How to Become a Grizzled Political Cynic

How To Become A Grizzled Political Cynic. 


The California General Election 2018, or: why you should stop complaining about the future and try to change it.

Photo thanks to Girlboss!

Photo thanks to Girlboss!

By James Royce

So, it’s state election season at the moment and talking politics is not unpopular right now which has everyone screeching: What even is America?

Well, America is lots of things. It is taking billionaires seriously and taking burgers seriously and being in a sincere kind of love with The Rock. It is paying men millions of dollars to give each other CTE for our viewing pleasure and it is towns that pride themselves on their little league baseball teams and it is having all the aircraft carriers. It is the absence of public transportation and it is your dad voting Republican. It is driving to Mexico and coming back with a trunk full of cheap Adderall and it is the national park system and it is increasing the defense budget and it is a big barbecue for the big game… and it is jeans. And hanging our flag just everywhere and it is bravado and optimism and opportunism and classlessness. It is a massive hunk of land that stretches from sea to shining sea and is inward-looking but gigantically ego’d and self-important. It is amazing, it is terrible, it’s our problem to deal with. If anyone asks you to sum up America, just say: coffee and corporate oversight. What an absolute fucking mess of a country.

It’s not all bad, however. The California general election is coming up on November 6th. It’s a wonderful opportunity to fix a few issues plaguing our state. Flip this little sliver of land from “chaotic evil” to “chaotic good.” Set an example for the rest of our continental harlequinade. Everybody is just really excited about that! Can’t we prolong the fun somehow? Who hasn't loved the recent political anarchy? Rich white men saying: “No, your paycheck is safe." They smile and nod: "We will absolutely crunch down on the bankers. Absolutely.” They look us in the eye and say: "We totally value your opinion (But old people vote more, so we're going to fuck you on the property values and help them with tax loopholes)! Vote for us!" 

Hackneyed phrase without a doubt, but we can make a change. Small, perhaps. But a change all the same. What follows below is a handy guide to the upcoming elections. Who’s running for governor. Who wants to represent us in the senate and congress. What propositions look good on the surface (we’ll fix all the roads!) but will fuck everything up in the fine print (but we’re going to pay teachers even less to afford it!). 

So, yes, being informed is: good. And with that, let’s breeze through some of the main topics of conversation: 

Registering to vote. 

An important question to ask yourself before all this is: Am I even registered to vote? If so, good. You’re an organized person who, I would hope, voted in the last national election and the recent midterms. You probably also know the location of your closest polling station. Or have one of those vote-by-web-or-mail systems in order. Either or, you're set. If that's the case just ignore all this and hang tight until November 6th. 

If not, please register. It takes five actual minutes to switch from “non-voter” to “voter.” All you have to is Google: Register to vote in California. Do that then follow the instructions on the .gov webpage. That’s it. Oh, and keep your driver’s license handy and make sure you have your social security number memorized. You’ll need those. It’s ok, this is literally one of those only scenarios when handing over this sort of information to the government isn’t exactly a terrible thing. 

A few minutes, that’s all it takes. It’s almost too easy. There’s no excuse not to register to vote unless you’re trying to be edgy and protest The Man by not voting. And look, I understand not voting is a thing. Yes, politics are a bit of a shit show right now after all. There’s something inherently smug however about going on and on about it because you think you’re more savvy than all the other sheeple. Prattling on about not voting is the political equivalent of making sure everyone at a bar knows how you don’t like that bar yet fail to offer any viable alternative. It’s playing guitar at a party. It’s a step away from growing your hair out and talking about moving to Europe but never actually doing it because you haven’t been anywhere in, like, Mexico outside of Cabo before. You are essentially a shirt that Urban Outfitters discontinued so hard it became a person if you don’t vote. You know what, here’s the web address to register: You have to do it now. It’s taken more more time for me to write 350 words of semi-nonsense than it’ll take you to register. No excuses now, sorry. The registration deadline is October 22nd too so just go and get it over with, please.



California has one of the safest Senate seats for Democrats in the nation. That explains why there are two Democrats running against one another: Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León. Let’s take a few and break down these two.

Dianne Feinstein

Feinstein is running for her fifth full term in the US Senate. That’s 25 years serving in the senate for a woman who turned 85 back in June. People like Feinstein because she’s just, well, always sort of been here. Someone who’s managed to stick around that long has to be doing a good job. Or, maybe, and this is just a passing thought, she is really good at keeping the establishment happy. A good thing about Dianne: she is quite anti-gun and and has made some wonderful strides to make our state look less like bad Mad Max spinoff. Another thing she hates: marijuana. Yes, Mrs. Feinstein has been a long-standing critic to marijuana legalization. Now, that’s not much of an issue now as everyone is honking on jazz cigarettes legally now. However, that is something to keep in mind if you hope to see an octogenarian pass some more progressive policies over the next few years. Let’s see, what else? Oh, she’s bang into warrantless wiretapping and is quite cosy with the Department of Homeland Security. She was one of the few Democrats to support the PATRIOT act. Big fan of the Iraq war back in 2002, as well. It’s not all bad, though, when it comes to Dianne. She’s done massive work for LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, and women’s rights. She fights for environmental protection. She’s not terrible.

In short, Mrs. Feinstein has represented California well if you’re a Democrat. It’s kind of time for her to go though. Have you ever had a guest overstay their welcome and you’ve had to constantly make gestures that you want them to politely leave? This is that. Yes, thank you Dianne for the lovely bottle of wine. It was wonderful, yes. I know I sound rude but we want to talk medicare for all right now and your no-politics-at-the-dinner-table attitude is getting rather stale

Kevin de León

Now, the challenger. Kevin currently heads up California's 24th State Senate district. If you live out in Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz or really anywhere in East LA that means Kevin is your representative. Kevin was born in LA to an immigrant mother who worked as a housecleaner. Another interesting tidbit about Kevin is he won California's Democratic Party endorsement. He did it pushing some pretty progressive policies. And he nabbed it away from Feinstein. Clean energy. Single-Payer healthcare. Taxing Wall Street to pay for and eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities. Kevin’s about all that. He’s also on quote saying he wants to shake up the status quo of both the Democratic Party and the senate. “You can’t abide by the old country club rules of the Senate,” de León said in a recent speech in San Francisco. “That may have worked two decades ago, but it surely doesn’t work today.”

So who’s going to win?

I quite like de León (a little about me. A lot of readers are calling out for this — “Please, James!” they beg, “pour yourself more into your work! I must take another peak behind your psyche!” — and what I am saying is: this Kevin guy seems sound). I like him, but I have a feeling Feinstein will wipe the fucking floor with him in November. She just has too much name recognition and money behind her not to. Kevin supports some wonderful policies and I like his disrupt-the-status-quo-because-look-where-that-got-us approach. He also spent an entire weekend gorging on In-N-Out once. Seriously, he's on record saying that. It happened after a particularly stressful month of campaigning and that is, and do not kid yourself here, an immense mood. Anyway, Feinstein in a landslide. Donor money, seniority, and name recognition is too much of an advantage. Dianne’s bringing a tank to an alleyway political knife fight here.



If you weren’t already aware, California loves electing bizarre personalities to govern the state. Go ahead and pound into Google a list of California’s past governors. Go on, I’ll wait. See: there’s a fair few legitimate robber barons there. Ronald Reagan too. Arnold the actual Terminator Schwarzenegger. Richard Nixon almost held the spot in 1962 but lost a close election to Pat Brown. Guess we dodged a bit of a bullet there at least.  Although Nixon does credit that loss as his primary motivator for running for president six years later. So, technically, and this is only if we’re pointing fingers here, the Nixon administration is California’s fault. Sorry about that. Anyway, yes, if having a circus in power of an economy larger than Great Britain were an art form, California would be a renaissance painting. 

Thankfully this year is a slight bit more tame than elections past. As usual, there are two candidates. As usual, one is a Republican and the other a Democrat. As usual, people have opinions about both. 

John Cox (R)

Right, so a Republican hasn’t won a statewide race in California since 2006. Speaking of not holding public office, John Cox, a man who has strictly been involved in real estate for the past 62 years of his life. He announced his bid back in March 2017. Since then has contributed millions of his own money to fund his campaign. Trump endorsed Cox in a tweet (I, mean, I’m shocked) back in May even though Cox stated he did not vote for Trump in 2016 (fucking lmao). Cox recently stated that he backs the president 100% now. When it comes to his policies, he doesn’t have many. There’s a gas tax and statewide vehicle fee he wants repealed? There’s a “neighborhood Legislature” he wants to be taken seriously? There’s a bunch of “crony” politicians and special interests he wants out of Sacramento? But, like, that’s it? I mean, I guess he looks like a sweet old man? But also, like, why does he hold everything in his hands — glasses, legislation, the wellbeing of the state — in a pose that’s very Lennie from Of Mice and Men? Is that a very “vote for me or I’ll crush this fucker” vibe he’s exuding? Potentially. I don’t know, maybe a Google image search will convince you otherwise. 

Gavin Newsom (D). 

Remember back in 2004 when you couldn’t get married if you were gay and the mayor of San Francisco just got up and said, “Hey, that’s a dumb law. I’m not going to obey it.” Then he began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Anyway, that mayor was: Gavin Newsom. His actions were a catalyst that led the Supreme Court to reassess things and affirm the rights of same-sex couples to marry later. What an absolute goddamn lad. Gavin also pushed hard to toughen California gun laws and to legalize recreational marijuana back in 2016. If elected governor, he has proposed the adoption of a single-payer healthcare program in California. Not paying $1600 just to get my broken toe fixed after I jammed it into the coffee table on a dusty Saturday morning? Very cool. I too, Gavin, am tired of handing over all my money to a stern-faced nurse types who works for Silicon Valley healthcare startups just so they can hand me a pill I can take that will immediately kill me. Very cool indeed.  

How things should turn out.

This is the closest thing to an end-of-the-night fight between someone who has the exact vibe they would die from a single punch to the skull and a much larger, more terrifying human politically. Don't know if you've ever actually seen one of those before, but if you have just know this race will end up the same way. One-on-one brawl that ends with one person glassed to dust and another sprinting into the night with blood on his shirt and his mates going, “Gavin no! Not again, Gavin! You just got your ankle monitor taken off too!” In this case, John Cox is the one getting glassed and Gavin is, well, Gavin Newsom. According to the nerds over at FiveThirtyEight, Gavin has kept a steady 20-or-so point lead over Cox. There's also more people registered independent than Republican in California right now. Brutal. However, it is still an election and nothing counts until the final vote is tallied. And not go all “US history teacher who only manages one class of juniors” on you now but not voting is what screws these things up. Politics are weird and sometimes the person you wanted to win doesn’t. So, read up on these two and when you’re done and happy go and vote for the one you like.



Propositions are cool but also kind of shit because they decide where your tax money goes. Taxes. That word alone gets people riled up. Imagine now, your dad, disgruntled about taxes at the dinner table. “Why should I – a good and honest taxpayer,” he is saying over a full glass of wine. “My only identity is being a taxpayer, the only thing I hold dear to me is the tax I pay into the realm.” He hasn’t even touched his food. “Even though taxpaying is a legal requirement for literally every earning human in the country I somehow think the tax I specifically pay – me, Steve from Encinitas – the tax I and I alone pay is sacred, I count and weigh every dollar of it, every lamppost and every pothole, me, I paid for that, me, with my tax – why should I, a taxpayer, pay for other people to experience a healthy life?" Sorry, dad, but looks like you’re on the couch again tonight.

There’s quite a bit of propositions to read up on this year. Twelve exactly. That’s a lot of info so I would recommend you read up on all them here. There’s one for higher fuel taxes to pay for new highways and roads. There’s another that requires ambulance employees be given more flexibility with their meal and rest breaks. There’s a weird one that wants to break California into three different states which, I don’t know, kind of sounds like a bit of scam to gerrymander everything in favor of Republicans. 

Again, you can read through them all here. And I recommend you do. While the governor and senate races are the most talked about, these are just as important. These determines where that chunk of money that gets taken off the end of your paycheck goes. So, it’s probably best you take the time to read up.

And now, go out and vote! Vote, vote vote vote, vote! Vote! Flip your district! Make sure some thin-necked Yale kid who parachuted in from his party’s DC office having only previously experienced your neighborhood by looking at it through the window of a private jet doesn’t represent you! Don’t let that happen again! You know his policies because they are: generally dicking over the poor! Let’s make our little slice of life slightly less shitty, please.

Register by October 22nd. Cast your ballot on November 6th.