Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Page 6



Obama’s Influence: Moving in the Direction of Justice




During Barack Obama’s national campaign, he spoke at Mount Vernon, Iowa. He noted at that time that “this is a moment when your own story and the American story came together and history bent once more in the direction of justice.”

This insight was so highly appreciated that it was put into the official “Presidential Inaugural Guide Book.” On January 20, 2009, on the historic west front of the Capitol, Obama was sworn in as the 44th president. There, he pledged allegiance at his swearing in by the somewhat stumbling Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

At the same time, way across the continent in California, the political folks were still trying to pass a budget for state government for the current fiscal year. This was finally accomplished on February 20th, fully a month after the national inauguration.

This California effort seemed to need the impetus of the Obama national victory to get enough state legislators to finally agree to a state budget. The words and the spirit that Barack Obama effused appear to have done the trick.

But this national spirit did something else. The California Legislature voted to place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate future partisan primaries in favor of an open primary system in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would face off in the next general election.

One legislator observed that this would loosen the grip of the “legislative far outs,” from either right or left, and allow the great majority middle class to dominate state government. This proposed solution to state legislative impasse would follow Obama’s hope of your story and the American story coming together bending once more in the direction of justice.

The press has observed that, “The state’s dysfunctional budget process was largely a by-product of extreme partisan gridlock.” These partisan folks were unable to agree on how to close the very deficit that their own policies had provoked. Furthermore, the observation was made that “President Obama’s brand of post-partisan, across the aisle politics, has proved appealing to voters and has been emulated, at least rhetorically, by [other] politicians.”

Professor Dan Tokaji, an election law specialist at Ohio State University, said: “California is more influential than the average state, being the largest and with the most ballot initiatives. Its direct democracy can often affect other states.”

As the New York Times observed: “California, long established as the Petri dish for policy shifts that, for better or worse, often spread across the land, could play that role on this issue [open primary], too.”

If approved by the voters, such a system will be used in all races for the Legislature, statewide office and the House of Representatives. While numerous states have open primaries in presidential elections, only Louisiana and Washington have versions of the open primary being considered by California.

This constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot in June of next year. Not surprisingly, officials of both the Democratic and Republican parties in California have denounced the proposal, as have many elected officials. Even if passed, the open election process would need to be in place for several election cycles before solid conclusions could be drawn.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

— Capitol News Service



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