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Maria Gutzeit: D’s and R’s, OMG LOL

SCV Voices

Posted: January 8, 2010 9:03 p.m.
Updated: January 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
My December horoscope on MSN stated Sagittarians “stand against the pre-established social order of this society.” That explains my figurative tendency to hit my head against the wall.

However, the horoscope also added: “You try to influence the world for the better.”

So heading into this spring’s historically low City Council race and fall’s oft-ignored non-presidential elections, I have a novel, if improbable, idea: What if politics were based on actions, not marketing?

What if we completely got rid of the D (Democrat) and R (Republican) designation after every politician’s name? What if ballots only had candidates’ names and you had to read the ballot statements and listen to debates to make your decision?

What if the folks at the polls made you read the legislative analysis on any proposition before you got to vote? Sheesh, that sounds like work.  

Having been involved in local politics for about seven years, I can say pitching issues or candidates sometimes seems like selling the latest gizmo.

First, you have your political party spin — pro-business or pro-worker. Pro-environment or pro-national security.

The major political parties like to try to force you to choose between sound bite taglines, but most of us want both, thank you.

“Decline to State” and “Other” make up nearly 25 percent of the state’s voters, according to the Secretary of State. Generally, most of us tend toward one party or other, but I bet few people are always solidly party-line voters.

Other irrelevant factors sway voters. Name identification can come from community involvement, or it can be due to a family legacy or many runs at office. The latter says nothing about ability to serve.

Incumbency is a big factor. It can mean a person is experienced and has done good things, or it can merely lend name ID.

Endorsements are sometimes hugely political, even for local nonpartisan offices. Thank you to those who take the time to get to know whom they are endorsing and put some thought into it.

No thanks goes to those who make endorsements all about trading favors or keeping party activists happy.  

What about mail and commercials? I had one person tell me Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed like a nice guy in his commercials so she voted for him. I think he’s done a decent job in a tough situation, but I am stunned. Would anyone not seem nice in his or her own commercials?

For ballot propositions, please cue the footage of senior citizens, firefighters and teachers. Both sides of nearly every issue use these visuals to make opposing arguments.

Another person told me: “Well, I knew more about the other candidate because I got more mail from them.” That’s partially valid. Mail is communication.

However, campaigns are paid for by donors with an agenda and will be one sided. The best way to decide on candidates is to watch that person in action, either at a local school board or City Council meeting, or perhaps at a debate.

For ballot measures, read the actual proposal and some unbiased analysis. Your choices affect your community, your employer, your family and your wallet.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder now mails the ballot statements of candidates separate from the ballot, yet many votes are cast before people even get the ballot statement booklet.

On what are they voting? How the names look?

Another person told me “nobody reads that” with regard to the Legislative Analyst’s Office review of the pros and cons for our many ballot propositions. Well what do they read before voting? Is it just those TV commercials that guide them?

Clearly, there are many people on both sides who just want their side of any issue or race to win.

The Signal’s opinion columns, local blogs, e-mail and Facebook are all peppered with screaming hearsay from “the experts.”
Both sides fight hard. OMG (Internet-speak for “Oh My Gosh!”) many proclaim. What if, LOL (laughing out loud) our frenetic political disinformation machine stopped working?

The loss of balanced, reasoned middle ground isn’t a victory for anyone. Extremists should remember, even if “your” side wins, it’s temporary.

Democracy is a wonderful thing. Politics, though synonymous, is the brunt of many deep sighs.

I want to believe people ultimately will make good, informed decisions. Maybe we’re not where you want to be right now — don’t stop voting in disgust.

Happy with the status quo? Don’t stay home on Election Day. Don’t vote based on what amounts to infomercials. Don’t just vote in the “big races.”

Take a bit of time and read up on issues. Attend candidate debates and ask questions. Read nonpartisan analysis on propositions.

Any politician or ballot measure that deserves your vote should withstand such scrutiny.

Maria Gutzeit is a Santa Clarita resident. She works as an environmental engineer and serves as president of the board for Newhall County Water District. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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