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Community Commentary: Time to restore democracy

January 05, 2012|By Ron Kaye

Politically speaking, all bets are off, the rules have changed and everything is up for grabs in 2012.

Legislative and congressional districts have been redrawn by a citizen's commission without the gerrymandering that has contributed so much to the stalemates and gridlock in Washington and Sacramento for most of the last two decades.

Even more importantly, the party primary system is gone, replaced by an open primary system that allows you on June 5 to cast your ballot for any candidate, no matter the party affiliation. The top two vote-getters will be in a runoff in November, even if they are both from the same party, unless somebody gets an outright majority in June.

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Taking control away from the Democrats and Republicans should mean that there will be fewer politicians from the far left and far right, and more somewhere in the middle, where most voters are. This is a change that would reintroduce the idea of compromise back into state and congressional politics and might even get America moving again.

If you don't like the way things are going, today is the day to make a resolution to pay attention to the details of the actions of your elected officials. Go beyond the glad-handing and smooth-talking, and examine their records to see if they represented you, helped solve your problems and made your life better, or whether they kowtowed to contributors, lobbyists, corporations, unions and all the other special interests that write most legislation and buy what is euphemistically called "access."

My experience in covering government in a lot of different cities and states for more than four decades is that it is a rare politician who still has a healthy measure of integrity left after even a year or two in office.

There are some, but not many, who stand on principle, who say what they mean and mean what they say.

But they are a rare breed. Holding public office is addictive — the flattery, the self-importance, the pressures to obey the party, to pander to where the campaign money comes from.

It doesn't have to be that way.

But when 15% or 20% of registered voters turn out for local elections and barely half turn out for elections for governor and legislators, the fault lies not with the politicians, but with us.

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