The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

CALIFORNIA RECALL: BLOOMING OF PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY?
The whole country is having fun with the California gubernatorial recall effort; how can you not when you've got 150 candidates running in an electoral freakshow? But from the start, regardless of the motives that initiated the recall, I felt that the wide-open nature of this election would have, ultimately, a positive effect by encouraging such a huge chunk of the electorate to get off their butts and go to the polls.

True, the notion that a simple plurality of as little as 10-15%, without the logical runoff, is enough to win the governorship strikes me as a stupid. Still, I consider this a good step toward increasing political awareness among all Californians.

In a way, observers note, the California recall represents an American version of the parliamentary system: a leader loses the confidence of the people and must stand for election again. In the 18 states that have statewide recall provisions, a recall is part of the democratic system of checks and balances. It provides a safety valve for a state that would otherwise be stuck with a deeply unpopular leader for the rest of his or her term.


Of course, you could argue that the only reason this election is attracting so much attention is the absurdity of it, and the presence of entertainment celebrity. If it were nothing but politicos and undistiguished citizens running, perhaps it wouldn't be causing as much of a blip (outside political news).