Susan B. Anthony for Governor of California
As happened with Proposition 13, the present surge of public enthusiasm for a recall of California’s Governor, Gray Davis, astonishes and perplexes the political establishment. Those settled into the perks of privilege have amazing lacks of insight.
Proposition 13 was passed into law despite the inequalities inherent in its conceptualization. To the powerless any tool will do. They cannot afford the time to obfuscate, debate and further deplete their sparse resources. As Prop 13 was a loud NO to property taxes the Davis recall is a NO to politics.
Every new political wanna-be coming up the pike talks about reform. The message politicians should hear now is that the public is fed up with talk from them and from those who make a living talking about reform. It is time for the REAL thing. .
The most important lesson to be drawn from Proposition 13 is not about disgust with taxes. There is a more important lesson there that those who are really fed up need to hear.
Proposition 13 was the brainchild of a woman with everything to lose. She had no idea she was starting a revolution. She just wanted to save her small home.
The shock of reading her property tax bill must have been tremendous. By all reports she lived not far from the Kmart in Granada Hills, California and had a fixed income. Along with that her only asset was that small house. She reportedly wondered if a mistake had been made; if a decimal had been misplaced on the bill. She had owned the small house for many years but this tax bill meant she wouldn't be living there very much longer - unless she did something.
So she took a roll of drawer lining paper down to the Kmart at the corner of San Fernando Mission and Balboa Blvds and, seated at her dilapidated little card table, began collecting signatures. People pulled out their own pens when hers disappeared. They were all in the same boat.
I would tell you her name if anyone knew what it was. They don't. And therein lies the story. It soon became obvious that there were careers to be made in Prop. 13. The idea was stolen several times as ad hoc organizations battled over the idea until on election night the divisions necessitated two separate victory parties in Los Angeles. I have often wondered if either Jarvis of Gann bothered to invite our anonymous heroine.
All too soon reformers become the establishment, picking up the same greedy habits as those they replaced. Immediately they fundraise more and do less.
In a real revolution the revolutionaries would go home and get real jobs. In the ‘political revolutions’ of today’s world the revolutionaries immediately get jobs in politics. That is a very wrong picture.
How could it be otherwise? Politics fulfills the definition of an attractive nuisance. It tempts people who are at moral risk. People who want to be in politics or talk about politics instead of holding honest jobs are always at risk.
It is not surprising that Gray Davis is desperate to keep the privileges and perks of the governorship of California. It is not surprising that the Clintons are determined to see him remain in office. A Democratic hold on the state of California is important to their future plans. Neither party has a good history in California. Ronald Reagan instituted withholding taxes when he was Governor. The present Republican Party is actively hostile to women, even within its own ranks.
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the public, instead of having the option to vote for Tom, Dick and Harriet, could have voted for none of the above. Empty offices leave many things undone, good and bad.
The Mother of Proposition 13 lingers in anonymity. Desperate people look for solutions to their problems. Sometimes they declare their own small revolutions and those movements catch the fire of our imaginations and change the world.
Prop. 13 sent a message, but in its aftermath a new wave of reformers planted themselves as a new establishment who talked more than performed. They are still talking.
Human problems have human solutions - if you are desperate enough to find them. It is time to look for real solutions.
On October 7th I will be voting for Susan B. Anthony. In life she spoke a message of indomitable courage and real justice. She supported herself and accepted no government salary. In death she will not disappoint me. If she was a politician, now she is a good one.