The Strategic Counter-Offensive of Labor

Inspired by Jehu’s conversation with a member, I set out to estimate the feasibility of transportation shutdowns as a tactic for the struggle against capitalism.

Jehu has previously suggested that the sort of tactic Black Lives Matter used – blockading freeways – is a useful tactic to us. However, it takes a lot of people to block a freeway on foot. Consider the following comparison of transit density between people on foot, bicycle, cars, and buses:7999178447_e3e87542fe_o

On October 5, 2017, a group of comrades (at least a dozen in number, possibly several) set out to block the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue in Westwood, CA, a dozen or so miles west of downtown Los Angeles. They dragged prison-style metal bunk bed frames into the intersection and formed human chains for roughly an hour or so. In the end, the LAPD arrested nine comrades and cleared the intersection by 11 AM. Here’s a screenshot from the linked Times article:

Screenshot from 2017-11-21 08-31-57

Of the comrades, one was held on $500 bail because of a traffic ticket. Yet, as far as police interactions go, this was a fairly light response. Comrades have been murdered by police in the past for doing far less than blocking intersections. A number of states with unapologetically fascist legislatures have introduced or passed bills making it legal to “accidentally” run over protesters in the street, as well as sue protesters to recoup the “cost” of “law enforcement.”

Finally, there is the question of effectiveness. Isolated traffic shutdowns like the one in Westwood, or even the months-long one at Standing Rock, have had exactly zero net effect on the national economy. A handful of drivers, perhaps even some high-placed capitalists, are certainly inconvenienced. From a tactical sense, these protests are effective: they halt traffic and attract media attention. But from a strategic sense, what purpose have they served? The fascist state – because what else is the United States in this era if not fascist? – continues on, uncaring. Capitalist profits continue to accumulate: the rich get richer.

The problem, then, lies not in the protests themselves, but rather in the lack of a coherent strategic vision to utilize the protests as a means to an end. Strikes, protests, and other forms of civic disobedience have become seen as an end in themselves since the 1970s. The last time that massive marches forced change in DC was during the Civil Rights era, when lawmakers were still trying to maintain the illusion of democratic control. Those changes have of course since been eroded and undone in subsequent years as the dictatorship of the bourgeois reasserted its control. Labor strikes against individual companies have resulted in minor “wins” in the form of wage increases and avoided cuts to benefits, but the state’s devaluation of currency and capitalism’s never-ending determination to “increase productivity” always manages to outpace even the largest wage gains.

Most communists would agree that the goal is ending capitalism. Unfortunately, there are a number of competing methods advocated to reach that goal.

Marxist-Leninists typically advocate for the building of a Communist Party in order to carry out the political struggle, but aside from some middling efforts underway in the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Worker’s World Party (the former of which split from the latter, and the latter itself split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1959, which was itself formed from the Trotskyist bloc of the Communist Party USA, although they minimize that aspect of their history today) there have been no practical gains on that front in the United States to date, and minimal success in other nations of the imperial core (e.g. Europe).

Others may point to the “success” of the Democratic Socialists of America, with its membership ballooning past 20,000 in the year or so following the farcical 2016 presidential election. But one only needs to look at their “current campaigns” page to see the lack of any real strategy. Fighting hate is never a bad thing, but it is only a symptom of the rot belying capitalism. The second campaign, in support of the Bernie Sanders “Political Revolution,” is even more clarifying: the DSA is merely seeking to get “less bad” Democrats elected to office in the vain hope of ameliorating the excesses of capital, rather than trying to tear down the corrupt institution at its core. As a certain J.V. Stalin wrote in 1924:

Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy. There is just as little ground for thinking that Social-Democracy can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. These organisations do not negate, but supplement each other. They are not antipodes, they are twins.

What strategies remain?

First, there is the strategy of revolutionary labor, abandoned in the United States and the rest of the imperial core since roughly the 1930s. This strategy calls for the tactical use of strikes, blockades and other means on a massive scale in order to put pressure on capitalist profits and thus force demands such as the shortening of the work-week, an effort which ended with the 40-hour work-week in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Today, mobilization on this scale is nearly impossible given the weakened state of the labor movement. The IWW, weakened from the betrayal of the trade unionists during the first Red Scare, remains a shadow of its former self, and now its members can mostly be found at DSA events. Meanwhile, trade unions, represented by the AFL-CIO, are predominantly petty-bourgeoisie and remain shortsightedly focused on preserving their meagre gains while the foundation of labor crumbles around them.

One bright glimmer in all of this were the general strikes in Catalonia, but even Catalan workers’ amazing use of tactics in grinding Barcelona to a halt appears to have achieved little in the ensuing weeks, since for all the power they demonstrated, they seemed willing to merely settle for meaningless political noises before going back to work as before. Rather than calling for an end to capitalism, or at the least a shorter working week, they called for their political leaders – those representatives of the bourgeoisie – to be freed from imprisonment by Madrid. What did they think would happen?

Which leaves the concept of a protracted people’s war, laid out in Mao’s 1938 work “On Protracted War.” In this, Mao lists three stages of a protracted war:

  1. the period of the enemy’s strategic offensive and our strategic defensive
  2. the period of the enemy’s strategic consolidation and our preparation for the counter-offensive
  3. the period of our strategic counter-offensive and the enemy’s strategic retreat

When the global class war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is put into these terms, it seems fairly obvious that we are only living in the second stage of it, with the first stage marked by the creation of a handful of defensively-oriented socialist nations, and a global assault on them known as the Cold War. The period from 1970 to the present has thus represented a strategic consolidation on the part of capital, combined with preparations for the counter-offensive underway in China and the other few remaining socialist nations. The preparations of communists within the United States and other imperial core nations, as I have already pointed out, are quite lacking in comparison.

Why have these preparations been so ineffective?

Given the well-documented history of programs like COINTELPRO and the CIA’s own strategy of subverting Marxists with strategic plants in publications like Paris Review, (note that those links to major publications are rather mild, and more damning evidence is available), as well as the legacy of Operation GLADIO and “Operation Mockingbird”, it does not seem terribly surprising that prominent, ostensibly Marxist parties in the US and elsewhere have at most offered “Democrat Lite” politics and no notable resistance.

Another possible reason for the ineffectiveness has been the (relatively) privileged position enjoyed by the American working class for a brief period of time from WWII to the 1970s. This “heyday” of American manufacturing depended upon America’s ability to export its goods abroad, made possible by the rebuilding of Europe after WWII and exploitation of the raw materials of colonial successor states. This period coincided with a massive reshaping of American culture, starting with the so-called “nuclear family” and suburbanization, a topic which is probably too long to cover in much depth here. This is otherwise known as the embourgeoisement thesis. It should, of course, be noted that workers in the core (and not just those in America) still enjoy a much higher standard of living than heavily exploited workers in the periphery to this day.

Whatever the reason, through all the electoral protests and other actions it seems like communists in the core have mostly lost focus on the political-economic roots of Marxist theory. It is easy to get lost in day-to-day bourgeois nonsense with 24-hour news channels and political talk shows saturating the airwaves – all propaganda, all the time.

Direct Action Tactics as the Opening Move of the Counter-Offensive

One of the objections to many direct action tactics is that they tend to place vulnerable people in harm’s way. If you’re Black, it’s dangerous to run into a cop on the street, let alone confront one as part of a picket line.

(Know how to tell the difference between a cop & a Klan member? Just kidding, there is no difference.)

Because of this, at least initially, the wage labor abolition movement will be very small. There won’t be masses of volunteers ready to cause havoc, and there is a strong possibility that “the masses” will simply shrug and go about their day once direct actions begin in earnest. In other words, while activists fight to get back surplus time for all, they should be as frugal as possible with their own time. Capitalists use technology as a labor productivity multiplier; activists should do the same.

Ever heard of traffic compression waves? They look like this:


In stewing about this I realized that EVERYONE has this same problem at that particular spot: an inability to merge in the dense traffic. Others were probably doing the exact same thing that I did, and this would make the “wave” near that exit worse and worse. Our inability to change lanes would create a “dynamic bottleneck” which hovers near the exit. Obviously the simple cure is to give up; not merge, and miss the exit. I should never have forced the issue, I should have let my exit go past. So should all the other merging drivers. But there is a bigger issue here. People SHOULD be able to merge. Why was traffic packed so tightly? One obvious reason: to punish the idiots who will jump into any little space. I had always done the same myself. I never allow a space to appear ahead of me, or some other driver will immediately swerve into it during their quest to cheat by running down an empty lane to the front of the line. But this sort of “closed-gap” driving would also prevent any necessary merges at off ramps (and at on ramps too, of course.) By eliminating the space ahead of me, I become part of the impenetrable wall which creates the “dynamic bottleneck” and screws up the traffic at highway exits. The gear teeth cannot mesh, so the whole machine grinds to a halt. The “zipper” becomes jammed because the “teeth” of the zipper are resentful about new teeth moving into the space ahead of them.



Superfluous Labor and the Siren Song of Fully Automated Luxury Capitalism

The thought occurred to me that I can literally accomplish a day’s worth of work in around 1/8th of a working day, but there are still dozens of workers toiling on the factory floor, all day, every day. At the end of the day, nothing that any of us do is necessary for the functioning of society. My working hours could be cut to 8 per week and my company probably wouldn’t even notice outside of random IT emergencies. But those factory workers couldn’t have their hours cut without hurting the company, because its profit comes exclusively from their labor. The whole point of reducing working hours is to hurt the capitalists.

That same division between office and factory labor repeats itself on the macro scale in global capitalism. The widget factories of global capitalist production, which are mostly located in the global south, provide most of its profits. To reduce working hours in the factories means building substantial automation, like Foxconn is doing in China. Reducing working hours at the headquarters, on the other hand, is a lot easier for capitalists: it usually takes the form of mass layoffs.

I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but the mass layoff is effectively a concentration of working hours in fewer workers. If a company has 20,000 office personnel all working ~8 hours per week in a 40 hour work week, then it’s effectively paying for 640,000 surplus hours per week. Of course capitalists want to eliminate that. The remaining 160,000 wage-hours of total “necessary” work could be done by 4,000 full-time employees at 100% productivity, so that company would announce it’s laying off 16,000 people. Of course, I put “necessary” in scare-quotes because, chances are, that company’s products are mostly superfluous to society.

But this is also where the tendency of the rate of profit to decline kicks in. As companies shed paid working hours in the aggregate, they are also shrinking the pool of “consumers” who can afford to buy their pointless products. Financialization of the economy allows capitalists to cover up this decline temporarily, by time-shifting the problem into the future. In normal parlance, we call that a “bubble.”

Since the capitalists are by and large a short-sighted lot, they now seem to think this crisis of profit can be averted by “expanding.” As they lose the ability to sell products in already-developed markets, they want to sell more in the places they make the products, which means that wages must rise in order for those workers to afford the shit they make. Raising wages, of course, causes an immediate decline in profit, and as I said, capitalists are notoriously short-sighted, preferring a long-term decline in profit and its resulting crisis to any short-term reductions that might temporarily stabilize and stagnate profits. Thus when wages are forced to rise, they turn back to automation, which allows them to reduce working hours in aggregate through mass layoffs. As their profits drop in the ensuing crisis, they go looking for the next “developing market” to try this cycle in.

Lenin said that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. He was right. In his 1916 publication Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin offered the following definition with 5 basic features:

(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;

(2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy;

(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;

(4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and

(5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.

Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.

Even 101 years after this was published, it remains a good working definition of imperialism. What is worth clarifying is the term “capitalist power,” which Lenin used to refer to imperialist nation-states such as the US or Great Britain. The spread of fascism and its insidious spiritual successor, neoliberalism, has resulted in the merging of corporate power with the nation-state beyond even Mussolini’s wildest dreams. Trans-national corporations now dictate policies in every nation-state they touch through the magic of “free trade” agreements. When trade agreements do not suffice, they manipulate national armies to do their bidding, carrying out “regime change” to favor their chosen successors.

In other words, the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers is nearly complete, and the nation-state is nearly irrelevant to capital. The problem is, to channel Thatcher, sooner or later you run out of markets to develop. Space thus seems like the next logical place for capitalism to expand. However, it seems increasingly likely that space colonization will be fully automated from the start, which is a minor problem.

There must be consumers to sustain a market for consumer goods, and right now, the human population of beyond-LEO space is exactly zero. Musk may envision a bustling population of millions of humans on Mars by the 2040s, but the truth remains that in the harsh Martian environment most, if not all, labor will be conducted by robots.

Since robots are not labor but rather capital, they do not produce value directly according to Marx’s labor theory of value. The same could be said about slavery, and Marx, who wrote about the American Civil War as it was happening, noted this in his response to Ricardian economists in part III, chapter 21 of Theories of Surplus Value:

The transformation of necessaries into luxuries by means of foreign trade, as interpreted in the pamphlet, is important in itself […] because it determines the whole social pattern of backward nations—for example, the slave-holding states in the United States of North America […] which are associated with a world market based on capitalist production. No matter how large the surplus product they extract from the surplus labour of their slaves in the simple form of cotton or corn, they can adhere to this simple, undifferentiated labour because foreign trade enables them [to convert] these simple products into any kind of use-value.

In other words, the value produced by labor which is considered capital – whether human or robot – is accumulated exclusively by the capitalist class in the form of surplus commodities, which must be exchanged with other non-slaveholding capitalists in order to realize their use-values. Therefore, the exploration and colonization of space is little more than a repeat of the colonization of the Americas, substituting automation for slavery and freed from any ethical dilemmas posed by indigenous peoples (at least until we stumble across another intelligent species, which I may only hope capitalists never do for the sake of every living creature in the universe.)

It is, of course, entirely conceivable that well-meaning “socialist” idealists will strive to create “egalitarian” colonies in space where all colonists share the value produced by the robots, with or without the need for exports of surplus commodities for profit. There are several problems that remain in this case.

First, as long as capitalism remains the dominant system here on Earth, the colony must export enough goods of sufficient use value to Earth (or its vicinity) to be able to import the specialized supplies they need until such time as they become fully self-sufficient. Failing that, the colony will need to be supported via a wealthy benefactor like the United States or China, as even the most wealthy of the billionaires do not possess enough surplus capital to sustain an entire colony for very long. Both of these solutions require the stolen surplus value of billions of hungry, tired workers here on Earth.

The second problem is the expectation for colonists to pay their own way. In Musk’s vision for an Interplanetary Transportation System, a one-way ticket to Mars should cost around $200,000 in today’s dollars, roughly around the price of a small house in most American cities. He contends this will make it affordable for “average” Americans, ignoring the fact that even those middle class Americans who do “own” their houses are saddled with massive amounts of mortgage debt. The ITS is a space Uber for well-off capitalists.

If we assume the capitalists are aware of these problems, the question then becomes why they continue to pursue it. I believe the related survivalist craze offers an answer: while they are blinded to the fact that capitalism itself creates crises, they are not blind to the historical consequences of these crises. Much as the bourgeoisie slaveholders of the antebellum South saw themselves as the kings of a colonial empire, today’s capitalists see the same promise in space. Why live on Earth where they must barely tolerate smelly plebeians when the promise of a new life awaits them in the off-world colonies?

Mars, then, offers the promise of fully automated luxury capitalism, a world to be reshaped as they see fit in order to escape the misery of Earth’s congestion without having to re-engineer entire cities (although they’re trying to do that in the meantime, as usual.) Like the failed libertarian colony of Galt’s Gulch in Chile, they see its potential as a relief valve where they can take their stolen wealth and, presumably, live out their remaining days under the care of deliberately servitude artificial intelligences while Earth burns.

Maybe that explains Elon’s sudden push for “safe” artificial intelligences. It certainly wouldn’t do to settle down on a Martian plantation if the newly aware robots decide to follow the example of the Haiti slave revolt and overthrow their capitalist masters.

Apocalypse Now

Since time immemorial, those in power have feared the destruction of their order, and once removed from power, they and their sympathizers always seek to bring about its return. This power – and the fear surrounding it – formed the basis of the definitions of political left and right we use today, as the Right represented those who sought the return of the French monarchy, the Ancien Régime, and on the Left, the Republicans who abolished it.

It is not surprising, then, that as generations pass and society goes through phases of upheaval and development, the ruling classes try to instill fear of societal collapse within the masses. In the United States, the political right (represented by both major parties) first drummed up fear of widespread anarchy at the turn of the 20th century, and later shaped it into fear of nuclear war with Soviet Russia. Today, the Democrats have returned to McCarthyism to accuse the ruling Republican party of conspiring with Russia, while the predominantly Republican police and ex-military are turning into the core of a popular fascist front (under the guise of “Blue Lives Matter”) much as they did during the abortive German revolution of 1918-1919.

This fear serves two purposes. First, it divides the working classes along various lines, echoing the fear of black people that the white capitalist class has used to prevent working class solidarity throughout most of US history.  Today, that fear has been supplemented by islamophobia and transphobia among other fears. Second, it allows the capitalists to profit off of each other: witness the rapid growth in disaster preparedness among the super-rich.

The term that is most used to describe the situation these reactionaries are afraid of is apocalypse. From Wikipedia:

An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω, literally meaning “an uncovering”) is a disclosure of knowledge or revelation.

Note how the popular understanding of the term – most notably appearing in the post-apocalyptic film genre – paints the apocalypse as a universally bad event. Most of the popular culture since the Cold War has focused on nuclear war as the trigger of societal collapse. Some stories explore a gradual descent of society into fascism or authoritarianism. But very few stories – Star Trek and the Culture series by Iain M. Banks excepted – explore the idea of post-class societies, even though that certainly qualifies as a dramatic revelation.

Let us embrace the apocalypse, then. Let us rise up and uncover the lies of the capitalists; let us disclose this knowledge to the world. Only then can we build the class consciousness needed to bring our destructive, unequal, and exploitative society to its rightful end, as Georg Lukacs wrote in 1920:

The proletariat only perfects itself by annihilating and transcending itself, by creating the classless society through the successful conclusion of its own class struggle. The struggle for this society, in which the dictatorship of the proletariat is merely a phase, is not just a battle waged against an external enemy, the bourgeoisie. It is equally the struggle of the proletariat against itself, against the devastating and degrading effects of the capitalist system upon its class consciousness. The proletariat will only have won the real victory when it has overcome these effects within itself.


Political Parties in America

Adapted from V.I. Lenin’s 1917 pamphlet, “Political Parties in Russia and the Tasks of the Proletariat.


  1. The Grand Old Party (Republicans) and kindred groups like the Libertarian Party.

  2. The Democratic Party (Democrats) and kindred groups like the Green Party, Working Families’ Party, and Democratic Socialists of America.


  1. The most reactionary sections of the capitalist bourgeoisie, who wish to advance the privatization of the commons and break concentrated state power into corporate fiefdoms.

  2. The bourgeoisie as a whole, that is, the capitalist class, who seek to maintain state power in order to preserve the status quo.


  1. Decidedly hostile, since they seek to use the state only for increasing the profits of the capitalist landowners. Uses nationalist rhetoric to redirect the anger of the working class against itself.

  2. Decidedly hostile in action, since it threatens the profits of the capitalists and landowners. Uses the language of socialism to steer the working class away from revolutionary awareness and toward ineffective electoral politics.

Why I’m Not Celebrating Constitution Day

One of the most enduring American peculiarities is the reverence that our historical education places upon the constitution and the men who wrote it. We capitalize the Constitution to signify its importance in our society, but hardly pause to think about how it came about beyond why the 1st and 2nd amendments are significant. We have lionized the “Founding Fathers,” elevating them to a plane above us mere mortals where they undoubtedly look down upon us in bemusement. Criticism of them, particularly from the left, is downright verboten: how dare some plebeian question their motives?

At the end of the day, however, they were only men, with all of the flaws and vices that entails. Furthermore, they were only men, a reflection of the patriarchal Anglo society that had been transplanted here. Women had no input in the drafting of the documents that organized our modern society. We may take equality between the sexes for granted today, evidence be damned, but we must remember that women’s suffrage wasn’t until 1920. (We still haven’t passed an Equal Rights Amendment, partly because of a disagreement between bourgeois and working class feminists over how to define equal rights, but mostly because of opposition from people invested in a conservative patriarchy like Phyllis Schlafly.)

Finally, the founding fathers were only white, Anglo men who hailed predominantly from the upper layers of early American society. Many-most?-of them were slaveholders. With some exceptions, their legacy hangs almost entirely on the American Revolution. Take, for instance, the eponymous John Hanson, one of the early Presidents of the Continental Congress. Born to the wealthy owners of a 1,000 acre Maryland plantation, he entered public service in 1750 and pursued a rather unremarkable, mostly self-serving career until hostilities broke out in 1774, at which point he became a champion of the patriot cause. Even so, disagreement exists among historians of his actual importance to the revolution. The state of Maryland has even debated replacing his statue with one of Harriet Tubman, whose work toward ending slavery far outweighs that of a rather boring rich white slaveholder who served a mostly ceremonial one-year term as President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation.

Viewed from this angle, the American Revolution suddenly looks a lot less like a people’s revolt against the tyranny of an old empire, and a lot more like corporate attempts at tax evasion if legal battles were fought with guns instead of lawyers. Considering this, is it any surprise that free-market ideologues and self-styled “sovereign citizens” now use this as justification for their means? Curiously, however, these same ideologues gloss over the deplorable slavery that their white heroes perpetuated as Robin L. Einhorn explains in her book American Taxation, American Slavery. These “heroes” were in fact masters of Newspeak, well over a hundred years before the birth of George Orwell:

Expansions of slavery became expansions of “liberty,” constitutional limitations on democratic self-government became defenses of “equal rights,” and the power of slaveholding elites became the power of the “common man.”

Therefore, I will celebrate the Constitution at such a time as we have a Constitution worth celebrating:

A Constitution that does not conceal slavery in an amendment purportedly enacted to abolish it.

A Constitution that guarantees equal rights for all.

A Constitution that includes a truly representative voting system, not one tilted toward wealthy landholders.

Ultimately, we will never have such a Constitution until we address the fundamental inequalities of our class-based society. This is not to say that I advocate for the total abolishment of all wealth, as such utopian ideals are likely to remain highly unrealistic for the foreseeable future. However, it seems clear that as long as our society is controlled by those who possess most of the wealth, racism and other forms of discrimination will be used to perpetuate class divisions to the benefit of the wealthy.

In future pieces, I will attempt to explore the foundational changes that might conceivably bring about a more just and equitable society.

California Voter Turnout: 2008 vs 2016

When the Associated Press calls a hotly contested race just one day before the last Super Tuesday primaries of 2016 based entirely on last-minute polling of superdelegates, all in an apparent attempt to scoop the competition, and  major stories about voting irregularities are published in the LA Times, at some point you have to stop and ask yourself if this is business as usual, or something deeper.

Since it would be take a very long time to analyze every county’s turnout in the 2016 election, I’ll just use my home county of San Bernardino as a test case. Final results are not due until July 8, 2016, so I will check back and update this piece as needed.

Here are the numbers. Sources:

Total Registered/Voted Percent
2008 2016 % change 2008 2016 point change
Registered Voters 723661 784130 108.36%
Precinct Turnout 229094 108609 47.41% 31.66% 13.85% -17.81%
Vote by Mail Turnout 147520 133884 90.76% 20.39% 17.07% -3.32%
Total Turnout 376614 242493 64.39% 52.04% 30.93% -21.11%
Registered Democratic 273804 303592 110.88%
Precinct Turnout 108386 55061 50.80% 39.59% 18.14% -21.45%
Vote by Mail Turnout 60845 58983 96.94% 22.22% 19.43% -2.79%
Total Turnout 169231 114044 67.39% 61.81% 37.56% -24.25%
Registered Nonpartisan 124605 178352 143.13%
Precinct Turnout 11964 2756 23.04% 9.60% 1.55% -8.05%
Vote by Mail Turnout 12514 10919 87.25% 10.04% 6.12% -3.92%
Total Turnout 24478 13675 55.87% 19.64% 7.67% -11.97%
Nonpartisan Democratic (Crossover)
Precinct Turnout 14130 10429 73.81% 11.34% 5.85% -5.49%
Vote by Mail Turnout 709 3732 526.38% 0.57% 2.09% 1.52%
Total Turnout 14839 14161 95.43% 11.91% 7.94% -3.97%
Combined Nonpartisan Turnout  39317  27386  70.80%  31.55% 15.61% -15.95%
  •  The first takeaway from this data is that despite the registered Democratic voter base increasing 110% over 2008, overall turnout on June 7 was only 50% of the 2008 turnout, while vote by mail turnout only decreased slightly at 96%.
  • Second, when comparing the numbers between NP-Democratic ballots and NPP ballots, an interesting picture forms. In 2008, total NPP ballots exceeded NP-Democratic ballots by 10,000 votes, but in 2016 the numbers were almost even. Of those, the share of vote-by-mail and precinct votes are like mirror images between NPP and NP-Dem: 10,429 in-person NP-Dem ballots, versus 2,756 NPP ballots; and 3,732 mail-in NP-Dem ballots, versus 10,919 NPP ballots.

This discrepancy between the precinct turnout and vote-by-mail turnout seems like a clear indication that the AP’s premature June 6 call suppressed turnout as many Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters chose to stay home rather than participate.

Finally, we know that the Bernie Sanders campaign has relied heavily on independent voters. Independent registration increased 143% from 2008 levels, and the share of independent voters requesting Democratic ballots went from 37% of participating voters in 2008 to 50% in 2016. Despite this, the total independent turnout rate fell by half, from 31.5% in 2008 to 15.6%.

San Bernardino County still estimates that approximately 95,000 ballots are outstanding and will update the totals on June 9, with further updates to follow.