Courts, Coups and Clinton Too: Priceless 

The California recall, Visa style

Thursday, Sep 18 2003

Casino cash funneled to Cruz: $3 million. Labor cash pledged to the governor’s anti-recall movement: $10 million. Former Groper-in-Chief Bill Clinton in church citing New Testament Scripture and praying for Gray Davis: priceless!

What’s next? We already know. The most solidly pro-Democrat court in the country acts on a brief by Democrat satellite groups, politically intervening to halt the recall election already in progress. And citing, no less, the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision as its basis: downright phantasmagorical.

And just a tad cynical, I might add. Davis supporters are now wetting their pants, squealing in ecstasy that the recall election may get postponed to March, when the polls will be flooded with Democratic primary voters.

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But they better get their story straight. Clinton and Davis continue to insist that the recall is but the latest chapter in a national Republican plan to subvert settled elections — a plan their supporters say was hatched when the Supremes blocked the Florida presidential recount.

Yet, this week’s court-ordered recall postponement invalidates the hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots already cast. It disenfranchises the nearly 2 million who signed recall petitions and the further millions ready to vote three weeks from now. It squashes an election that 98 percent of voters said they were actively following. And it depresses what was looking to be a record-breaking turnout. All because the paper ballots that were sound enough to elect Gray Davis are all of a sudden too unreliable to unseat him.

Why, according to our Democrat friends, was blocking the Florida recount supposedly a “coup”? But short-circuiting an entire election with the same legal criteria isn’t? Answer: because this time the heavy-handed court intervention benefits Democrats!

And until this week’s court ruling, some Democrat activists were claiming that computerized electronic voter machines — which the court now favors over punch cards — were prone to right-wing Republican fraud. Now, poof! These same machines are guarantees of civil rights.

Oh, well, never mind. Once you’ve rationalized sticking with Gray Davis and then gone the extra mile of accepting a mediocrity like Cruz, any sort of tortured position becomes possible. Among the most torturous has been the anti-recall spam blizzard whipped up by MoveOn.org. Not surprising this group now fronts for Davis. It was born in 1998, specifically to flack for Bill Clinton. Reaching for one’s ankles while swearing partisan fealty is seemingly a learned muscle reflex easily . . . um . . . recalled. Here’s MoveOn’s specious 10 reasons to oppose the recall, along with my rebuttals:

No. 1: A single congressman brought us the recall with $1.7 million of his own money — while simultaneously putting himself forward as the man to replace the governor.

Darrell Issa’s money helped spur the petition drive, but authentic voter anger produced the eventual avalanche of signatures.

Even if one accepts the notion that each of the 1.6 million recall signatures was a result of Issa’s funding, he would have “bought” the recall for about $1 per signature.

Last November, by contrast, Gray Davis won 3.5 million votes after spending $76 million. By MoveOn’s logic, Davis bought his election at 20 times the per-voter cost.

No. 2: The recall threatens to give California a governor elected by a tiny percentage of the electorate — and gives wealthy individuals an unprecedented opportunity to attempt to buy the governorship.

Gray Davis was elected in November with 47 percent of the vote, in the state’s lowest turnout of eligible voters this century. Indeed, he was chosen by barely 17 percent of the eligible electorate and was himself backed by the wealthiest interests in the state.

The winner of the recall election will not garner only a “tiny percentage” of the vote. It seems evident now that the victor will score somewhere near 40 percent of what promises to be a universe of voters substantially larger than last November’s.

The winner in the recall, if it’s still held next month, will likely have won more absolute votes than Davis did in November.

No. 3: It threatens to invalidate a fair election just months after it took place.

This implies some constitutional disorder. All recalls invalidate “fair” elections. This recall is a fully legal and constitutional measure — one that supporters of Gray Davis would not object to if the shoe were on the other foot. If we had a $38 billion deficit, a patchwork state budget, and a right-wing Republican governor who had come to office by spending a record amount of money after tinkering with the Democratic primary, just exactly which Democrats would now be protesting his recall? None.

No. 4: It sets a dangerous precedent — if it succeeds, why wouldn’t opponents attempt to recall every future governor?

Future recalls would happen only if millions of voters wanted them and signed on to them. Is MoveOn so contemptuous of the intelligence of average voters that it really believes the people will blindly recall everyone who comes along in the future? This scorning of citizen rights is pure and baseless fearmongering.

No. 5: It’s expensive: The recall election itself will cost over $60 million.

All elections are expensive. And at $60 million the entire state can apparently vote for 20 percent less than what it cost Gray Davis alone to run for office last time. Do I hear any Democratic protests over the additional costs now incurred by the court-ordered postponement?

No. 6: It prevents our elected leaders from working to solve the state budget crisis and other important issues by forcing them to campaign to defend the results of a fair election.

Is this a joke someone heard in Pyongyang? If someone had more effectively kept “our leaders” from working over the last few years, the entire state might be in better shape! “Our leaders” have helped create and further aggravate this economic catastrophe. The “budget crisis” was already resolved by them in a transparently fraudulent way, mostly by carrying over the red ink until next year.

No. 7: The cost to the economy is too great: A successful recall would cause enormous economic instability and loss of confidence.

Under the stewardship of “our leaders,” California has already sagged to junk-bond ratings. If Davis supporters are correct in arguing that the state’s economic crisis is due to external factors and not to state management, then why would a change in state management “cause enormous economic instability”?

No. 8: This won’t stop in California: 18 states have recall provisions. Unless the California recall is decisively rejected, sore losers in other states will continue to use this tactic.

What a terrifying thought! Imagine millions of unwashed, dimwit citizens across America recalling all those cleanly elected, selfless politicians. This should only be the case. MoveOn reveals its real interest to be defending incumbent Democrats rather than enriching small-d democracy. We have a broken, corrupt, money-dominated political system that rather appropriately evokes mostly citizen apathy and cynicism. If voters in 18 states actually got motivated and enraged enough to build successful recall elections, we would be witnessing a much-needed civic revolution.

No. 9: The recall threatens California’s environment. Governor Davis has made important improvements to environmental law. Polluters see the recall as a chance for rollback.

Gray Davis has a mixed environmental record. He hesitated for months before supporting the global-warming bill. The timber companies see him as a reliable ally and lavish donations on him. Any attempted Republican “rollback” would meet head-on with the liberal Democratic majorities in the state Legislature. Schwarzenegger, incidentally, also supports the global-warming legislation.

No. 10: Gray Davis has made important gains in education, health care, the environment and public safety. The recall is an attempt to reverse those advances.

Repeating: Any attempted Republican “rollback” would meet head-on with the liberal Democratic majorities in the state Legislature. On education, Davis has imposed the straitjacket of increased standardized testing, which raises scores but lowers real performance and degrades teaching. Davis has spent $18 million fighting the class-action lawsuit alleging that he abandoned and neglected poorer schools. Why not settle the suit, instead of paying elite law firms (and campaign contributors) $500 an hour to intimidate 12-year-old witnesses, badgering them to confess that their education is not interrupted by rats in the classroom?

No state election in recent memory has elicited such high levels of voter interest and involvement. There’s nothing to celebrate in the court-ordered postponement.

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