My Last-Minute Decision to Enter the U.S. Senate Race in CaliforniaSince Unz doesn't expect to actually win—although stranger things have happened—he's planning to cap the donations he'll accept at $99.
As some of you may have already heard, a few days ago I made a last-minute decision to enter the U.S. Senate race for the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer in California. I took out my official papers early Monday morning and returned them with the necessary 65 signatures of registered voters on Wednesday afternoon, the last possible day for filing.
I am certainly under no illusions that my candidacy is anything but a tremendous long-shot. Over the two decades that have passed since Gov. Pete Wilson’s Prop. 187 campaign, California has been transformed into what amounts to a one-party Democratic state, with Republicans holding not a single statewide office and barely one-third of the State Legislature; GOP presidential campaigns rarely invest any time or money in hopeless pursuit of California’s 55 electoral votes. With the sole exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger—who was obviously a special case—not a single Republican has won a top-ticket statewide race since 1994, with candidates often losing by 20-25 points despite spending many millions or even tens of millions on their campaigns; and virtually all down-ticket Republican candidates have generally lost by comparable margins.
But the flip-side of this difficult situation is that the California Republican Party is so extremely feeble these days that my entrance into the race would hardly face strong GOP rivals. Neither of the other two Republicans running has ever held any elective office or boasts significant political accomplishments, they were tied at 3% in the most recent polls, and after a full year of campaigning, each had only raised about $50,000. As most readers are well aware, I’m hardly an ultra-wealthy “checkbook” candidate able to spend unlimited sums, but dollars in that sort of range I can easily handle.
The primary factor behind this sudden decision on my part was the current effort by the California Democrats and their (totally worthless) Republican allies to repeal my 1998 Prop. 227 “English for the Children” initiative. Although the English immersion system established in the late 1990s was judged an enormous educational triumph by nearly all observers, and the issue has long since been forgotten, a legislative ballot measure up for a vote this November aims to undo all that progress and reestablish the disastrously unsuccessful system of Spanish-almost-only “bilingual education” in California public schools:
An important factor in my decision-making was the strong likelihood that Donald Trump would be the Republican presidential nominee. He and his campaign would almost certainly support keeping English in the public schools, but for obvious reasons he would hardly be the best political figure to be strongly identified with the No campaign. However, if I were a statewide candidate myself, heavily focusing on that issue, my standing as the original author of Prop. 227 would give me an excellent chance of establishing myself as the main voice behind the anti-repeal campaign. I also discussed the possibility of this race with some of my fellow Harvard Overseer slate-members, and they strongly believed that my candidacy would be far more likely to help rather than hurt our efforts, which this was another major consideration in my decision. Furthermore, running for office provides me with an opportunity to raise all sorts of other policy issues often ignored by most political candidates or elected officials.
This last point is one that I have frequently emphasized to people over the years, that under the right circumstances, the real importance of a major political campaign sometimes has relatively little connection to the actual vote on election day. Instead, if used properly, a campaign can become a powerful focal point for large amounts of media coverage on under-examined issues. And such media coverage may have long-term consequences, win or lose.
Just as a minor example, the 65 valid voter signatures I filed on Wednesday afternoon have already generated a bit of media coverage for the November attempt to repeal Prop. 227, which had previously received virtually no attention whatsoever. Even this handful of glancing discussion might mean that ten times as many Californians are now aware of the repeal effort as had been the case a week ago.[More][Emphases added]
Protest candidacies have a long, and as Unz points out, successful history of bringing issues that both parties want the voters to ignore to the attention of the public. Unz has done this before—in 1994 he received 34% of the vote as a candidate in the Republican Primary for Governor of California.
He's also just published a book of his controversial writings—The Myth of American Meritocracy and Other Essays.
If he were a regular politician, he wouldn't dare say one-tenth of the things he says in that.
That is one way in which, despite their very different styles, he's like Donald Trump.