Starry Eyed Democracy


Kevin Starr, California's estimable state librarian, explains how he experienced a personal about-face on the recall, in part because of the way citizens are using technology to exert more influence on governance.

What seems to be going on in California, then, is not a political sideshow ? and nothing to be defensive about. Almost accidentally, a political instrument conceived in January 1911, when there were no radios or TV sets, when telephones and typewriters were luxuries, has opened the door to a new political world. How ironic that the recall, designed for a sparsely populated state of 3.4 million that was slow to communicate, has accelerated and compounded the political effects of our Internet-juiced multimedia environment.

No wonder California voters seem to be in a state of emotional and moral release, seeking a new connection to their politicians. Far from being a circus or even a grand opera, the current situation, as personally painful as it must be for Gov. Gray Davis, offers a breakthrough opportunity to rethink, reform, revitalize ? indeed, refound ? state government.