February 22, 2002

Chismes De Mi Gallinero

Politics — The Art of Making the Irrational Rational

By Julio C. Calderón

After more than 30 years of political involvement, going from idealistic days as a member of La Raza Unida Party, a few years as a Democrat and some now as a Republican, I have found the only things that have improved with time are the tacticians of the game. While the quality of the rhetoric in terms of oratory has not improved, the destruction of opponents has, as has the gullibility of the voting public and the press.

Term limits have been with us now for more than 10 years. Proposition 140 has accomplished what it promised voters in 1990. The ineffective legislators have been tossed out, along with the effective. The most effective were promoted to the Senate, in the case of Assemblymembers, and others returned to serve their communities in council seats and as board of supervisors. And for Latinos and Latinas, Democrat and Republic, it has provided a bounty of opportunities. All of this progress, we are being told now, is not good for California.

We are now being asked to allow for the brighter and most effective legislators to run for additional terms. Proposition 45, they say, will allow for a term-out legislator to gather signatures from 20 percent of those who voted in the previous election to let him have four more years. This sounds reasonable enough.

However, even my gallinas know that a `bad' legislator in terms of public policy, is one more accommodating to special interests over those of the people of the state of California. A `bad' legislator is one who gives little thought to developing innovative public policy, but his party leaders can always count on his vote. These are the people we should throw out of office, but those who support this kind of individual operate on the belief that "He is an idiot, but he is our idiot."

This means that this `idiot' will have all of the money he needs for his reelection. I could be wrong, but the only idiots that have been thrown out of office during term limits, were ousted because the clock had run out, not because they were unseated by election.

Given the lessons of history, logic tells us that an incumbent has to be involved in a major scandal if he is to be thrown out of office. Even this theory was tossed into the trash heap of thought by the reelection of Bill Clinton to the White House. The jury isn't in yet on Congressman Gary Condit.

I supported term limits because I was tired of the life-long incumbency. Public office in the State Legislature was the realm of the very wealthy and those selected by legislative leaders and their massive campaign coffers. If a legislator died or retired from office, his main aide d' camp would inherit the seat. The ordinary person wanting to serve his community or district could only hope to be elected if they too were wealthy.

We are being told that only the most deserving will be able to gather the needed signatures to extend their stay. There are signature gathering companies in this state that can gather that 20 percent in a week, given the money to do so. People in the districts, except for the political junkies, will sign just about any petition at a mall or shopping center. Incumbents, fueled by special interest monies, will have the money needed to make sure their `idiot' gets those four more years.

Proposition 45 is the child of Senate Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco). Why now? The answer is simple; he is serving out his last two years in office. He terms out in 2004. He used his powers in the Senate to place this proposition on the ballot, and the millions his has gathered from special interests to give the campaign a $3-million jump-start.

This is exactly what the term limit proposition was designed to prevent and what it has successfully accomplished over the last decade. To state that by opening the door to allow politicians to run beyond their term limits improves the term limits law is not rational.

A reporter asked me why I would place incumbent Latinos and Latinas. Proposition 45 would ensure that we kept these great numbers in the Legislature. I don't want to keep these same numbers. I want these numbers to increase as they have done since term limits. Our community has a deep bench of talent waiting for an opportunity to present its self, and not have to wait until a political boss tells them it's their turn. Proposition 45 is not good for our community, to say that it is, is not rational.

(Julio Calderon can be reached at Mi Gallinero@AOL.COM).

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage