Political Fix (2 August, 2018)

The World before Top-Two

The New York Times reported House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying, “I hate the top-two,” referring to the primary system in California.

The Central Valley Tea Party had petitions circulating at meetings and forums to get rid of the top-two primary system in a ballot measure for the November General Election.

The initiative was aimed at ending California’s top-two primary system, which voters passed as Proposition 14 in 2010. But the repeal initiative did not garner enough signatures by April 23 in order for it to make the November 2018 ballot.

Should the top-two be the object of such contempt?

Looking at California’s last 10 years, the answer would be an unequivocal no.

“Specifically, let’s reflect on the wee hours of a winter morning in February 2009 at the state Capitol. California’s top-two primary did not exist; Each party nominated its candidate the old-fashioned way, on a separate ballot or at a party convention. Primaries were dominated by the base and the true believers,” wrote a Fresno Bee editorialist.

“The budget was 100 days overdue – par for the course in what was then a Golden State of gridlock. The Legislature had already been ranked as one of the most dysfunctional in the nation, and now the state was in the depths of a crippling recession. California was going broke. Our bond rating had tanked. Services were being threatened, federal stimulus money was at risk, revenue was desperately needed and ideological Republicans were dug in because they had forced each other to sign no-new-tax pledges.”

Somehow the Legislature hauled itself back from the brink and passed a budget, and out of the ashes came a plan to put more moderate lawmakers in office. One of those elements to change the toxic environment in Sacramento was the-top two primary.

And it worked.

Now Californians only have the slightest memory of what used to be year after year late budgets, chaos, and paralysis. The top-two primary has ushered in a group of Assembly Members willing to work together because they represent a cadre of moderates from the left and the right, versus candidates who pander to the extremes of their party.

There are other advantages. Voter turnout rates were the highest in the five gubernatorial primaries since 2000, except ironically in Tulare County where approximately 6000 fewer people cast their votes compared to 2016.

In a first for the general election, the top two candidates for California Insurance Commissioner are a Democrat and an NPP candidate, Steve Poizner, who is a former Republican. Also five Libertarian candidates finished second in their primaries and advanced to November ballots for the assembly.

Finally, the top-two primary has resulted in a diverse pool of candidates from which to choose. The U.S. Senate election and the seven down-ticket races include five Latinos, four women, two Asian Americans, and one African American. Also, eight of the nine statewide races, including for governor, are contests between Northern and Southern Californians.

Party leaders, old power players, and the extreme left and right may not like the current system, but we only need to look at what is going on in Washington to appreciate what we have here in California.

While the rest of the country sinks into tribalism, Sacramento gets the necessary work done to make California great again.

Such as being the fifth largest economy in the world – beat that DC.

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

When my kids attended El Camino while we lived in Cabo San Lucas, we learned from their civics text book that Southern Baja didn’t even become an official Mexican state until 1973. Until then it was labeled a Territory and inhabited by Mexicans, foreigners, and fishermen.

The road to Cabo wasn’t even paved.

Being a sleepy little fishing village ended up to be a good thing, because Cabo San Lucas grew into an actual town where families could raise their children in a safe environment, and where the drug cartels had not taken notice – until last year.

In just the last 12 months, the number of murders in Los Cabos spiked by more than 500% to 365, or one murder a day. Cabo San Lucas now has the distinction of being the most dangerous city in the world.

But Cabo didn’t get overrun with cartels overnight. What brought them was development such as multi-storey malls, highways, a modern airport, and big box stores like Costco.

Who goes to a Mexican beach town to shop at Costco?

Nineteen years ago this month our young family boarded a plane to come back to the United States after living in Cabo San Lucas from 1994 – 1999. We lived there during a time of palapa restaurants, dirt roads, empty beaches and peace.

Now there is no going back, and the things about which I reminisce are mostly gone.

What I don’t miss about Mexico is their six-day work week. What I do miss are the birthday parties where all the siblings were invited, the one-lane highway to La Paz where the state’s only movie theater was located, and the leisurely lunches at Cafe Santa Fe in Todos Santos followed by body surfing in the wild Pacific Ocean.

But one memory stands out among the rest, the birth of Mercedes.

It wasn’t particularly good news at the time. I thought I was too old to have another baby. Also, we had been debating moving back to the States but now we were stuck in Mexico because we didn’t have health insurance to cover the birth.

Seven months pregnant, I accepted my fate and started preparing. We knew it was a girl so I sewed matching outfits for Teddy, me and Mercedes. We did not have a crib so I squeezed a roll away between the wall and our bed to create an enclosed space, which Teddy and Manny, thought was awesome and moved right in. Mercedes never did end up using it but Manny never left.

I had been having contractions for months, but they started in earnest in the wee hours the day after my due date. I waited as long as I could before waking Joseph because no one in the family was available to help with the kids and the birth, so he was going to have to be in top form.

I finally roused Joseph at 6am. On our way out the door, we instructed the three oldest to eat and get into clean uniforms for school and dad would be back to get them. Manny was a free-ranger so we were resigned to take him to pre-school in whatever condition we found him.

As we gave our instructions, Chuck sat on the edge of his bed pouting and thoroughly perturbed at the baby’s timing. It was the last day of sixth grade before finals week and his very popular teacher was having a carne asada barbeque party at her house that evening.

I told Chuck that if he found his own way to the party he could do whatever he wanted that weekend.

We did not see him for three days.

Joseph and I arrived at the clinic just as the sun was rising with me in my night gown, slippers, and as big as a house. He briskly knocked on the glass door and the night nurse cracked it open just enough to peer outside and asked what we wanted.

Being a smart ass, Joseph almost said “Trick or Treat –like our costumes?” I pressed my face in the crack and said I had started labor. But the nurse said the doctor would still be asleep and told us to wait outside.

I pushed the door open, walked in and ordered her to get on the phone to call the doctor. I was a 37-year-old pregnant woman and I was not going to have another “natural childbirth.” The only way around that was to get the doctor and anesthesiologist, who did not live in town, at the clinic within a certain window of time.

I loomed as she called the doctor, was satisfied he was on his way, and went into what I thought was going to be my birthing room.

I paced the floor as the contractions grew and Joseph plopped himself on my hospital bed, feet propped up on the base bar, and casually put his hands behind his head.

“You know the doctor is never going to make it and you are going to have to deliver this baby yourself, just saying.”

I told him to leave and deal with the kids, then gave up pacing, and took his place on the bed.

The doctor arrived about a half hour later, flirted with the nurse, with which he was having an affair, and checked how far dilated I was. He immediately called the anesthesiologist. I felt there was nothing more I could do, so sat Indian style in the bed contracting while the doctor and nurse continued to flirt.

An hour later the very cheerful anesthesiologist bounded into my room, flirted with the nurse, ordered her to start my IV, then stood suspiciously close to her backside. I thought to myself “I am in labor people, not blind.”

The anesthesiologist put the needle in my back and got everything in place to start the epidural when I abruptly started to push.

“Too late!” he exclaimed.

To which I responded by grabbing his sleeve, refusing to let go, and begging him to start the medication. I promised I had done this before and could push the baby out. He laughed and refused saying that the baby was crowning.

Unbeknownst to me, I was not in the delivery room. So with the baby dangling between my legs the doctor told me to get out of bed and get on the rolling bed on which they transferred me to the delivery room. After being wheeled into the delivery room I was once again instructed to get out of that bed and get on the delivery room bed.

With my knees up, and peering at the doctor between my legs, I watched as he meticulously adjusted each finger on his surgical gloves, tied on his mask, and then fiddled with his gown until he got it just to his liking.

He then peered back at me and said, “Ok, I’m ready.”

I almost had the wherewithal to ask him if he were sure he didn’t wanted to make himself a sandwich or take a coffee break, when I had one last push and Mercedes was born. She came so fast I thought maybe he dropped her. But no one was screaming, the doctor had a smile on his face, and then I heard a little cry.

My job was done so I didn’t protest when the idiot nurse whisked Mercedes away before I even had a chance to see her. The anesthesiologist was nice enough to tell me how beautiful she was and proceeded to start my epidural so the doctor could do a tubal ligation.

On starting the ligation the doctor discovered an umbilical hernia that resulted in a two hour surgery. He told me we were going to be a while, but no one bothered to inform Joseph, who had missed the birth by minutes. He did arrive in time though for the nurse to thrust Mercedes in his arms.

It was all over by 11am and this time I was wheeled into the recovery room instead of being made to walk. After pacing anxiously with Mercedes for hours, Joseph expressed relief that I was not dead, handed over the baby, and left to do some errands.

By 6pm I had all the feeling back in my legs and had taken a shower. We sat on the edge of my bed and gave $1300 in cash to the doctor for my pre-natal care, delivery, epidural, and hernia operation – a pretty good deal.

On our way home we stopped by Cabo Cielo to pick up some baby supplies and groceries. As I settled on our couch sitting Indian style with Mercedes on my lap I realized I had missed out on my morning coffee, so Joseph brewed a pot just for me and our new little bundle.

And I felt like the luckiest person on Earth.

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