Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 14, 2003
POLITICS: Consider That a Divorce
So the Democrats have fanned out accross the airwaves, telling us that recalling a sitting governor is a terrible idea; commentators on the left (and even skeptics of unbridled democracy on the right, like George Will and Jonah Goldberg) have told us that the sky will fall if the people can up and pull the rug out on an incumbent who only just got re-elected, out of pique over the budget.
I am reminded of Jane Galt's comment about the French election fiasco of 2002: "They're completely missing the point, which is that it's hilarious." The fact that the recall is an expensive, complicated three-ring circus full of celebrities and celebrity wanna-bes, many of whom know nothing of politics or even decency, and that even the guy who lost to Davis less than a year ago is running again -- that's actually all for the good, for two reasons. First, how much bigger a signal of anger can the public send to a special-interest-captured political class than to mock them by making us listen to Larry Flynt and Gary Coleman and making them run in fear of a bodybuilder with a thick Austrian accent? And second, the farcical nature of the recall is also a useful reminder to voters that nobody really wants to go through this again if it's not really necessary.
Shouldn't recalls be saved for the most extreme cases, like corruption? I agree that a recall should be sparingly used (although there have been recall petitions circulated against every California governor in memory). But this is a situation that calls for it: Davis' record as governor is entirely indefensible, and his popularity (30% approval rating on the day he was re-elected, down to around 23% now) is so narrow that a plurality candidate really wouldn't have measurably less support anyway. And his integrity, while not about to get him out of office via indictment, is also a serious problem, given his long rap sheet of skirting the ethical limits of obsessive fund-raising.
Is the recall badly designed? Well, yes. There ought to be a runoff. But, like the fact that Bill Simon turned out to be a dreadful candidate, this isn't really an excuse to make Californians and the nation live with Davis for three more years. The McLaughlin Group's Tony Blankley gets this right.
The recall is California's only remaining weapon against Sacramento. It can't help but produce better government than what the Golden State has now.