Jonathan Kraut | Understanding the Voters’ Power of Recall

Jonathan Kraut

It was immediately clear to me, local prosecutors and the law enforcement community that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón demonstrated he was not interested in holding criminals accountable for their heinous acts. 

Within weeks of Gascón’s 2020 swearing in, I wrote a Signal piece describing my disgust with the new D.A.’s prosecution policies.  

Apparently, the voters were not angry enough to get enough signatures to ask for a recall vote on a first recall attempt.  

But a second effort to recall Gascón, just concluded, indicates the effort might actually cross the threshold of having enough registered L.A. County voters sign on. We will learn within days if enough voters have requested the Gascón recall.  

One can observe that criminal misconduct essentially is comprised of selfish, immature acts that are at the expense of or damage the well-being and safety of others.  

For example, when a smash-and-grab at a retail site occurs, criminals exhibit favor, enriching themselves with property belonging to others. 

Thus, criminals are in this example placing their needs ahead of the needs and rights of the store, customers and employees.  

When a gang shooting occurs, the safety of others is sacrificed to enhance gang and personal reputation and to exert “gang authority.” Gang members through violence dispense with respecting victim integrity in order to make a gang statement, attack a rival, or act in a selfish manner. 

Experts have known for years that incarcerating those with a selfish, immature mindset does not generally move the mindset of convicts to a state of more selfless and mature thought. Gascón argues that since incarceration generally does not cure the criminal mindset, then why incarcerate.  

My reason to recall Gascón is philosophical. 

I perceive Gascón as truly believing that leniency and offering forgiveness cures criminal immaturity and abates selfish acts. 

Not only don’t I think Gascón’s views are accurate, I feel that his policies significantly degrade public safety and this view puts us all at greater risk.  

I conclude that since a criminal mindset is not readily curable with short- and medium-term incarceration, we should lock up convicts for extended periods, i.e. 20 or 30 years for repeat offenses.  

Long-term prison should be exercised as a safeguard for the public. We should not prioritize whether a criminal mindset and immaturity can be cured as our primary focus, but rather on public safety.  

More important than a discussion on recidivism and Gason’s policies, however, is the notion of the recall itself. 

The recall has two extremely important components, two essential keys to a democracy. 

First, a recall holds public officials accountable. This means enough voters can address concerns and rescind an elected official’s post. Without a recall, in some cases elected officials would feel less accountable and be less encouraged to act to benefit the community and embrace good governance. 

The other important key to having a recall clearly portrays the underlying message that citizens hold the ultimate power of oversight. 

A recall option empowers voters by making available an ultimate control over politicians. We especially have a remedy over those electeds who feel above the law and above reproach by yanking them out of power for good cause. 

As we might recognize, once taking office, some elected officials appear to exhibit selfish and less mature traits. Funny how this immature mindset is much like those who commit crime?  

It is not a coincidence that a number of elected officials are convicted of using their position of public trust to enrich themselves and that some have chosen to ignore attempts of oversight and accountability. 

Since we know that short-term punishment does not generally cure an immature mindset, a recall can remove a bad actor from service altogether. Once removed, the former official can deal with his or her issues on their own dime, and not on ours. 

When engaged and attentive, we who encourage appropriate and selfless service hold the ultimate weapon in the form of a recall to reign in elected official misconduct.  

Whether addressing a philosophy with which we disagree, by removing an official who feels he or she is above the law, or by curing actual criminal behavior, the true beauty of American democracy is that the voters have the power to be the ultimate gatekeepers.   

The recall is our most powerful tool to uphold our rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let’s not be afraid to use it. 

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the CFO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations. 

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