Let me say up-front I do not care who wins the California governor's race. Two issues do gripe me a little that I will dispose of before I get to my big gripe that has more national implications.
First, I think the idea of recalling an elected official only months after the voters spoke because you don't like his performance is a bad idea. Lincoln would not have made it through his first term and neither would a lot of other officials, including possibly George Bush's father. I think recall should be reserved for people who violate the public trust by embezzling, committing a major crime or something so egregious it has to be corrected immediately.
We face the very real possibility that one year after the Democrats won the governor's race in a legitimate election the Republicans will take it away in a special election.
Secondly, I don't like the cheapening of the political process that has occurred in California with midget child stars grown old, comics, bosomy models and the like in the race. "Aren't we having fun now?"
With hundreds of thousands of teachers' careers, the economy, the environment all at stake, it irks me that we are going to find someone who probably has no experience dealing with the big or small issues to try and run the state.
This is the continuing anger of the American public in a kind of rage that generated like in the movie "Network" "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
But my real concern that has national implications is this new CNN poll that shows a wide lead for Arnold Schwarzenegger over the Democratic lieutenant governor, Cruz M. Bustamante 40 to 25 percent. It comes as other polls have been showing a closer race. If you add up all the numbers, it shows the Republican candidates are going to draw three out of every four votes in a state that just last year went Democratic.
To bolster the effects of the poll, CNN has been reporting it repeatedly. And since it commissioned the poll and now is reporting on it, it is treating it as gospel. The messenger and the message are the same.
This is what bothers me about polls besides the fact that they might be totally inaccurate. Normally skeptical journalists make the news and have a vested interest in making sure it is perceived as being accurate. The poll influences voters into staying home if their candidate or issue is perceived as being lost. Then the news organization can say: See, we told you so. Elections are not like horse races even though we try to make them that way. You only vote once.
The only possible reason for polling on elections is to generate a story for a news organization because the race itself is boring or they perceive it to be boring.
A lot has been written about reporting election returns on the East Coast in presidential elections while the polls are still open on the West Coast. Eventually, we are going to have to adopt the several days voting plan. Everybody who wants to participate will be allowed to do so. Problems with running out of ballots or having machines break down would take care of themselves because the voters would simply come back the next day. We are an impatient lot, we Americans, and want to vote and find out as quickly as possible who won.
I have said in the past, but will repeat my view that until you have the direct election of presidents you are going to have a situation like we have where George Bush is president but got less votes than Al Gore. With a calm voice and straight face, explain this to a person in an emerging democracy. The electoral college process has long outlived its usefulness. If I know a majority of my state is going to vote for one party, it doesn't dissuade me from voting because I know my vote will be added into the total for my candidate and I will still have as much influence in picking my leader as anyone else in the nation.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.