Cali-freakin'-fornia in shambles
It's not that I want an earthquake to solve this California recall issue - I've got family out there, plus California is the world's fifth largest economy - it's just that things would be so much easier if it did. The only people who really benefit from this debacle are the people of Florida who just look better by comparison.
First, some history: The recall process itself was designed to fight corruption in the early 20th century. It was part of a number of "progressive" actions taken by the state, including the initiative and referendum. The idea was to make those elected more directly responsive to the will of the people by giving the people the power to recall them if they fell out of favor.
So far, four officials have been recalled. In 1913, state senator Edwin Grant was recalled for his opposition to prostitution in San Francisco (new San Francisco motto: Infuriatingly Silly Since 1913). That same year another state senator was recalled for a banking scandal. Not until 1995 did the next recall succeed, when two GOP members of the state assembly were given the boot for making a deal with the Democrats in regards to party control over the assembly.
Second, the philosophical problem with the recall: today the issue is not whether Davis committed a crime, which would warrant an impeachment process; the issue is whether Californians were happy with how they voted. The problem with recall is that it subjugates the process of republican government to the whim of the people. Voters had their chance, now they want another.
Now, the pragmatic problem with the recall: everybody and their smut-peddling uncle can run for election on the cheap. Running in the recall is less expensive than a full blown election, so naturally, it has attracted the crazies. I don't mean to be judgmental - wait, yes I do - but this whole thing looks like a casting call for the Jerry Springer Show. And it's not that porn-mogul Larry Flint shouldn't be allowed to run for Governor, it's just that he should have to mud-wrestle Garry Coleman first. Next on Fox! A wheelchair bound smut-peddler wrestles a midget former child star! Right after the new reality TV Show - 'Syphilis Island'! That should attract the 18-35 year old male viewers.
At a time when we're trying to instill a sense of democratic virtues in other parts of the world, maybe we shouldn't be turning the governance of the world's fifth largest economy into a farce.
Now, I'm being a bit sarcastic here, I know. This is probably just a defense mechanism to keep me from addressing my increasing distrust of people in general and Californians specifically, but there are some serious issues with the other candidates as well. Arnold Schwartzenegger, for example has yet to prove to Republicans that he is in fact, well, a Republican. Pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, and the irony of all ironies, pro-gun control leaves him socially more liberal than Howard Dean. Fiscal conservatism might be Arnold's only real conservative strength.
All this is fine - in fact, it might be the best the GOP can hope for in California, but when Warren Buffet, as Arnold's money-man talked about upping property taxes, what's left? Schwartzenegger publicly rejected Buffet's assertion that he should raise taxes and promised that if the financial guru ever said anything like that again he would have to do 500 sit-ups. Regardless, most conservatives are of mixed minds about Schwartzenegger.
Tom McClintock seems to be the real conservative in the race, leaving those who want to see a conservative revival in California the same choice liberals had in choosing between Nader and Gore back in 2000 - one has the votes to win, but the other stands closer to their values.
Davis' Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante is leading the Democrat's ticket, and most polls show him a few points up on Schwartzenegger. Whether he amounts to anything more than Davis Lite has yet to be seen. Davis himself, going out with all the flair of a bottle rocket, in an attack on Schwartzenegger's accent suggested that only people who could properly pronounce "California" should be Governor. On a side note, can you imagine the outrage if a Republican, say Bush, had said something like that about a Mexican-American's accent?
Now the 9th Circuit Court (of "under God" fame) has ruled that the election cannot take place on October 7th, because the ballot system is the same as the one used in Florida, with an error rate of about 2.5%. Never mind that this is the same system used to elect and then re-elect Davis in 2002, two years after Bush v. Gore. Equally unconcerned is the court with the fact that other systems being used in different districts are even less accurate. Although I am fully against the recall on principle, I am a little disturbed that the courts would call off a vote in advance, to cancel an election before it took place. This seems to be a dangerous precedent.
Ultimately though, this is a triumph for federalism. It is a triumph
because no matter how ridiculous the candidates, the rulings, the law,
the results in California, they are limited to California. For this we
can be grateful; when each state is responsible for itself the tumors
are limited to the border and cannot spread to the rest of the country.