Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why Sullivan Lost

Today I sense a great deal of frustration in East Bay over the failure of several compelling candidates to unseat long-reviled incumbents.

Nowhere is this more clear than in Oakland's 3rd City Council district, where City Council member Nancy Nadel will hold on to her seat in spite of a terrible track record. I thought I'd take a moment to explain to people why Nadel won.

It's simple political science theory, really. This election was an "off" cycle election. The presidential primary took place months ago, and the general election isn't until November. Off cycle elections are well known to produce low turnouts. So, it's totally unsurprising that all it took to win a city council seat in Oakland's third district was a little over 3,000 votes.

Traditional political theory held that low-turnout elections bring out radicals, since they are the only ones willing to investigate the issues without the major media push of a general election. In local elections, however, this is not exactly so.

When a candidate needs only 3,000 votes to win a local election, the process becomes swayed more by those who have a direct vested interest in the election's outcome. I'm speaking, of course, of such groups as public-employee unions, those on the public dole and other "special interest" groups who receive money and favors directly from the government.

You can be certain that in an off election, each and every one of these people will come out and vote. And, each and every one of them will vote for the incumbent who as either provided them or promised them emoluments in the weeks before the election.

That's as against maybe 20% of those uncommitted voters whom the opposition courts. It's really no contest.

I don't specifically know which interest groups turned out for Nadel. I'm aware that the police officers' union endorsed Sullivan, but this is probably moot because few of them live in the district. It would probably require some digging to determine exactly who swung the election -- digging that really isn't worth the effort, from my perspective.

Hopefully this explanation will put to rest the repeated questions about "who were those 3,000" people and the suggestion that those people somehow didn't care about the outcome.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Their votes were a business decision. To them, Nadel equals money. End of story.

There is a solution to this problem, but the liberals among you aren't going to like it.

The solution is less government.

The less money the government has to allocate, the less this kind of thing happens. Money, like power, breeds corruption. There's no way around it.

The more money you give the government, the more you wind up with an entrenched oligarchy which pays off just enough of the population to keep being re-elected.

Sound familiar? Maybe it's time to give this "conservatism" thing a try. Fiscal conservatism anyway.

I for one welcome our new overlord. Welcome back, Ms. Nadel! Many happy returns!


  1. I think that you're probably right about a lot of this. The timing is bad. The turnout was atrocious.

    But if you look over at the East Bay Express, you'll also find that the election isn't quite over yet.

  2. where are the socially liberal fiscal conservatives? less government in my personal decisions *and* finances, thank you very much

    that's the problem with much of the conservative candidates I see. Some good ideas polluted with personal-affairs meddling.

    I'd start with IRV to crack the two-party system, then shrink from there. But I'm just dreaming and shooting from the hip, what do I know?

  3. I am sure all those subsistence farmers came out for Nadel. And the smoke Nazis.

    Unfortunately that may be a significant number in this context.

  4. IRV will never fly here in Oakland. We are held hostage in this town by "Old School" Liberals. Nadel, Dellums, etc.. They are so out of touch I would laugh if it was not so depressing. She won because all the sheeple in West Oakland bought her rhetoric and elected her Again. I almost thought Sullivan had a chance.

    A Fiscally Conservative/Social Lib MO

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