I love watching sporting events with my friends who are rabid fans. I find it fascinating when a player makes a mistake and they offer the typical response, "How did player X let that happen?"
From the comforts and convenience of one's home, watching on a 50-inch screen, where the only concern is running out of food, such questions are understandable. On the playing field, however, the perspective is different.
The problem lies when such attitudes are transferred to politics. Though pervasive across the nation, California is particularly prone to politics that is little more than a spectator sport where bemoaning what ought to happen trumps engaging in the process.
What else could explain the paltry voter turnout for the June primary?
Early voting indicated a low turnout; for those who took the time to show up at the polls Tuesday, there was virtually no waiting anywhere in the state. This was not due to the efficiency of the registrars, but more the overall apathy of the state.
At the time of this writing voter turnout was roughly 18 percent. While that number is likely to increase slightly, when one factors the voting age population, the overall participation will be in the neighborhood of 13 percent.
Turnout for general elections, especially in presidential years, is always higher, but this year's June primary was far below expectations of most primaries.
A good indicator to the level of apathy may not be those who did not vote, but the nearly 10 percent who voted for Leland Yee for secretary of state.
Though Yee has been indicted on federal money laundering and weapons charges and officially dropped out of the race in March, nearly 300,000 individuals felt he was the best person to ensure the state is transparent and accessible in the areas of elections, business, political campaigning and legislative advocacy.
Those across economic, age and racial strata formed a strange coalition in finding something more engaging than exercising the most fundamental act in the democratic process.
No time to vote by mail or show up to the polls on Election Day, but there will undoubtedly be plenty of time to express dissatisfaction.
Was the low voter turnout reflective of political contentment felt throughout the state? Did voters feel there was simply no reason to vote? Or was it the effect of the newly instituted "top-two" primary system?
The top-two or open primary, approved by a voter initiative, allows voters to vote for any candidate, regardless of political affiliation. The two top vote-getters, regardless of party, will face off in November.
With Democrats enjoying single-party dominance, the election offered little in the way of mystery, which may have diminished public engagement. How can California not offer voters a reason to engage?
Has California gone too long without a xenophobic hot-button initiative for the voters to consider? Has the jaundiced eye of division and marginalization been tempered, or has it simply run out of ways to emotionally titillate the masses and increase turnout?
But the low turnout indicates an overwhelming majority of Californians supports the existing status quo. Regardless of the scientific reasons that may explain why people stayed home on Election Day, not voting is a vote for the current state of affairs.
It is to embrace the words of George Bernard Shaw in the worst possible way that "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."
It is too early to determine if the top-two primary system was the culprit. In all likelihood, the problem lies much deeper. It is something initially believed to be benign but was misdiagnosed and is now obviously malignant.
Hopefully, it will go into remission. But remission is not a cure.
Byron Williams is a contributing columnist. Contact him at 510-208-6417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.