A couple weeks back, I received some troubling news from the California Moderate Party. After three years of toiling in the weeds of The Golden State’s political fringes, Ash Roughani finally decided to throw in the towel on his latest effort to establish a genuine, grassroots third party.
As a Democratic activist, it would seem odd for me to lament the loss of what could only have amounted to another siphon of progressive votes at a time when the left is so fractured that we can’t capitalize on our own victories. But the failure of the Moderate Party is just another symptom of the slow death of the political party system as a whole.
The pros and cons of this shift can be debated ad nauseum, and I’d be happy to have that debate, but this fact remains: Over the past 16 years, political party registration in California has declined by more than 10 percent, and voters who “Decline to State” a party preference have more than doubled.
Neither major party has been immune to the trend. Democratic registration has declined by nearly 4 percent; Republicans by 6.5 percent. Three California counties have “DTS” registration rates over 25 percent, including Santa Clara at a tick over 28 percent.
A younger generation is coming of age, freed from social constructs and taboos, gleaning knowledge from Google instead of textbooks. Social networks, as opposed to million-dollar ad campaigns, shape their opinions. And they don’t care whether you have an ass or an elephant on your direct mail piece. All they want to know is what have you done for them lately.
This is a generation for whom free agency is a way of life. They’re used to floating from island to island, obeying every whim that strikes their fancy, and most importantly making up their own minds. This isn’t the first we’ve seen of it, either. It’s a bloodless revolution that’s been waged for decades, right under the noses of the cognoscenti who act like their world could never come crashing down around them—the fat cats who think they’re too big to fail.
Boy, are they in for a surprise when the oil runs dry and the water runs out. At that point, a 21 percent DTS registration rate will be the least of their concerns. And when the spit hits the fan, those who wave the partisan banner will have to decide which brand comes first: Country or Party?
In the meantime, there’s always the option to join the We Like Women Political Party. Seriously. You can Google it.
Peter Allen is an independent communications consultant and a proud native of San José. He is currently running for a seat on the Santa Clara County Democratic Party Central Committee.