Sunday, July 27, 2003

I believe it was Heidegger (sp?) who said "There is absolutely no such thing as inevitability so long as there's a willingness to think about what is happening;" or something to that effect. As to the California governor's recall, I think it's a travesty, a distortion of the democratic system and, as was suggested by no less a personage than Newt Gingrich today on "This Week With George Stephanopolous," the people of California ought to change the state constitution because the government "is breaking down."

Gray Davis has vowed renewed vigor in his campaign to hold the office. He also pointed out that the recall will cost the state taxpayers at least $35 million, money that the California government can ill-afford to spend on a mid-term election.

The irony is that the premise used to fuel the recall is the state's $38-plus billion deficit and the loss of services linked to that mind-boggling figure.

I believe the Republican Party is ambivalent about the prospect of such an historic action, particularly since its candidate - that millionaire named Issa who lost to Davis during the legitimate election last year - is using a tactic that may prove the undoing of democratic representation in that state. Ambivalent also because it's clear that a backlash of enormous proportions might be in the offing and, because Issa bears the standard of the GOP, that stinging lash might snap on the backsides of fellow GOP ideologues statewide and, perhaps, nationally.

The fact that 1.3 million people - less than a third of the registered voters in California - could change the course of history if given free sway in the upcoming election ought to scare the hell out of the heretofore silent majority in that state. One hopes that turnout for the recall election is heavy. One also prays that the media does its job and analyzes the process thoroughly and loudly os people have enough information to make an informed decision, whatever it may be.

Like my friend Mike, I believe that removing a duly elected official from office because some guy with enough cash to push an issue like a recall to fruition is not only undemocratic, but also is ethically and morally repugnant. Even if Davis did put the state in its current financial morass (which, by all accounts, he didn't. A lot of the problem can be traced to the energy scandals of 2001, as well as other big corporate scammers who raped the stae's taxpaying consumers beginning as far back as five years ago), he ought to be allowed the opportunity to implement whatever solutions his administration might have crafted in order to fail or succeed outright, without the enormous distraction of having to fight a second campaign in the midst of such contentious, pithy problems.

I find Issa's strategy transparently cynical, arrogant and sophomoric on its face. And in a state with so many fruitcakes, knuckleheads and just plain loonies (no offense California, but you know it's true ...), it was ALMOST inevitable that enough signatures could be raised given the proper use of the media. And clearly, Issa spent his money wisely, flooding the airwaves with ad hominum attacks on Davis who, given the pressure of such an unprecedented deficit, could do little to stave off the onslaught. Ugly passions already were running high among the electorate so Issa had a ready source of flammable material to ignite, and so he did.

But back to the consequences of this bizarre development. Neither Democrats nor Republicans should be celebrating the fact that enough people signed a clipboard outside the Orange Julius or Toys R Us or wherever they may have been approached to trigger this recall election. The obvious conclusion for the future of California politics is that recall elections will become strategic actions used by both parties or, for that matter, anyone with a bone to pick with a governor. Representation for and by a majority of the electorate will, thus, become a tenuous proposition, at best. As Gingrich said, anyone with enough money can get people to sign a petition, and with political savvy, anyone can get enough signatures to trigger a recall. The fact that no such action has ever been successful in the state's history should inform the electorate that it's desperate undertaking and should be viewed with ponderous gravity. A flawed constitution will, almost certainly, lead to a flawed system of government if exercised and that, I'm afraid, is exactly what we're witnessing. Nothing less than a failure of government to balance the good of the people against the needs of the state. The article that provides for California's recall process is a mechanism designed to throw the whole structure of governance out of whack, although I'm sure that the politicians who approved the article could not foresee how that article could be so cynically applied. I would guess that those same politicians imagined an electorate that would take the time to think about such a disruptive act and conscientiously apply their best reasoning powers before making such a momentous decision. I've already stated the evidence supporting my reasoning - the fact that no recall petition in the state's history - at least for the past 80 years - has been successful before this week.

So Californians, I wish you clear-eyed wisdom when it comes time to vote. To recall Gov. Davis for spurious, selfish or impulsive reasons will serioously damage the state government. Unless the governor is a criminal, mentally incapable of performing his duties or a traitor against the nation, I can think of no valid reason to remove him (or her, whichever the case may be) from office.

One can only pray that those who voted for Mr. Davis, even if they've grown disillusioned by his governance, will respect themselves enough, respect the process enough to get to the polls and recast a vote to curb this greedy, transparent grab at power that Mr. Issa is trying to perpetrate on them.

With that, I bid you goodnight and farewell.


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