California recall a chance to show merit of direct democracy

staff

It’s pretty common for those of us here in the center of the country to look to either of our nation’s coasts and claim a certain level of moral superiority.

We’re closer to the land, we argue. We’re more ready to help our neighbor. We’re less likely to be killed in some sort of drive-by shooting.

And recently, we’ve been able to add to our list of supposed superiorities the category of politics. We’re just starting the foray into high-price races, and our governor’s seat was won, in large part, by one candidate’s choice to stay away from negative campaigning. Plus (and here, finally, is the focus of this column), we’re certainly not as way out there as California, with its wacky governor’s race, right?

Right?

Not so fast.

If the Californians are able to credibly elect a new leader for their embattled state, one that truly can take them out of an economic crises that has devastated one of the world’s largest economies, they might prove the true effectiveness of that wacky idea of letting the public have a say when their elected officials are acting poorly.

In all honesty, we think the use of a recall, initiated — more or less — by the disgruntled people of the state of California, is an example of democracy in its truest form. The ability of regular citizens to get involved and make their voice of disapproval heard over the din of political wrangling should be applauded.

However, that applause should turn to harsh criticism if the Californian public refuses to use this recall to solve their problems. Our chief worry about this exercise in direct democracy is that, instead of putting real thought into which candidate is the best one to lead the state, voters will cast their ballots for whatever high-profile candidate would make the coolest governor.

A candidate that has wide name recognition but refuses to debate his opponents about the issues important to the state would not appear to be an improvement over a governor criticized for being distant from the issues and citizens. Nor would any of the host of candidates running simply to gain an extra few minutes of fame.

So, if and only if the public chooses to look past superficiality sneaking its way into the recall vote can the democratic process bring about its intended benefits.

And if the Californians need advice on dealing with mouthy, substance-free governors, South Dakota and Minnesota just got done with that.

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