Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

FINAL RECALL WORDS....I don't have a whole lot to say about how the recall is going to shake out, but I do have a few things to say about it.

First, some good news: both Proposition 53 and Proposition 54 failed by big margins. Prop 54 was the latest in a string of race baiting initiatives here in California, and I hope this is a sign that people are tired of them. Prop 53 would have required a certain percentage of the budget to be allocated to infrastructure projects, but regardless of whether or not we should be spending more on infrastructure, the last thing California needs is yet another voter-mandated spending requirement. That's part of what's gotten us into this mess.

As for Arnold, I suspect that he won't do any harm and may even do some good. I didn't vote for the guy, and I thought he ran a dishonest and deceptive campaign, but at the same time he's not an ideologue and he's not a crusader. For the good of the state, I'm willing to give him a chance. We'll deliver a verdict on his performance in 2006.

One reason that Schwarzenegger isn't likely to do a lot of harm or a lot of good is that it was never the governor's office that was the real problem anyway. The LA Times explains the reality here, and while their editorial has an "eat your vegetables" tone to it, it's also dead on. Californians continue to live in a dreamland when it comes to taxes and governance, but this detachment from reality is now so entrenched in the state constitution (thanks to our addiction to ballot initiatives) that it's hard to see how we're ever going to dig our way out. Maybe Arnold has the oomph to do some good here. We'll see.

(As for national implications, I don't think there are any. The recall was a one-off, an opportunistic power grab fueled by a unique combination of a huge budget mess, a weird state constitution, and a universally reviled governor. It doesn't mean California is turning Republican, and it doesn't mean George Bush has a chance of carrying the state in 2004. On the downside, though, CNN's John Mercurio writes that "we predict that he'll match, if not outpace, George W. Bush as the most coveted GOP fund-raiser ever to walk the Earth." That's a real problem.)

So what's next? The California recall is just the latest in a lengthening string of naked power grabs that reveal the cankered soul at the top of the Republican party these days. Even leaving aside Florida 2000, we've seen unprecedented mid-decade redistrictings in both Colorado and Texas; campaigns that compare Democrats directly to Osama bin Laden; an indecent and truly morally bereft performance following Paul Wellstone's death; the end of the traditional blue slip rule for judicial nominees in the Senate because control of both houses of Congress and the White House and most of the judiciary isn't enough for them; and the Valerie Plame affair, a scandal that, I think, is truly an "At long last sir, have you no decency?" moment.

And now this. Fighting Arnold or trying to recall him is hopeless, and we should forget about it. A recall would fail, it would engender a big backlash among California voters who are tired of the circus, and it would make the Democratic party look like obstructionists and crybabies.

But this has got to stop. We should be mad as hell over what's happening, and we do need to be willing to fight every bit as nasty as the Republican leadership is obviously willing to fight. It's pretty obvious they simply don't understand any other language.

But we don't just want to get mad, we also want to get even. And that means picking our battles. State and local action is important, and we should fight hard for every governorship and every congressional seat, all the way down to every city council seat. But to kill a snake you cut off its head.

Texas-style Republicanism is the engine of the radical right today, and George Bush is its leader. He should be our target, not Arnold Schwarzenegger. So stay mad, stay mad as hell, but stay smart too. November 2004 is the next battleground, and evicting George Bush from the White House is our goal. Don't forget it.

UPDATE: I imagine there's going to be a ton of reaction to the recall all over the blogosphere, and I'm not going to try and keep up with all of it. But John Scalzi has a few, um, considered thoughts on the matter:

At this moment conservative Republicans are the people who are apparently the most inclined to piss on the election process, which is a culmination of a couple of decades of incestuous intellectual fermentation resulting in an insensate desire for power at nearly any cost.

Word, Brother John. And there's more where that came from.

Kevin Drum 9:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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