What if?

Question: What if California’s leaders had not moved the presidential primary to February 5 and instead had left it where it was originally, on June 3?

Given the closeness of the Obama-Clinton contest, California would have been the deciding—or at least the decisive—primary, making it one of the biggest and most important elections in state history.

The irony is thick enough to cut with a knife. The reason originally offered for moving the election up was to give California more clout in the national race. And what happened? More than 20 other states got the same brilliant idea, and the California primary turned out to be just one among two dozen.

The real reasons, of course, were more cynical. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut a deal with the Democratic state Senate leader Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, to put two initiatives on the February 5 ballot that would benefit them all. One was a reform of term limits that would have allowed Perata and Núñez to avoid being termed out after this year; the other was a redistricting measure long favored by the governor.

The whole deal turned sour. Perata and Núñez reneged on their agreement, and the redistricting measure never made it on the ballot. The term-limits measure was defeated at the polls. And the presidential primary got lost in the crowd.

What if? What if politicians stopped playing power games and just served the people? Now there’s a notion.