Then Gilchrist, securing his place in our hearts forever, fought an uphill and valiant fight in the December 6th special Congressional election in Orange County's District 48.
Running on the American Independent ticket, Gilchrist finished a strong third, with about a quarter of the votes cast.
The winner, Republican John Campbell, is a California State Assemblyman with a long and well documented record of supporting illegal immigration. Democrat Steve Young placed second, a mere 2,000 votes ahead of Gilchrist.
In today's column, two former California candidates for high office—Republican Walter Moore who ran for Mayor of Los Angeles earlier this year and yours truly, a Democrat in the 2003 Recall Gray Davis election—will weigh in with a post-election analysis.
First of all, some statistical information: as usual in California, the turn out was abysmal. Of 406,000 registered voters, only 96,000 showed up.
"Consider the numbers. Gilchrist got 25% of the vote (i.e., 23,237 votes), even though his American Independent party constitutes just 2% of the registered voters in his district. So where did he get the rest? Assuming that voter turnout was essentially the same regardless of party affiliation, the answer is as follows:
Republicans provided 5.3% of Gilchrist's 25%: the Republican candidate got just 44.7% of the vote, even though the party constitutes 50% of the registered voters. In other words, over 10% of the Republicans voting were willing to cross party lines to vote for the candidate they deemed best. Independents provided the remaining 17.7% of Gilchrist's 25%; they constitute 19.1% of the district's registered voters. Democrats, however, did Gilchrist no favors: they constitute 27.1% of the registered voters, and their candidate got 27.96% of the vote — not much more than Gilchrist."
Ending his essay on an upbeat note, Moore concluded:
"When is the last time you heard of a third-party candidate getting 25% of the vote in a California election? That's huge. That 25% may encourage, say, another 10% in the next election to vote for the best candidate, rather than the lesser of two evils. Think 'snowball effect': 25% turns into 35%, which emboldens another 10%, and, after a few elections, you could get over 50% of the people actually voting for the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation."
When I spoke to Moore about Gilchrist's performance, he told me:
"People keep outsmarting themselves by voting for candidates they hate, thinking they must settle for the 'lesser of two evils,' rather than someone they support. It's a reasonable strategy, but only if you focus on the short term."
And Moore offered this advice to California voters who will soon be facing decision time in the 2006 Congressional election:
"In the long term, we voters need to start voting for the best candidate in a given election, regardless of whether he can win that particular election. Consistently voting for the best candidate is the only way we can encourage other voters to do the same thing. The more consistently we vote for the best candidate, the sooner such a candidate will achieve the 'critical mass' necessary to win, namely, more votes than the other candidates. If instead people continue to outsmart themselves by voting for candidates they hate, then parties will continue to take their votes for granted, and the only party hacks will run for office."
I agree 100% with everything that Moore says. And I agree that Gilchrist plowed new ground for immigration sanity candidates with his strong showing. Gilchrist paved the way and provided inspiration for those who will follow.
But the question that nags at me: will voters ever wake up to the importance of supporting the enlightened underdog—no matter how remote his chances of victory may be?
At the risk of being perceived as the Christmas Grinch, some unpleasant realities about the election results—created by naïve voters— must be faced. Let's acknowledge them and hope to learn:
Nevertheless, my cautionary opinion not withstanding, Gilchrist himself remains positive.
When I asked Gilchrist to summarize his experience, he said,
"I was labeled as a 'one issue' candidate even though several other major issues flow from immigration laws not enforced. If you ask me, my opponents from the Republican and Democratic parties were 'no issue' candidates. They relied strictly on their party affiliation to garner votes. I clobbered them in every public debate, yet their party minions swore their allegiance to their party rather than to their country."
"My race was astoundingly victorious. I sucked away 25.5% of the voters in a district that had only 2% of them registered as Independent Party members. So, that is proof enough to me that not all party minions vote the official party line. Now, I just have to get more Republicans and Democrats to come my way and vote for their country rather than for their party."
Gilchrist, who is likely to run again in 2006 although which office he might seek is undecided, left this battle cry for California voters:
"This election was round one. Even Rocky Balboa never won a fight in the first round."
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.