Opinion

Commentary: Tea Party, March of Water showed democracy in action

Two big public protests last week had politicians trying to figure out which way to run, and that may be the best result of the anti-tax Tea Party movement and the March for Water along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Politicians hate it when voters come together for a cause, and then vote as a bloc. That's why they are so fearful of the collective strength of special interests such as public employee unions or business coalitions. So you could imagine how nervous the politicians were when a group of anti-tax people and another pushing for more water for farmers held high-profile rallies last week.

That's why I cheered these demonstrations. Although I don't support their entire agenda, I do back the idea of citizens petitioning their elected officials when they think the politicians have forgotten who they are serving. It's the only effective self-correcting device the public has when elected officials stray too far.

These protests were good for our democracy, especially considering that California politicians have gerrymandered their districts to the point that voters can't hold them accountable at the ballot box. That will change with redistricting reform, but that won't kick in until the 2012 legislative elections.

Last week we saw civics lessons in action. Critics say these protests were manipulated by Republicans and conservative radio commentators in the case of the Tea Parties and corporate agriculture in the case of the March for Water. That's hardly the point. What mattered is a lot of people showed up, and their anger is real.

To read the complete column, visit www.fresnobee.com.

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