By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Jan. 4, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

One dictionary defines schizophrenia as “a psychosis characterized by withdrawal from reality and by behavioral and intellectual disturbances.”

That’s also a pretty good description of California’s politics as it enters the second decade of the millennium, particularly the “withdrawal from reality” part.

A notion in the minds of a few pundits, including yours truly, a couple of decades ago – that California was becoming functionally ungovernable, its politics severed from social and economic reality – has since become conventional wisdom. And it will dominate this election year in the nation’s most populous and arguably most troubled state.

California’s economically distressed and angry voters will choose a new governor and fill a bunch of other statewide and legislative offices, including a U.S. Senate seat. And simultaneously, they will face what could be a big wad of ballot measures, including several purporting to cure the state’s political dysfunction by either changing certain procedures or, more ambitiously, calling a constitutional convention to remake the governmental structure.

When you couple those looming events with the most graphic evidence of dysfunction, an ever-worsening state budget deficit, you have the ingredients for a yeasty political year.

Will voters’ oft-demonstrated contempt for those they’ve elected to public office manifest itself in a rebirth of civic action, perhaps an electoral revolution of some kind? Or will it merely result in another low-turnout election that ratifies, by default, the dysfunctional status quo?

The many questions about California during 2010 also include this biggie: Why would anyone in his or her right mind entertain running for governor of a demonstrably ungovernable state? To date, certainly, the three men and one woman who have indicated they will run have not given more than token acknowledgment of the difficulties they would face if successful.

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