Friday, September 28, 2012

Bruce Ross Swings and Misses (and Misleads) on Reform

Bruce Ross, editorial page editor at the Record Searchlight, penned a disingenuous caricature of Prop 31 critic and co-author (with Joe Mathews) of California Crackup, Mark Paul.  Ross first quotes Paul’s account of how California’s overburdened constitution, remade on an annual basis by schizophrenic and uncoordinated reform, has broken the back of our political process, before concluding, “I get where Paul’s coming from.  I’m not sure that ‘The system’s broken, stop fixing it’ is a viable path forward”.

I don’t know whether Ross has read California Crackup, but if he has, he would know that he is totally missing the point about Paul’s criticism.  Paul and Mathews, in opposing reforms like Prop 31, are not saying “the system’s broken, stop fixing it”.  They are making a more intelligent argument, by pointing out that piecemeal reform of the sort represented by Prop 31, a brainless, flailing, arrogant measure and misdiagnosis, is precisely what has made California un-governable.  If all you do is tinker with a couple of bits of state government, they contend, you simply set up more conflicts, inconsistencies, and points where the process can and will break down. 

Far from suggesting that we don’t fix the system, Paul and Mathews are arguing that we must do so intelligently.  Prop 31 seeks to corral a couple of the outcomes of our dysfunctional system rather than address the dysfunction.  Paul and Mathews describe in great detail in California Crackup the need for wholesale reform, as well as what such reform could look like.  Theirs is the rare instance of someone answering the “Well, you say there’s a problem, how would you address it?” question with precision and acumen.  It is indicative of how dysfunctional our collective approach to our ills has become that many political commentators don’t engage with their argument, but instead choose to misrepresent their arguments for rational reform. 

Read California Crackup.  It’s does a sterling job of outlining the problem and proposing which will only be feasible if more Californians learn about the state’s crisis of democracy and invest themselves in working for solutions to that crisis.

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