Does Culver City Have a ‘Silent Majority’?

Since 2018, when Culver City elected a progressive City Council majority for the first time ever, the remaining conservative member of the Council has repeatedly dismissed the local liberals as “the same 25 people,” and conservative members of the public have referred to themselves as the “silent majority.”

Easily available public data disproves these claims.

The election this coming November will be the first time that Culver City’s municipal election, including City Council, School Board, and local initiatives, is combined with the state and federal one. This will increase turnout. Previously, the City election stood alone, making it easy to skip. Now, everyone who shows up to vote for President will be able to vote for City Council and School Board at the same time. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, California’s elections will be conducted entirely by mail, which is likely to also increase turnout. Republicans nationally have opposed voting by mail, because they know that when more people vote, the worse they do.

Conservatives in Culver City likewise opposed consolidating local elections with the larger ones. Unlike their national counterparts, they mainly argued that consolidation would make local campaigns more expensive and that other races would distract from the city ones. However, the local right did occasionally also complain about “less-informed” people participating in democracy. Looking at past local and national election data may help anticipate some consequences of expanded participation.

In April 2018, when Council members Alex Fisch and Daniel Lee were sworn in, establishing a historically unprecedented 4-1 progressive majority, outgoing Council members Jim Clarke and Jeff Cooper both admonished them that “more people didn’t vote for you than did.” This relies on statistical sleight-of-hand, counting non-voters as votes in opposition, but let’s take it seriously for a moment. This table shows the number of votes Cooper, Clarke, and the five current Council members each received, as a raw number, as a percentage of votes cast, and as a percentage of all registered voters, based on data from the City website and the LA County Registrar of Voters’ lavote.net. People not registered to vote are not included.

                                                             Votes              % of Votes       % of Registered Voters

Meghan Sahli-Wells (2016)        3794                   26.5%                  14.9%

Alex Fisch (2018)                          4020                   30.7%                 14. 8%

Daniel Lee (2018)                          3536                   26.7%                 13%

Jeff Cooper (2014)                        2569                    37.8%                 9.7%

Thomas Small (2016)                   2416                     16.9%                 9.5%

Jim Clark (2014)                           2437                    35.8%                 9.2%

Goran Eriksson (2016)                2168                     15.2 %                 8.5%

This shows that Cooper and Clark’s caution was unfounded and misdirected. The high percentages of votes cast they received in 2014 were because there was only one other serious candidate in that race, while the 2016 and 2018 fields were much more competitive. Even with this circumstance, they still each failed to get over 50%: more people did not vote for them than did.This table also shows, by all three criteria, that Mayor Eriksson, the lone conservative on the current Council, is the least popular member and enjoys the weakest mandate.

The phrase “silent majority” was popularized by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in 1969, referring to Americans who did not participate in antiwar protests or other social justice actions of the time, claiming their silence as consent. It is likely not a coincidence that this phrase and its accompanying assumptions have been revived in this new activist era, from the Women’s March through the March for Our Lives to Black Lives Matter. However, claims that there is a conservative silent majority in Culver City are contradicted by the data.

Here are Culver City voter registrations by party since 2008, again from lavote.net:


                                      Democratic               Republican                    No Party Preference

2008                            57.00%                       18.50%                           21.10%

2012                             57.00%                       16.80%                          22.70%

2016                             57.90%                       14.30%                          24.60%

2020                            59.90%                       11.30%                           25.50%


Here are the results of the 2016 and 2020 Presidential Primaries, showing each candidate’s number of votes and share of all votes cast:

2016 Primary            % of Votes                   # of Votes

Hillary Clinton             44.1                             6258

Bernie Sanders            36.2                             5149

Donald Trump             6.2                               885



2020 Primary

Bernie Sanders           26.4                              4033

Joe Biden                     23.4                              3577

Elizabeth Warren       19                                  2905

Mike Bloomberg          7.4                                1133

Donald Trump             6.5                                996

And here is how Culver City voted for President in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 General Elections:

2008                             % of Votes                  # of Votes

Barack Obama           76.80%                         16134

John McCain              20.10%                         4231

2012                           

Barack Obama           76.00%                         15809

Mitt Romney              19.10%                             3978


2016

Hillary Clinton               78.3%                           17222

Donald Trump               13.5%                              2958

This data shows there is no conservative “silent majority” in Culver City, unless they are so silent that they decline to register to vote or to participate in national elections. Rather, it is that the left is no longer silent.

I hope this article will be useful to participants and observers of local politics, enabling them to make more informed comments and decisions.

Jeff Schwartz

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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