Myths About the Recall
time to tune out the bleating elites and vacant talking heads
whose doomsday warnings about these exciting times raise questions
about their sanity. They need to spend more time with their
de Tocqueville, who could have warned them that here in America
nothing is more chaotic than democracy itself. Let’s debunk
five myths about the recall.
Myth No. 1: The recall election is a circus.
It’s a circus only to the degree that cynical, shallow media
make it so. Especially the electronic media in which the ringmasters
are the TV news directors—a species that wouldn’t recognize
a “serious” election if it fell on their empty heads.
Every election cycle attracts marginal and aberrant candidates,
and the media usually ignore them after the one or two initial
and totally predictable soft features. Angelyne, Gary Coleman,
Larry Flynt et al. loom so large in this election only because
the lenses remain so tightly locked onto them.
Myth No. 2: The recall election will throw the state into
Whenever encrusted elites lose control of one of their processes,
they always warn of chaos, catastrophe and dire consequences.
Only they are wise enough to guide our lives. Nothing strikes
so much fear into their manipulative little hearts as when
the hoi polloi spin out of control—out of their control.
An election in which pliant, predictable candidates are handpicked
in backrooms and bankrolled by special interests, in which
the victor comes to power through a $75 million campaign of
slash-and-burn TV ads and a record-low turnout, well, that’s
just one more serious and orderly round of balloting, we’re
supposed to believe. But let just any dumb bastard citizen
off the street run for office, totally beyond the reach of
the party and lobbyist elites, and that is a sure sign that
California is sliding into the sea. What has the establishment
so panicked about this election is hardly the threat of chaos.
It’s rather the unpredictability of the process and its outcome.
Imagine electing some candidate that hasn’t already been bought
and paid for. The horror, the horror.
We’re told the recall is a hijacking, a coup, the illegitimate
overturning of a legitimate election; ultimately, we’re warned,
this is the unwashed and witless electorate running riot.
Pundits beware: This “circus” election is likely to generate
a bigger turnout than last year’s “official” contest. A staggering
90 percent of voters say they plan to cast ballots on Oct.
7. In a recent Gallup Poll, almost 70 percent of likely voters
said they want to oust Gray Davis.
Those who continue to insist this recall is a sham perhaps
ought to take the advice Bertolt Brecht once gave the East
German regime: Maybe the government should dismiss the people
and elect a new one?
The latest apocalyptic warning from the panicked elites is
that with more than 100 names on the ballot, it could take
10 minutes (!) for a voter to go through and maybe 40 hours
for some small counties to tally. As a reporter, I’ve been
to more than one country where people braved jail and gunfire
in order to vote, or even to just suggest an election should
be held. Somehow I think the republic will survive if a lengthy
ballot makes a few Californians late to Pilates classes on
Myth No. 3: Organized labor is the force behind progressive
It could be and should be. But it isn’t. Ask just about any
group of frontline union organizers—those 60-hour-a-week troops
who actually pick up the authorization cards—what they think
of Gray Davis and they’ll start to gag. In private conversation,
even the labor bosses openly disdain Davis. These are the
same folks, after all, who every couple of years mumble the
same pie-eyed gibberish about “taking back the Democratic
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But when served up the golden opportunity
to dump a Lite Democrat like Davis (one who had to be threatened
with hunger strikes before he signed pro-UFW legislation)
and actually take a stab at remolding the party, the labor
hierarchy still refuses to make the break. Instead, County
Federation chief Miguel Contreras threatens that he will sink
any Democrat who breaks ranks in labor’s defense of Davis.
If only Contreras and the rest of Big Labor had been half
that tough with the weenie governor during his first four
years. Instead they now circle the wagons around Davis and
begin their ritual moaning about right-wing conspiracies.
It’s boring. And disheartening.
What spectacular evidence of the political bankruptcy of the
Democratic Party. Now all those “progressive” labor Democrats
can spend the next eight weeks arguing over whether just to
vote no on the recall or also vote affirmatively for Cruz
Bustamante, the soporific darling of the anti-labor Indian
casino lobby and dogged booster of the conservative Joe Lieberman.
Myth No. 4: The Green Party is a viable alternative.
This should be a historic opportunity for Green candidate
Peter Camejo, who got 5 percent of the vote in last year’s
Camejo has pushed marijuana legalization and instant-runoff
voting to the top of his agenda. These might be cutting-edge
issues along the Venice boardwalk or in the UC Santa Cruz
dorms, but they are not even remotely now on the minds of
most California voters. The Greens’ preference for talking
to themselves rather than to others destines the party to
soon wash up and splinter like the Peace and Freedom folks.
Eventually the California Greens will be meeting in one guy’s
house with different sectarian groups caucusing in the living
room and dining room.
Myth No. 5: An independent governor couldn’t govern.
Nonsense. Only a populist independent could break up the special-interest
logjam in Sacramento. That’s why I’m pulling for Arianna,
the most progressive candidate with the broadest appeal. When
it comes to solving the state’s economic crisis, the most
Arnold has offered is that he will make sure all Californians
have ‘“fantastic jobs.” Right.
And Bustamante panders by vowing to roll back auto-registration
Only Arianna has addressed the 900-pound gorilla of California
politics: Proposition 13. Her number-one campaign vow is to
start collecting fair—that is, radically increased—taxes on
commercial (not residential) property. She says if elected,
she would take that proposal, along with measures for public
financing of elections and a guarantee of universal health
care and adequate education, to the Legislature. If, as expected,
the Legislature balks, Huffington says she would place the
whole package before the voters as a set of ballot initiatives
and would use her bully pulpit as governor to push for their
approval. That’s a serious, responsible and plausible outline
for deep reform. The only one on that very long ballot.
But beware: To be successful, it would require actually trusting