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Dear Voters, Please Stop Voting

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Voters, doing what they do best. Now, please go home before you do any more damage! | Photo by nathanielperales, via Flickr

Voters, doing what they do best. Now, please go home before you do any more damage! | Photo by nathanielperales, via Flickr
Dear Voters,

Stop it. Please, for the love of our state and everything we hold dear, put down that pen and just stop it. Through withering campaigns to strip a minority of its equal rights to a rejection of six budget measures that would have saved the state about $6 billion, I think you've done enough damage.

I get it. Really, I do. Voting is fun. You get to walk into a polling place or mail that ballot in and feel like you are making an impact in a world that can seem so large so as to seem untouchable. Voting, after all, is the column of our Democratic temple on which we put almost complete trust. Also, you get a really cool sticker.

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Millions of whites, blacks, women, men and others have fought bloody battles to secure their place in the polling booth. Others have spent their hard earned money and volunteered on campaigns to tell their friends, family, strangers and spouses to vote a certain way.

Still, you California voters have gone wild; out of control, really

We've been told to Hope, we've been told to Stay the Course. We've been promised a "Chicken in every pot, a car in every garage" and asked if we were "Better off today than we were four years ago."

Your vote has not been without pay. Depending on your political persuasion, there has been anywhere from a monumental to incremental return on your investment. Obama was recently elected after wildly popular rallies, Nixon was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and the Constitution has basically been the law of the land since 1789. On the whole, it works. Society gets what it votes for and it's rarely messy. You elect a president, he does the job without your interference. You vote to pass a law that society needs and everyone's happy.

But, California voters, you've gone too far. You've taken on a new identity having voted at an alarming rate like it's your job. And guess what? It's not. It's your job to teach children, make computers, run a home. It's not your job to decide on who should marry, how our finances should be spent, or whether we should recall someone - not because he's doing anything illegal, bu because you just plain don't like what he happens to be doing.

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People, you have perfected the art of gut voting and have driven what used to be a prosperous California into an international laughing stock of debt. It's time for you to put down that pen, walk away from the ballot box and vote only for your leaders and major laws or when absolutely necessary for the greater good of us all.

Prop Hate: Great, Thanks.

Take Proposition 8, for instance. Ignoring the legal arguments the state Supreme Court ruled on days ago, let's talk about the theoretical constitutional arguments. Of the 27 U.S. Constitutional Amendments, only three restricted rights and one (the 18th) was repealed. The other two limited the power of the federal government and limited the president to two successive terms in office. None stripped rights away from a class of people.

"When you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that's not what America's about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don't contract them."

That was Barack Obama, during his campaign for the presidency, when asked about Prop 8. The then-Senator did not denounce the proposition and issued a sort of mild rebuke about its merits, but he still laid the foundation for what the measure essentially is: the voters' attempt to strip something away from a class of people. (Obama, by the way, is a constitutional lawyer.)

Instead, $40 million was spent by the Yes groups, forcing the No groups to match their gargantuan sum. Voters, then, were asked to decide if they liked gays or not. Nasty campaigns on both sides spewed hate at one another during a few emotional months to revise our constitution so one sect could not enjoy what the other has.

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Voters, stop it.

The budget debacle: A Fine Continuation

Let's take a step back to the state's marathon budget negotiations earlier this year. True, it was lawmakers who spent weeks holed up in Sacramento to hammer out a deal, not voters. Consider the reason for the delay, though. One reason why it took so along for each side to agree was because the minority party in California -- in that case the Republicans -- is allowed to grandstand for as long as they want knowing that the Legislature needs two-thirds to pass a budget.


"I Voted." Great. Now stop it. | Photo by atomicshakespeare, via Flickr
Do you think Republicans like to grandstand? Sure, they're politicians. But the extent to which they held out smacked not so much of aggrandizement but of political pandering to a very small, but very vocal wing of the party that controlled the message through conservative activists online and over the airwaves.

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The main culprits were John & Ken, the KFI firebrands who happen to be the two most powerful Republicans in California. Under threat of recall to any Republican who even voiced support for the idea of raising taxes, the duo implored their listeners to flood Assembly and Senate offices with messages and/or tea bags.

I have no idea how many actually followed through, but it was enough to scare the shit out of most Republicans who feared having their reputation speared by the drive-time duo who appealed to their listeners' blood thirsty economical rage.

What ensued was a number of recall drives to whip the six Republicans who voted for taxes to get our state out of its fiscal mess. Assemblyman Anthony Adams, a moderate Republican who voted for the budget, is now battling a recall campaignin which he will have to spend tens of thousands and maybe millions of dollars while voters will have to pay for another election when and if he is challenged.

To recap: John & Ken told their minions to dump Republicans who voted for tax increases because they would have had to pay their fair share to help save California. Listeners did and now voters will have to pay for a recall campaign, in addition to dealing with the state's multi-billion deficit in which programs they might use will get cut.

(As an aside, I would like to see how much John and Ken have cost the state of California. I am willing to bet one bag of Lipton that it's more than the sum how much AIDS patients might lose under the newest proposed cuts, or mental health patients, or students, or seniors or...)

Recalls? Voting on marriage? Voters, please, stop it!

But you weren't done. Perhaps your most costly move, fiscally speaking, was in rejecting the six ballot measures during the May 19 special election. The six measures were a consequence of the compromise budget the Legislature carved earlier this year. Lawmakers proposed a series of taxes and creative borrowing schemes to help lift this state out of debt. Yes, they would have pulled the rug out from under some of our poorest, but, collectively, they would have saved the state about $5.9 billion and would have reduced -- not fixed -- but reduced our financial headache.

Many didn't understand the propositions, which may have been a reason for the low turnout. Frankly, I don't blame them. These propositions were a convoluted mess of borrowing, taxing and cutting not meant for Joe or Jane Blow to decipher. And you know what? THAT IS WHY WE HAVE ELECTED OFFICIALS!

Leaders are for Leading

Now we've arrived at the crux of the issue. Every so often, we elect leaders to represent us at the city, county, state and federal level. They are collectively charged with representing our interests in the halls of power because we don't have time. We are teaching, we are raising children, we are making this nation rumble each day while our elected officials make sure it has enough gas.

We are the electorate and we elect. We send legislators to City Hall, to Sacramento, to Washington D.C. to legislate because, ideally, they know how to read and write complicated laws, measures and propositions.

Don't misunderstand my intentions here. I am in no way putting complete faith in our elected leaders, a small number of whom are no more fit to lead than the people whom they claim to represent. But, by and large, many are well qualified for the job and those are not will get voted out when it's their time to leave.

I am also not saying we should abandon our right to vote. In most occasions, voting is the responsible thing to do. Indeed, voting may be the hallmark of our Democracy, but it should not be our pastime. It should be reserved for regular elections and the off-chance that there is a special and well-deserved occasion.

Where do we go now?

So where are we? California is now $21.3 billion in debt and our credit is shot. We are looking for handouts and will have to pull the plug on programs for the poor, sick, elderly and others too young, inexperienced or not savvy enough to know.

But it's not just the undeserved who stand to get bitch slapped by our monumental and collective failure. With these cuts, we might begin to lose our creative edge in a state long known for its artistic merit. For example, a bill put forth by Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who represents parts of the Valley and the Eastside, would have increased the state's art funding by as much as 20%; not by raising taxes but by diverting funds to a special council that would have been established.

The bill was not necessarily for the tattooed, starving musician wilting in Silver Lake, but for the millions of children and others who benefit from a healthy jolt to the left brain. A 2004 California Arts Council study found that nonprofit arts organizations in California spiked the state's annual economy to the tune of $5.4 billion, generating 160,000 jobs and nearly $300 million in state and local taxes.

Alas, dear friends, an analysis by an Assembly committee found that "This bill diverts about $27 million in revenues from GF [General Fund] programs, such as education, health care, and public safety..." Thus, the bill was pushed back Thursday for reconsideration next year, away from this current economic mess.

So, what's the solution? An oft-heard refrain is "dump them all." People think that if you fire the Legislature, the problem will be magically solved in that fresh thinking will lead to a new approach. This is an especially popular battle cry, yet when faced with a choice of whether or not to actually dump their representative, people don't. Incumbents are roundly reelected with alarming alacrity.

The bigger problem is two-fold: one is that we need to gut term limits to ensure that the smartest, most experience lawmakers stay in Sacramento instead of gunning for another office because they will be forced out in four years. Let the Republicans keep their two-thirds, but get rid of term limits in California. It's hard to govern with no strong central leadership.

But the most immediate issue is this: we Californians vote way too much for our own good. We are standing in our own way of progress and need to let our leaders do their jobs so we can lead fuller, richer, more productive lives.

Please, stand aside and let the professionals do their job. $21.3 billion and a state of millions are riding on it.

I'll start.


Angry (ex) voter