performing candidates via a complicated formula that eliminates any candidate with less than 15 percent of the vote. Whoever wins will gain substantial early momentum in the race to unseat Trump.
There are several reasons why I prefer to not state my party preference on the voter registration form. First and foremost, I’ve been a working journalist since 1988, when objective reporting was still in fashion. Not being a member of any party gives me added credibility.
Secondly, in my experience as a journalist and an ordinary citizen, both parties have demonstrated that they’re hopelessly corrupted by big money interests, the so-called donor class that finances our elections. This applies to elections at the local, state and national levels.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly to me, the Republican and Democratic parties are collectively a War Party, unified in their assertion that the United States has not only the right but the obligation to unilaterally attack any county deemed to be a threat to American values, i.e. the values of the donor class.
A large number of NPP— “independent” is a more accurate descriptor—voters in California and across the country share similar views. In the 2016 presidential election, more than a few of us got fooled by Donald Trump’s phony populist appeal.
In my case, I was persuaded by Trump’s anti-interventionist rhetoric. Like Sen. Bernie Sanders, for whom I’d voted in the Democratic primary election, Trump seemed to understand that spending trillions of dollars on endless wars across the planet was bleeding America dry.
This was directly counter to the views of his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a proven war hawk during her terms in the Senate and President Barack Obama’s administration. As we learned in the summer of 2016, Clinton and the Democratic National Committee conspired to thwart the nomination of Sanders during the primaries. Apparently, it really was “Her Turn,” no matter what voters said.
What the DNC failed (and still fails!) to comprehend was Clinton’s widespread unpopularity with what used to be the Democratic Party’s historical base, the working class, who’ve been repeatedly kicked in the shins by four decades of neoliberal economic policies practiced by successive Republican and Democratic administrations.
Amid rising income inequality, it’s the working class who’ve had their jobs that have been shipped overseas or automated out of existence; it’s their sons and daughters who are being shipped home in flag-draped caskets, victims of our endless War on Terror.
President Bill Clinton initiated the Democratic Party’s embrace of Wall Street and corporate power to the detriment of its own constituents in the 1990s and the oligarchical group hug has only tightened in the interim. With her six-figure speeches given in private to such unsavory financial characters as Goldman Sachs, Hillary Clinton is the personification of neoliberal elitism. When she branded white male working class Trump supporters “deplorables,” she sealed her electoral fate.
I like beer. I admit I had a few before I filled out my mail-in ballot back in November 2016. My decision had more to do with my misgivings about Clinton rather than Trump, a protest vote that would be relatively meaningless since Clinton was a shoo-in to win California.
She did win California, but never have I been more wrong. The moment I filled in the bubble for Donald Trump remains an indelible blot on my soul.
I wasn’t shocked Trump won the election, and I admittedly had one leg on the Trump Train for the first few months of his administration. Naively, I hoped Trump would rise to the level of his office, tone down the divisive rhetoric and begin bringing the troops home.
Instead, in April 2017, while eating a “perfect” piece of chocolate cake with Chinese President Xi at Mar-a-Lago, Trump launched a cruise missile strike on Syria in response to false reports the Syrian regime had gassed its own people—a ruse that failed to fool Trump’s hated nemesis and predecessor, President Obama.
At least eight innocent Syrians were killed, and as Trump has since proven, our commander in chief is a spoiled rotten brat with a Twitter account, a joystick and the world’s largest nuclear arsenal at his disposal. There are more American troops now serving in harm’s way than when Trump took office, the potential for new conflicts is high and defense spending has been increased by billions every year, with bipartisan approval.
Trump’s trade wars have been a disaster for America’s small farmers and consumers, and have yet to spur a return of manufacturing to the United States. His singular economic achievement, the 2017 partisan tax cut for the rich, further exacerbated income inequality and added trillions to the national debt.
The economy remains in the hands of the neoliberals, Republicans and Democrats who put their need for corporate campaign donations over the needs of their constituents, at the local, state and federal levels. Their next bipartisan move will be to cut Social Security, Medicare and other social programs, because Trump’s tax cut for the rich jacked up the deficit and the debt. It’s called the austerity program.
Additionally, Trump is a climate-change denier and a denier of all sciences in general. He’s profoundly racist, sexist, xenophobic and transphobic. He has formed an unholy alliance with right-wing Christian evangelicals, including members of Bethel, our local megachurch, who’ve been rewarded with special status as victims of alleged religious persecution and the appointment of inexperienced right-wing judges to the federal judiciary.
Like a large majority of Americans, I’ve watched in astonishment and horror these past three years as Trump has destroyed political, institutional and societal norms one after another, aided and abetted by Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority in the Senate.
The depths of Republican depravity were illustrated succinctly at the conclusion of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. All of the senators swore to god to be fair and impartial jurors before the trial, but among Republicans, Sen. Mitt Romney, who voted to convict the impeached President on the abuse of power charge, was apparently the only one who takes such oaths seriously.
As a man of faith, Romney said he had no choice but to follow his conscience—and for doing so was roundly condemned by his Republican colleagues, FOX News, right-wing talk radio hosts and Trump himself, speaking at, of all events, the National Prayer Breakfast.
It seems some Christians are more equal than others.
That’s why pundits are calling Trump a cult leader, and that’s where we are today. Every time you think Trump can’t go lower, he crawls under a snake, and a few more people jump off the train—or as in the case of former EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, they get thrown off.
By now it’s obvious to anyone but the most ardent Trump supporters that the train and its criminal conductor, given four more years, will inevitably go off the rails, if it actually makes it to the station in November.
Contrary to mainstream media spin, I think any of the remaining top contenders in California’s Democratic Presidential Primary are capable of beating Donald Trump, including Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden. Trump fatigue will be a major factor. When asked if their life would be better off without Trump in it, most voters will say yes. He’s easily the most encumbered incumbent ever to seek a second term.
But in my view, Bernie Sanders represents not only the best chance to beat Trump, but the best chance to transform the federal government back into an institution that promotes the general welfare of all its people—as intended by the Constitution—not just the billionaire class, the military industrial complex and right-wing evangelicals.
Sanders, the 78-year-old Independent senator from Vermont and self-avowed Democratic Socialist, sets Sean Hannity’s hair on fire by the mere mention of his name. Nevertheless, large majorities of the Democratic working-class base support Medicare For All, reduced college tuition, the Green New Deal and other progressive proposals put forth by Sanders.
How does Bernie propose to pay for it all? Simple. By fairly taxing the ultra-rich, ending the War on Terror and dramatically cutting the defense budget. It pencils out.
Those proposals aren’t necessarily in line with the Democratic Party establishment’s positions, and after the Iowa caucus fiasco, more than one commentator has noted the party once again appears to be thumbing the scales against Sanders as we hurtle toward Super Tuesday on March 3.
In that light, the fact that No Party Preference voters in California aren’t provided with a Democratic mail-in ballot—after the party itself opened the election to NPP voters—looks rather suspicious. Independent voters are far more likely to vote for Sanders, and apparently state Democrats have chosen to obstruct that possibility.
Yet, if California’s independent voters can learn this one simple trick—go to your registrar’s website and request a Democratic ballot before Feb. 17—they may just push Sanders, who has surged to the front in recent statewide polls, over the top.
Whatever the result is, it will by highly scrutinized now that California has been granted its long-held wish to have its presidential primary moved up early in the electoral cycle. All eyes will be on us.
If Sanders, the true champion of the Democratic working-class base, is thwarted once again by the Democratic Party establishment, the resulting disillusionment could lead to a second Trump term. What’s that popular definition of insanity? Doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results?
If Sanders wins, his momentum heading into the spring and summer will be unstoppable. He’ll team-up with Elizabeth Warren and easily derail Trump in November. That’s exactly why California’s Democrats have campaigned for an earlier primary for decades: To make a difference in the national election.
Now that we’ve finally got the chance, let’s hope the Democratic establishment doesn’t blow it.