Does America Need A Recall?
October 13 2003
"Now that the miserable recall experience is over," is how David Broder
mordantly began his Washington Post column on the grass-roots uprising
that ousted Gov. Gray Davis of California.© 2003 Creators
In calling this populist uprising a "miserable" experience, Broder
speaks for an elite that denounced the recall as a "circus" and "chaos."
He does not speak for the people.
The people loved it. The recall was topic number one on the beaches and
at the bars. Arnold Schwarzenegger drew crowds like a presidential
candidate in the last days of a winning campaign. The media poured in
from all over the nation and the world. Sunday talk shows and cable
television gave the recall blanket coverage. Voter interest was intense,
and the turnout tremendous.
Yet Broder dismisses it all as a "misguided effort."
But why misguided? Why should voters not have the right to correct a
mistake by recalling a governor who deceived them about the largest
deficit in state history? Why shouldn't voters have the right to turn in
a lemon they bought from a used-car dealer who did not tell them it had
a cracked engine block?
The voters, says Broder, were given a "rotten choice among two
Democrats, Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante, both widely viewed as
corrupted by campaign cash, and one Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger,
who has been repeatedly accused of being a sexual predator."
But if Davis is "corrupted by campaign cash," why should voters have to
abide him three more years? And why is it a "rotten choice" when the two
top Democrats in state government are on the ballot along with 135 other
names? Among those names were Rep. Darryl Issa, Bill Simon, the 2002
gubernatorial candidate for the GOP, Peter Ueberroth, who was hailed for
his running of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and state Sen. Tom
McClintock, one of the most articulate conservatives in California.
Ueberroth dropped out. Issa and Simon endorsed Arnold because they
believed California was desperately in need of a new direction and
Arnold might provide it. Sen. Diane Feinstein, the most popular Democrat
in the state, could have been on the ballot, but she turned down every
entreaty. Whose fault is that?
What, then, is Broder's objection? It is the objection of an elite that
loathes the idea of a people seizing control of their destiny through
such populist measures as the initiative, referendum and recall, all the
legacy of the Progressive Era of a century ago.
Yet, the measures David Broder deplores are the very safety valves of
democracy. They are needed now more than ever. For there is a seething
hostility in America toward an elite who refuse to deal with the twin
crises of the country and California: the massive invasion of poor
immigrants, legal and illegal, that is bankrupting states, and the
hemorrhaging of jobs to Latin America, Asia and China because of trade
deals negotiated by Bush I & II and Bill Clinton.
Americans have said in every way possible they want the invasion halted
and the export of manufacturing jobs ended. Americans never voted for
open borders, NAFTA or GATT.
Californians are to be commended, not condemned, for signing petitions
in the millions to hold an election to fire Davis. But there is a
serious question whether any governor, no matter how courageous, can
resolve the crisis California confronts.
For no governor can halt the export of jobs when the cost of
manufacturing in China is one-tenth what it is in the Golden State. Only
a president can do that. No governor can stop the invasion of California
by poor immigrants whose consumption of tax dollars is bankrupting the
state. Only the feds can do that by enforcing laws they refuse to
enforce. And no governor can halt the exodus of taxpayers from
Mexifornia to Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and Colorado.
Having faced a $38 billion deficit in 2003, California may face a $20
billion deficit in 2004. And as Arnold is committed to repealing the
tripling of the car tax under Davis, this will cost the state treasury
another $4 billion.
Absent a revival in the national economy that would help fill
California's coffers with new tax revenue, there are only two ways this
deficit can be closed: tax hikes, which the governor-elect has pledged
to oppose, and deeper cuts in state spending. Yet, those cuts are likely
to accelerate the exodus.
As for the recall, let us hope the idea spreads eastward and imperils
every governor who behaves as Gray Davis did. For, as Jefferson wrote to
Madison only six years after the guns fell silent in the Revolution, "I
hold it that a little rebellion, now and again, is a good thing, and as
necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."
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