Free To Be Stupid

by Carolyn Chase


Voting is as basic to democratic civilization as it gets. But the symbolism of the act has never been so in focus as with Prop 23, the "none of the above" initiative. Voting is evidently so revered in some circles that they have spent considerable time and effort so voters can attain the right to vote - for nothing! Political cynicism is seeking to be enshrined as a legacy for future California voters.

Not-voting has increasingly become the most popular political action of our times. Interestingly enough, not-voting - even if the inane and insipid "none of the above" initiative passes - is always a vote for the status quo. Of interest is whether the non-voters are disinterested or disenfranchised. I suppose Prop 23 supporters are at least interested.

It's as if the "none of the above" supporters yearn for politics to be more meaningful. But the fact they couldn't come up with anything more effective than Prop 23 only highlights the utter absurdity and powerlessness with which too many most often approach politics. It also shows that California voters will sign any petition at all. It makes me wonder how many of the signatures of this particular proposition were collected by paid gatherers versus well-meaning volunteers.

"None of the above" supporters say they want to increase voter registration and turnout. Like motherhood or apple pie, this is seldom questioned as a virtuous goal. But I have to wonder if someone can't manage to register and vote for candidates that might matter, would they really flock to vote for something that doesn't matter at all?

One of my favorite "computer signatures" that I send out at the bottom of my emails is the following lament by A. Bartlett Giamatti, President of Yale University, "What concerns me most today is the way we have disconnected ideas from power in America, and created for ourselves thoughtful citizens who disdain politics and politicians, when more than ever we need to value politics and what politicians do..."

The amount of time and resources it took to squander on this level of symbolism alone disturbs me. I can hardly think of a better example of where Americans' hard-won freedoms are trivialized in what can perhaps unkindly be expressed as "free to be stupid." Why didn't these folks apply their resources to getting better candidates to run to begin with?

I hope none of my readers is in the "none of the above" frame of mind! Politics matters. Even if it's a choice between worse and worser, worse is better - because there will be an outcome.

The results in any political enterprise always boils down to what kind of people are serving and why. What are their interests, financial and otherwise? How do you know? You can learn certain things from commercials and campaign brochures, but you can't learn the most important things. That's the main reason I encourage everyone to take opportunities to attend public forums and see candidates in person. But what if you don't have that opportunity? Limited public appearances are often insufficient to understand a person's values.

Endorsements by independent interest groups is one of the better places for busy voters to turn - though you must watch out for fake groups and group slate mailers that exist only because candidates pay to be on them. I consider one of my most educational volunteer jobs is participating with the interviewing process for the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters of San Diego County. Their committees consist of earnest volunteers who labor over determining the right choices.

Both groups have announced their endorsements for the March 7, 2000 primary. LCVSD has unveiled their new website produced by local volunteers. The new LCVSD website is being hosted as a public service by The San Diego Earth Times at: and includes an "easy-to-print" endorsements list that voters can take to the polls or provide to others.

LCVSD also encourages individuals to volunteer and donate to endorsed campaigns. Complete campaign contact info can be found at the website. People can also sign-up online with LCVSD to volunteer or receive political updates via email.

LCVSD endorsees named for San Diego City Council are:

  • Scott Peters in District 1 (North City Coastal)
  • Toni Atkins in District 3 (Uptown, mid-city)
  • Brian Maienschein (pronounced "main shine") in District 5 (North
    City Inland)
  • Deanna Spehn in District 7 (College area/Tierra Santa/Mission Trails)

The San Diego Sierra Club made no endorsements in either Districts 1 or 3 and made the same endorsements in District 5 and 7. One noteworthy "insider" observation is that even though a member of their Executive Committee, John Hartley , is running in District 3, the Club declined to endorse him, and allow others to come to their own conclusions about why there was no rally to support Hartley from long-term volunteers.

Both LCVSD and the Sierra Club endorsed Pam Slater for reelection to the County Board of Supervisors District 3 seat (north city/coastal).

Among the clutter in this long ballot, don't forget to vote for education! Buried amid the flurry of fine print and millions of dollars of junk media is the election for the County Board of Education. While education tops the polls as a public priority, information overload precludes most people from doing the single most important thing that a member of the general public can do - vote for responsible people to serve on the County Board. Because of the Board's low profile on a clogged ballot, it has been a target for politicization in recent years. Schools need less politicization. One race in particular is important for this primary.

LCVSD has endorsed Jeff Mangum for County Board of Education, District 4, (North and East County Inland).

Please visit the new LCVSD website for more information about campaigns or email me with any questions.