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First They Came For the School Board

by Mytheos Holt, published

The Los Angeles Times reports that recently, in response to the firing of a popular math teacher, San Francisco voters have attempted to recall not just one or two members of the local school board, but the entire school board. It may be the first time that such a large recall measure has been put forward, and certainly bespeaks the tense air of the moment, which makes the phrase "winter of discontent" look positively optimistic.

Ordinarily, a small election like this wouldn't have much relevance on a statewide basis, but at a time when California's politicians are looking so pitifully unprepared to deal with the budget crisis, this bit of overzealous recall spirit should send chills down the spine of Sacramento. Especially the Republicans, whose admittedly obstructionist tactics have been provoking angry demands for recall elections since the end of November. Then again, the Democrats have much to worry about as well, since the Los Angeles Times has recently been putting forward panicked editorials about the Democratic willingness to gut transportation funds.

And then there's this - a vicious ultimatum printed in the editorial page of a major newspaper. An ultimatum which has been described as "bizarre" by some commentators and which, like the school board recall effort, is thoroughly original. In a blistering editorial, the Times proposes the following conditions to Sacramento: "How's this for a ballot initiative: If we don't get one by June 15, we show our elected officials the door." The editorial describes a proposal put forward by one Brad Morisoli for a ballot initiative which would end the term of every elected official in Sacramento on June 15 if no budget compromise has been passed. Ordinarily, a proposition like this would be exiled by most "respectable" news sources to the abyss of irrelevance, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. But the fact that the Times has picked it up and run with it shows that there may be a real danger posed to the Sacramento establishment, and that at last the politics of obstruction and interest-juggling might be getting a well-deserved kick.

Now, as most long-time readers of this website know, I am no friend of direct democracy. And there is certainly room for criticism of this ballot measure on the grounds that it is an exemplary instance of democratic overreach. Some have even protested that the measure is an insult to California's Legislature because politicians are not children. At any other time, the warning to be wary of a barn-storming peasantry would be quite well-merited. If politicians were acting with even a speck more dignity, their honor as adults and politically engaged instruments of compromise and balance would be worth defending. However, at a time when taxpayers get slips that say "we'll pay, we promise," Left-wingers start trotting out accusations about half-century old campaign tactics rather than dealing with problems and Republicans seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot, I have only one thing to say: citizens of California, oil your pitchforks.

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