Wednesday, July 9

The Recall Has No Clothes

Today, the LA Times' Steve Lopez finally asks the question no one else seems to ask about the recall of California's Governor Gray Davis:

The recall hustlers worked the crowd with great success, piling up signatures. One young man scribbled his name and then, with a satisfied grin, proclaimed to his friends that Gov. Davis was history.

One of the brighter bulbs in this group asked a "then what?" question. What's Davis' replacement going to do about the budget fiasco and an incompetent Legislature that can't agree on whether to strip services, raise taxes, or both?

The query drew a look of puzzlement. The recall supporter had just done what passes for civic duty in California — he had signed a petition. But he had not thought beyond the cheap satisfaction of the act, and so he stood there with his mouth open, looking dumber than ham.

What we have here, from Crescent City to Coronado, is democracy run amok. The Santa Barbara scene is a snapshot of the typical Californian's role in public affairs, which can be described in a single paragraph:

Pay no attention. Pay no attention. Pay no attention. Get hopping mad about what happened while no one was paying attention. Sign a petition. Skip the election. Complain briefly about the consequences. Pay no attention. Pay no attention. Pay no attention.

Recall supporters claim they're finally over the top, having collected enough signatures for an election that could take place as early as September. Not that we know who the candidates will be.

It will cost taxpayers at least $25 million to hold the election, even as state Republicans propose wiping out funding for the burial of foster children and cutting off food supplies for seeing-eye dogs.

Before the GOP suggests taking back batteries for hearing aids and snatching wheelchairs from old ladies, I'd like to suggest that the party is making a big mistake with the recall.

Of all the possible outcomes in the recall, most of them are disastrous for the GOP.

Davis could win, which would make it three times in a row that Republicans couldn't beat a guy less popular than public transit.

Worse yet for the GOP, Issa could win. Then the party would have to spend three long years trying to explain why it keeps trotting out dinosaurs in the nation's most progressive state.

If the Republicans were to find a decent candidate, Democrats might send Davis into early retirement and put Dianne Feinstein on the ballot.

And if by some miracle a Republican were to win, he'd inherit the nightmare of trying to solve problems while a resentful, Democrat-dominated Legislature eagerly sabotages him at every turn.

In short, the GOP has given us a recall drive that only made sense until it actually appeared to qualify for the ballot, raising a simple two-word question:

Now what?

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