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California People's Power

Representative democracy can be messy. But the "let's vote on everything" kind can be even messier. Exhibit A: The vote in California this fall on whether to oust a governor elected just last November.

Gray Davis, a Democrat, certainly has been a lackluster leader during the state's energy and budgetary traumas. But whatever his governing faults, they don't justify the political upheaval that a recall vote - followed by an election in which anyone with $3,500 and 10,000 signatures can run - might bring, especially when the nation's most populous state teeters on a $38 billion deficit precipice.

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This recall process, a populist arrow devised in California during the Progressive Era but never used by the state until now, is misaimed. The state's woes deserve both collective blame and collective solutions, not easy finger-pointing at one politician.

Who really needs to be brought to heel? Legislators who put party and reelection above compromise and the state's interests. Real people's power should take the form of phone calls from voters to state representatives, many of whom are beholden to special interests or well-monied donors, to demand a budget now.