February 27, 2009


California Politics Dysfunctional

Time for a Third Party to rise up

In California, one thing is painfully clear: Our state government is a mess if not broken. As the people of this great State suffer in a spiraling recession, State legislatures dawdled their time away. Meanwhile, how could we forget that some of our State Senators, led by Senator Denise Ducheny, took a junket to India, China, and Hawaii in late November during “special” legislative sessions to deal with the fiscal mess.

How can you not get angry at these so called leaders with Ducheny, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is in Hawaii studying “high-speed rail”?

The Sacramento politicians decided to take ideological stands, drawing the proverbial line in the sand which neither Party dared to cross. Democrats are on one side looking to support social programs, education, police, and fire services primarily through higher taxes. Republicans on the other side abhor taxes, preferring to cut services and to minimize government in private enterprise. This is a generalization of the two parties but it does draw the main distinction between the two.

With a 2/3rds vote required to pass a budget, compromise was needed. The minority party, the Republicans, tried to hold out. The Democrats needed three Republican votes to pass the budget and it finally came down to Republican Senator Abel Maldonado. Maldonado leveraged his vote for the budget in order to get his personal demands into the budget proposal, the primary demand being the open ballot issue.

This dysfunction within the political process has people in the State looking at ways to fix what they see as the problem with the political process. The hot topic has become a possible need to reexamine our State Constitution and re-write it. This week the Bay Area Council, out of San Francisco, held a California Constitutional Convention Summit in Sacramento to begin the process of a people’s movement to reform the government.

The intent of the Constitutional Summit will be to put an initiative on the ballot calling for a Constitutional Convention that could fundamentally restructure California government. It could reexamine the entire structure of voting, taxation, borrowing, and spending. The only other way a Constitutional Convention can be called is by a 2/3rds vote from the State Legislatures.

Rewriting the State Constitution is one way to go. But we have another change in mind that could solve the ideological battle between the two Parties: a rise of a third Party into state Politics. We have the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Green Party, and others, but none of these Parties to date have been able to get one of their candidates elected to State office. Further, it would take more than just one candidate from a third party to have an effective voice as the swing vote.

For years now we have questioned the effectiveness of the two Party system serving the diverse needs of a state with 38 million people, 13 million being Hispanic. Democrats have taken the Hispanic community for granted and the Republicans have used Hispanics and immigration as a polarizing issue to solidify their right wing base. Out of this system, Hispanics have had to struggle to be recognized. That is befuddling, considering that Hispanics are the largest ethnic community in California and will soon surpassing the White population in sheer numbers.

Perhaps it is time to re-energize the La Raza Unida Party and create a third party in California, one that represents the interest of the largest growing community in the State.

In 1970 the La Raza Unida Party was first established to focus on improving the economic, social and political aspects of the Latino community, primarily in Texas. The Raza Unida Party ideas spread with chapters in California. By the end of the ‘70s, however, the Raza Unida Party in Texas had run its course. Chapters still exist in California but exist outside of the political mainstream.

A third Party represented in the State Capitol could become that voice that would provide moderation between the ideologues and represent the interests of the Hispanic community. It could become the catalyst for self determination in a system that has all too often ignored and marginalized the Hispanic community.

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