How the Minority Wins Elections

Lost in the exaggerated numbers of Tuesday’s primary election vote totals is this very frightening reality: Less than 8 percent of the electorate is all it takes to amass political power in our county.

The population of Santa Clara County is 1,787,694 people according to the 2010 census. Total voter registration is 755,117—or 42.2 percent of the population. While there are many people in that who are ineligible to vote, (i.e. children, non-citizens, felons), the voter registration figures still amount to around 50 percent of all those who are eligible to vote.

Noting the turnout for Tuesday’s election in our county will be around 37 percent of the registered voters, and it takes 50 percent plus one vote to win an election, that means less than 8 percent of the entire population is all that is needed to determine the outcome for the rest of us. The percentage statewide was even less, as turnout was slightly worse than our county. This is our alleged democracy in reality.

Financial participation gives a smaller, elite minority even more political power in political campaigns, which far exceeds that of an average voter.

The major players in this group are mostly in the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans, or they are multinational corporations with a major interest in the government policies that result from elections. The tobacco companies spent $50 million against Prop 29, and while it’s still a close call, currently more than 50 percent of the electorate statewide bought the message.

Here are some other disturbing statistics involving reality and perceptions. Fifty percent of all Americans are poor or low income. Republicans like to point out how unfair it is that these people don’t pay taxes. Conversely, 70 percent of Americans believe they will be in the top 10 percent of wealth in the U.S. Collectively, this shows that Americans are unbelievably optimistic, not very good at math or have been influenced by the false narrative of FOX News and the Republican right. It could be a combination of all three.

Another myth: Working hard is all it takes to make it in America. The majority of the wealthy do not make their money from labor; they make it from capital. That is the definition of capitalism: money makes more money.

Because the top 1 percent participates in the financing of elections and it takes less than 6 percent of the population to gain political power, it doesn’t take a genius to understand why public policy in this nation favors the wealthiest 10 percent generally and the top 2 percent especially.

It’s the reason we have a wealth gap and why Mitt Romney is even with President Obama in the polls. It is why Republicans do not pay a political price for their support of the top 2 percent in wealth, why tobacco companies continue to spread their poison, why GE pays no income tax, why Donald Trump can declare bankruptcy and keep his fortune, why banks are bailed out yet homeowners are foreclosed upon, why Halliburton can commit fraud and not have to pay their fines, why the Obama Healthcare plan is a boon to private insurance companies, why Warren Buffett’s secretary pays a higher tax rate than her boss, and why, regardless of party, the poor and the dispossessed in this country are scapegoated for our major problems, while the power elite is revered as our country’s saviors “job creators” despite all evidence to the contrary.

A revolution in this country is badly needed. It need not be violent, though the conditions are becoming such that the wealthy might start worrying more about losing their heads rather than fretting about their inconsequential tax rate. But the means of a nonviolent revolution are available, and the dispossessed need to educate themselves and participate in their own democracy.

Failing that revolution, the wealth gap will only get larger. The power elite spent $60 million in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has waged war on the minimal protections that currently exists for lower income people. Once labor’s ability to provide political information, a voice and power to the electorate is completely silenced, the power elite will be the only source of political information. This is the ultimate goal of the war on labor and the Walker agenda.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate the winners in Tuesday’s election. Mayor Chuck Reed, Rose Herrera, Peirluigi Oliverio, Kansen Chu, Ash Kalra and Jimmy Nguyen. Civility has become a lost art in our politics. We can fight during an election and respect each other and the results after the election, even if our democracy is flawed.

However, there is an exception to that rule: I will not congratulate the tobacco industry—one need not be civil to the mass murderers, purveyors of poison, and dishonest campaign messengers, even if they win.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Strangest loss of the night was by former County Supervisor Pete McHugh who won up doing very well in Santa Clara County in his Assembly race to challenge Bob Wiecowski, from Fremont, whom the Mercury News has labeled as a flake.  ArLynne Diamond, a newcomer to politics beat McHugh handidly in Alameda County, and increased her margin in the 25th Assembly District.  While Paul Fong is disucssed turtles and shark fins as important issues for Silicon Valley, Wiecowski seems to championing a nut farm near Sacramento.  As for the very minor post of Democratic Central, Anna Song and Chris Stampolis, the Borgias of Silicon Valley politics managed to get elected to County Central Committee while missing the opportunity of sabotaging Measure C, which did win.  Song has plans to run for Santa Clara City Council, while Chris has to organize a reelection to Democratic National Committee, given that he was the one holdout for Hillary Clinton right before the last National Convention to the dismay of Valeria Jarrett, who may have an Obama slate (NO CS) for DNC, endorsed by West Valley College Trustees and Santa Clara School Board Members.

  2. Yes, the Corporations have successfully brainwashed the middle class into identifying taxes (e.g. government pensions) as the most important impact on their quality of life. This while the remainder of the civilized world taxes heavily with much less concern, obtaining a significantly higher rating in vacation, health, retirement, educational conditions. Yes there is a rating system other than the useless GDP that just tells you how much richer the rich are getting off the labor of others. Our quality of life is at the bottom. The USA has eaten its quality of life and continues with the latest Pension “reform” fiasco, always with focus on the bottom line. We pay much more to operate the worlds largest employer, the US Military.

    To help ponder how much has changed, consider what corporate USA has done to popular culture (music, movies, television). It actually has managed somehow to kill off one of our greatest exports, the popular top 40. You will never see a Stevie Wonder or Burt Bacharach come along again. All 3 categories, all contrived, generic drivel.

    Go to your local travel agent office in Almaden, Silver Creek, Willow Glen. Ask the agent who has the big nest eggs in this valley! I dont think it will include your City Building Inspector.

    Finally, one of the never mentioned inconvenient truths of global warming. The initial mandatory step is population control, sacrilege to the growth based capitalist religion. Should anyone listen to us? The major economy that doubles the per capita carbon footprint of all others excepting Australia.

    • The fastest growing area of the economy, with the most promise is alternative energy and green industries.

      The idea we are losing jobs because we don’t “drill baby drill”  is idiotic.

      We just had the warmest spring on record.  The methane gas that exists under the polar ice caps is being released at an alarming rate.

      No oxygen, no jobs.  Just sayin. . . Of course those rooting for the end of the world are happy—but the world will still exist, mankind will be extinct, but the earth will still be here.

  3. The reason that Obama is even in the polls is that except for his rhetoric, he hasn’t been a change from Bush.  He has the same economic policy, the big banks and financial institutions are still looting and cheating.  He kept the same Defense Secretary.  We’re still in Afghanistan, and our people are still dying for no good reason.  Where was the change?  That’s why the Congress almost flipped back after it flipped to the Democratic side 2 years earlier.

    My wife was absolutely correct.  Hillary should have been the candidate.  Look at the job she’s done with the State Department.

    I think Prop. 29 failed because it it’s backers crafted a bad law.  The tobacco folks went after its weaknesses with great success.  I voted for it, but I had to hold my nose.  To some extent it failed for the same reason that Prop. 8 succeeded.  Prop. 8 should have been easily defeated, but early polls showing it way behind and complacency on the no side lead to it passing.

    You can’t run bad races and expect to win.  People have to man up when things don’t go like they’re supposed to.  And they have to be honest about things, because sometimes things really aren’t the way they are “supposed” to be in first place.

    • Really, we have had 27 months of job growth; when this President took office we were losting 750,000 jobs a month.  The Republicans have obstructed many of the programs that would get people back to work—because they want this President and America to fail.

      This President saved GM, Romney said let it fail.  Though Romney did favor the bank bailout.  This President has recovered much of the TARP money.

      This President got out of Iraq and is winding down Afghanistan.  You don’t stop a war over-night.  The President was ill-served two years ago by a political team that capitulated on the government option.  That said, he got a national healthcare program through the Congress—a policy long over-due.  He has had to weather the insults from morons who call it socialist, when he abdicated the socialist part of the program.

      There is no difference?  Where were you when GWB was running the country.

      Has Obama done all he said he would do?  No, but we the people haven’t givent the tools he needs.  We abandoned him after two years because the GWB recession could not be fixed over night. 

      As for the “bad” law written by the Cancer Society, it called for $1 a pack tax with the money used for cancer research.  The tobacco industry said it was flawed because it did not guarantee the money would be spent in CA, because it created a government oversite committee and the money would not go to the general fund.

      Let’s see—cancer research is done all over the country, not simply in CA, if it did not include and oversite commitee the tobacco industry would have run ads that it was not accontable (oh yeah, they said that too).

      Oh yeah, a general tax takes a 2/3’s vote, they could have spent less money convincing illiterate cretins to support their cause.

      How many times do these people have to lie to you before you “get” it.

      • Obama got a lot of support from the financial industry the first time he ran.  This time he has received little support.  My understanding is that is because he continually bad-mouths the financial industry, while continuing to mollycoddle them.  That is Obama in a nutshell.  All talk and no action.  In instance, at least the talk had an effect though.

        As for Prop 29, I still believe its proponents did a bad job crafting it.  Like no one would ever figure that the tobacco industry wouldn’t go over the proposition with a fine tooth comb?  These people were complacent and lazy, and didn’t craft something that would pass muster.  It’s not the tobacco industry’s fault that Prop 29 failed.  They brought their guns to the gunfight.

        WRT Prop 29, the thing that I wondered about was fact that it couldn’t be adjusted for 15 years.  What was the point of that?

        I stand by what I wrote earlier, “You can’t run bad races and expect to win.  People have to man up when things don’t go like they’re supposed to.”

      • Rich,
        I fully support cancer research. I donate to every walk, run, and request for a donation for cancer research I receive in the mail because I have several non smoking friends who have either died, or are presently dying from all kinds of cancer.

        I can’t speak to your defense of Prop 29, but I know one thing for certain, several times a year taxes have been added on to the sale of cigarettes that isn’t going before the voters. I should know, I smoke. I don’t know how these taxes are being instituted, or by whom, but believe me they are getting outrageous.

        Personally, I’m tired of the government targeting tobacco every time they need more money for something. I also do not believe taxing the hell out of tobacco is going to keep anyone from smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, smoking a pipe, or cigars.

        Also, I have watched cities use the tobacco penalty money they have received for everything BUT anti-smoking education! (Be honest, when was the last time you saw the City of San Jose run any kind of educational anti-smoking campaign?) The City of San Jose its self is guilty of using the money for things like crossing guards etc. because they don’t budget for things they need. 

        The bottom line for me is this, this tax is discriminatory. Too many people are invading our personal right to do too many things. What’s the next thing we are going to tax or ban because someone doesn’t think we should eat, drink, or smoke? Oh that’s right, Big Gulps!

        • S Randall,

          Thank you for the links. I don’t want to see kids smoking either, but I disagree that they quit because of the price of cigarettes. Kids steal them, or chip in together to buy them.

          One very important point that isn’t being addressed here is that teenagers see their idols, rock stars, and actors smoking, so they think it is cool. We need to educate them and getting their idols to come out against smoking might be one way to get them to stop, or prevent them from starting, but I disagree that taxation or raising the price is the way to do it.

          And by the way, I don’t smoke around kids not only because I don’t want to harm their health, but because I don’t want to influence them to smoke.

        • It is republican dogma that taxing something is the best way to put it out of business.  From a public policy point of view, putting tobacco out of business with discriminatory taxes makes a lot of sense.

          Same with drugs.  Legalize them and tax the hell out of them.  Then they will diminish.  Would save us billions in government spending and provide new revenue to boot.  Its a win/win.  Republicans should get on board.

        • Rich,
          We can agree to disagree on this. I honestly feel that we are and have lost too many rights as it is. My parents are deceased. I don’t need another set.

        • What rights have we lost?  Smoking isn’t a right, it’s a choice.

          We’ve lost privacy rights.  GWB
          We’ve lost due process rights.  GWB
          We’ve been denied free speech rights.  GWB

          But other than those that were denied by Bush 2, I can’t think of any recently.

          Healthcare is not a right—yet.
          Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not rights (they are listed in the Declaration of Independence, but are not in the Constitution)

          So the question becomes, what rights have you lost?  I’m truly interested.

        • Rich,
          Again we can agree to disagree on the issue of whether smoking is a right or not.

          On another note: I disagree that George W. Bush is responsible for the loss of many of our rights. It would be so easy to scapegoat one person for all of the woes we are now facing, but it wouldn’t be the truth. The only persons responsible for our loss of rights is US!

          The citizens of this country, as a whole, has allowed and continues to allow intrusion into our personal lives, our finances, our privacy, our private property, increased taxes to supplement government overspending without accountability, and have voted us into this mess.

          No one looks at the big picture when supporting a ballot measure, an ordinance, an issue, or a candidate running for office. This is a generation of me first, personal entitlement, what’s in it for me. What the hell ever happened to caring about the community as a whole, one another, fairness, and equality?

          Citizen’s willful and compliant laziness, ignorance, and their willingness to buy into the lies pushed by the media, large corporations, politicians, and special interest groups has led to the loss of our rights, our jobs, our homes, our privacy, etc. WE all have no one to blame but ourselves for the way things are today.

  4. Rich,
    I agree with most of what you’ve said. I too was deeply disappointed in voter turn out Tuesday. Part of the problem, as I see it, is that people don’t think their vote matters, they feel unheard, and they are sick of negative campaigning.

    I was raised by a Mother who escaped Nazi Germany, and was blessed enough to see the beauty of this country through her eyes. I remember how happy she was when she became a citizen, and got to vote for the very first time.

    My Father served in the military, and fought in 3 wars. He too was very proud of this country. Between both of my parents, they instilled a strong sense of civic responsibility in all 5 of us. We all take our right to vote very seriously, and feel privileged to have our voices be heard on election day.

    As to a class war starting, I think it already has. At some point the have nots will have had enough of the inequality they are facing, they will raise up, and let their voices be heard. God help the rich when they do.

    • Negative campaigning has always existed, they said if Jefferson were elected President, “blood would run in the streats, rape would occur to you daughters etc. etc. etc.

      Democracy is a participatory sport—you can’t just take was is mailed to you at face value.  Check it out. 

      If it sounds untrue, it probably is or there is another side to the story.  Candidates for office are not perfect, but most are not evil. 

      As for the rich in this country, their greed knows no bounds.  For the top 2% to own 65% of this country and oppose a 2% tax hike to make this country fiscall stronger—the country that allowed them to become rich is unpatriotic.

      Where is their sacrifice?  Teachers, firefighters, police officers take pay cuts to help the economy.  Our service people offer up the ultimate sacraifice in devotion to duty and we give tax breaks to Corporations of billionaires who pay their accountants millions not to pay taxes.

      I got an idea, why don’t we just charge them what they paid their accountants last year not to pay taxes?  BTW:  They wrote all of the tax code to avoid taxes—then they ship their jobs overseas to make an addition .05 a share in their quarterly report.

      These people have no conscience.  The Koch Brothers spend millions to help Governor Walker—-the investment will pay off 100-fold in reduced government regulation and less taxes.  To them it was smart business—for the rest of us, we are living in dangerous times.

      • Rich,
        I agree 100%, but the truth is, we only have ourselves to blame. We buy their products, we put our money in their banks, we allow them to get a way with outsourcing our jobs, we are even stupid enough to train their cheap labor overseas, and give them tax breaks to do it!

        We vote in politicians who take money from, and are friends with these special interest groups/lobbyists, or we don’t vote in elections, we support big chains instead of small businesses, we don’t support American made products/companies, we buy things from foreign companies, and allow them to pay very little in import taxes, the list of stupidity is endless!

        People in this country have allowed this to happen, and now we are reaping what we have sown. People need to wake the hell up. They need to care about what is happening around them, get off their cell phones, computers, and stop buying every overpriced new toy being pushed on them. They are only enabling the rich to get richer, and the problem to grow.

  5. Every time a rich idiot tries to run for higher office, they seen to lose (badly).  Huffington, Issa, etc.  And if you study the literature about the progressive empowerment process (initiative, referendum, recall) voters tend to always behave smarter than the pundits and political operatives give them credit for.

    • The initiative process has ruined this state.  The wise people will always vote for less taxes, more services and they have screwed up the Constitiution and legislature to the point neither can be effective.

      As for rich people not gaining public office, more win than lose.  There isn’t a singe person in the U.S. Senate who is not a millionaire—not one.

      • We do have a silly state constitution full of pages of amendments and special interest clauses. 

        But on the brighter side, having a bunch of millionares in the Senate should make them less likely to take bribes for votes.

        What’d be worse then only electing millionares to be legislators, requiring that they be bar admitted attorneys?

        Although I do recall something from school about 90% of legislators are indeed lawyers and they love writing convoluted laws and regulations that require you to hire an attorney to figure out.  Go figure.

  6. > Conversely, 70 percent of Americans believe they will be in the top 10 percent of wealth in the U.S. Collectively, this shows that Americans are unbelievably optimistic, not very good at math or have been influenced by the false narrative of FOX News and the Republican right. It could be a combination of all three.

    Ummmm.  Let me guess.

    The CORRECT narrative for the American public, according to Rich Robinson, Jon Corzine, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and the rest of the Obamunist clauque is that Americans are stupid for being optimistic, and they should just accept the fact that they are ignorant, manipulated losers who are never going to amount to anything no matter how hard they try.


    • Americans are stupid.

      Churchill said, “the best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with a constituent.”

      Californa just voted against a tobacco tax to fund cancer research.  That is astounding.  Everyone has a relative/friend etc. they know who has cancer and taxing tobacco is a good public policy.

      But the tobacco industry convinced a majority of voters is was “unaccountable spending”, “outside California” with a new “government bureaucracy”.  Collectively, we are that stupid.

      For 70% to believe they are going to be in the top 10% of income is idiotic—but it keeps the masses from voting for their own interest.  Hard work does not get it done, if it did, coal miners would be the richest people in America.

      How can I say this loud and clear, if the American public ever wakes up to what is really going on there will be a revolution over-night.

      BTW:  That’s a Henry Ford quote.

      • > But the tobacco industry convinced a majority of voters is was “unaccountable spending”, “outside California” with a new “government bureaucracy”.  Collectively, we are that stupid.

        Well, it convinced me.

        But after all, I AM a troglodyte.

        One of the most obscene, corrupt, outrageous special interest money grabs in recent years was the ballot initiative to fund “stem cell research”.

        Gobs of money, and who the hell knows where it went.

        I understand that the accountability amounts to asking some administrator: “are you spending money on stem cell research?”, and he has to say “Yeah”.

        No requirement to actually discover anything.  Just spend the money.

  7. And a very well funded pro Proposition B, mainly funded by developers in bed with our mayor and city council, brainwashed 6% of the residents of San Jose to approve Proposition B which for all intents and purposes destroyed the San Jose Police Department. Rich is dead one in this one in his assertion.

  8. As it turns out,Bob Wiecowski deserves support.  Arlyne Diamond appears to be a consultant to Chevron, and Wiecowski is working on legislation against Chevron.

    Chevron may be trying to back door Diamond into challenging Bob as a means of corporate greed.

    • > As it turns out,Bob Wiecowski deserves support.  Arlyne Diamond appears to be a consultant to Chevron, and Wiecowski is working on legislation against Chevron.

      Chevron sells me gasoline which I can put in my SUV and drive to the shooting range and shoot my assualt rifles and handguns.

      I think I’m on Chevron’s side.

  9. These arguments are mostly specious. Take a look at historical voting patterns in San Jose. What you’ll see is that neighborhoods like the Rose Garden and Willow Glen exercise outsize power in city government because they vote in huge numbers. By comparison, the east side or poorer downtown neighborhoods do not turn out.
    Once these educated, wealthier neighborhoods elect their representatives they also are more likely to know how to negotiate issues with the city and have their voices heard.

    For the record, as a lifelong liberal I voted against 29. One could just as easily say Prop 29 was an attempt by one group—cancer researchers—-to pick the pockets of another group—smokers—through the public process. We need to get back to a representative form of government in which the legislatures take responsibility for taxes and expenditures. Putting direct control of taxes in the voters hands, without corresponding responsibility to balance the books, has bankrupted our state.

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