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Wake-up Call, 2003

Editor's Notebook, Jim Scripps

In the confusion following the great fiasco of an election in 2000, California, along with the rest of the country, had its share of chuckles.

Counts, recounts and manual recounts dominated the headlines, and people were pumping up cable TV news ratings to see those funny video clips. You know the ones: Some polling place volunteer staring at the dimpled ballot, frontside, backside, upside down – perhaps passing it along for a second opinion. Or maybe it was those hanging chads that got us rolling. Whatever the case, it was funny. Chads were funny.

Who knew Karma would bring its own election nightmare from the Sunshine State to the Golden State, and we would steal the title of “Laughing Stock” from Florida. When even France thinks your politics are goofy, you’ve got big problems.

“Recall 2003” should be retitled “Wake-up Call 2003”.

It’s time to reevaluate whom we choose to be our leaders, and think more than two months down the road, i.e. ‘Am I going to like Gray Davis any more by this time next year?’ If the answer to this question is no, don’t punch the chad. In a democracy (sorry, representative republic), it’s that simple.

Recall 2003 was more than a Republican-driven campaign to oust an unpopular governor, it was a populist campaign to oust an unpopular governor. Even many of those voting against the recall were choosing the lesser of two evils, which shouldn’t happen in the mostly highly populated, most diverse state in the union. We have lots of people to choose from.

Agenda item number one for the reinstated Gray Davis (or newly elected Governator Schwarzenneger) should be to remove constitutional language that makes a recall so easy, even if it is boohooed by political enemies.

Number two: Reduce special interest influence in the Capitol. It’s disheartening that voters barely batted an eye when Cruz Bustamante took millions from Indian tribes using a fund-raising loophole.

Number three: Realize California voters are sick of backhanded attack-style politicking. We want somebody who makes decisions in our best interests, and sticks to them. Davis’s political career may be all but over, but licensing illegal immigrants after twice refusing to sign the same controversial legislation reeks of last-minute desperation, and it is a dangerous precedent both for our state and our country.

And a note to Republican Party leaders: When the opportunity to replace a failing governor comes along, choose someone who knows the ropes, and could potentially do a better job. Even a winning Arnold Schwarzenneger has about as much political potential as Minnesota Governor-turned-cable TV-talking-head Jesse Ventura. We already saw that mistake once, why would we want to make it again?

Sure the budget will be the focus of California for years to come, but the governor, whoever it is, must also be focused on engaging jaded Californians, letting them know that government can do better.

Right now California wears the title Laughing Stock like a scarlet letter, but we have the means to change. Besides, Florida is ripe for another shot at it – Election 2004 is not that far away.

Jim Scripps is editor of the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at editor@sierrasun.com.


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