Recall the Recall

News at Home

Ms. Rosen is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and former Professor of History at the University of California Davis.

POLITICIANS of all political persuasions are busy invoking the legacy of Hiram Johnson, the governor of California from 1911 to 1917, who pushed the constitutional amendments for initiative, referendum and recall that California voters ratified in 1911. These reforms set the stage for the state's tradition of "direct democracy."

But does anyone really know what Johnson, who became governor without ever having held public office before, really wanted the recall to do?

To find out, I decided to take a closer look at this patron saint of populism who stumbled into reform politics because he wanted to quash the stranglehold that the railroad companies held on local and state government.

In his first inaugural address, Johnson tried to convince Californians why they should support these reforms that would give voters greater power to counter the corrupting influence of money on elected officials. "How best," he asked, "can we arm the people to protect themselves?" His answer was clear: The initiative and referendum would permit new reforms and "the precautionary measure by which a recalcitrant official can be removed is designated the 'Recall.' "

To impeach a president, the U.S. Constitution requires the "conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." But the California Constitution requires no malfeasance: "Sufficiency of reason is not reviewable. "

So what did Johnson really intend? He wanted a representative democracy that reflected the interests of ordinary people. When government failed to protect "the people," he wanted them to have the right to recall a "recalcitrant" governor who failed to fight the influence of corporate money.

You could argue that this definition aptly fits the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. And you'd be right. Although he's not accused of personal corruption, critics have justifiably charged him (as well as the Legislature) with "pay or play" politics. And let's not forget his lack of leadership that, until he felt the hot breath of the electorate on his neck, resulted in his constant waffling.

Without the threat of a recall, would Davis have signaled his support for financial privacy, legal recognition of same-sex partnerships or making illegal immigrants eligible for driver's licenses? Probably not.

Although Hiram Johnson would have condemned Davis, he would have insisted on a populist recall -- not one purchased by independently wealthy Republicans conservatives intent on hijacking an election they previously had failed to win. To him, this recall would have seemed like Southern Pacific buying a recall so it could protect its corporate control over government.

Now that we know how easily a recall can be purchased, it's time to amend the California Constitution so that a recall, like impeachment, is reserved for crimes, rather than for political opportunism. In the meantime, what should we do?

We should vote against this recall and here's why:

  • It represents an opportunistic power grab by Republicans, not a populist response to an abuse of power. Like the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the presidential election of 2000 -- the recall is destructive to representative democracy, the cornerstone of our political system.

  • For all his faults, Davis is responsible for signing landmark legislation. He signed the nation's most progressive legislation on women's reproductive rights, gave farmworkers more power in labor negotiations with growers and signed the country's first bill to ban toxic flammable chemicals that threaten public health.

  • Davis is not responsible for the budget crisis. The recall fails to address the real corporate corruption: Enron's theft of billion of dollars. Nor does it deal with the Legislature's own "pay or play" politics. Federal tax cuts, moreover, which have mainly benefited the very rich, have resulted in budget deficits in all states.

If he were alive, Hiram Johnson would regard this recall with revulsion. A right-wing attempt to reverse an election is not what he meant by returning sovereignty to the people of California.

Related Links

  • Timothy Noah,"Does the GOP Subvert Democracy?" (Slate)
  • Merlin E. Nelson,"Recalling the First Recall" (NYT)

  • This article was first published by the San Francisco Chronicle and is reprinted with permission.

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    More Comments:

    David Hulbert - 9/6/2003

    How can an election be bad?Darrel Issa and the petition signers thought the last election was bad didn't they?Davis can't run on the ballot this time as a candidate.
    Isn't that a limitation of available candidates?He can be voted to retain the office of governor-but with so many other candidates running-he faces extraordinary competitive circumstances that most political aspirants don't have to contend with.

    You might ask some pol you admire how he'd like running under these circumstances.

    David Hulbert - 9/2/2003

    In the same vein-a columnist for the LA Times named Tim Rutten attempts to delve into the mind of Hiram Johnson.

    "Nearly a century ago-when Hiram Johnson and the other large P-Progressives fought for adoption of the initiative and the recall-their clear intention was that the latter be used against corrupt state officials,particularly those who were under the influence of the then all-powerful railroads.The Progressives moreover had a fastidious horror of partisian politics and a prim faith in the efficacy of managerial government,which they believed was bst left in the steady hands of native born white Protestant men.

    "They would have been appalled to see their treasured reform appropriated by a single wealthy partisian and used against agovernor who is accused not of corruption,but of policies and managerial decisions that the oppsing party dislikes."

    "Imagine further the Progressives'dismay were they to find that the current front-runners to replace the governor who may be recalled are a pro-labor pro-Indian Latino pol and an Austrian immigrant."

    This column was pro-recall-unlike the one we're discussing,but the Hiram Johnson of necessity for such musing(a person living today)would be highly unlikely to see things politically from an early 20th Century perspective.

    Dave Thomas - 9/1/2003

    How can an election in the United States be bad? The people get a chance to voice their opinions. It can only be bad if the polls tell you that your views are supported by those Americans who get out and vote. We label that group as controlled by big money, the elite, manipulated by special interests, and unrepresentative of the majority, BALDERDASH.

    Those against the recall should save their vigor for mobilizing the vote and villifying those who don't participate instead of limiting the democratic voice of people who choose to participate in the society they live in.

    Elia Markell - 8/31/2003

    Here's Ms. Rosen's money quote"

    "Although Hiram Johnson would have condemned Davis, he would have insisted on a populist recall -- not one purchased by independently wealthy Republicans conservatives intent on hijacking an election they previously had failed to win. To him, this recall would have seemed like Southern Pacific buying a recall so it could protect its corporate control over government."

    How Ruth Rosen knows what Hiram Johnson would say about this recall is beyond me. What is even more astounding is that she would make such an arrogant, obtuse, and anti-historical claim on a history site. She hasn't the foggiest notion what "Hiram" would have said for this simple reason: Were "Hiram" able to make even the closest approximation to an informed judgment about this recall, he would not thereby be the Hiram Johnson of the early 1900s.

    My guess is "he" would have been fine with a recall that garnered 1.6 million signatures, however the effort was financed. The fact that rich people helped finance it is no more noteworthy than anything else rich people help finance, such as every viable political campaign in sight. Who were the rich people who finance Eugene McCarthy in 1968, for example, Ms. Rosen? Look it up. As I say, I doubt the recall would have phased Hiram, here or back then. However, I really do not know, as Ms Rosen does not. Nor, however, do I care. I just find Ms. Rosen's pseudo-populist rantings ludicrous(what else but ranting can one call claims such as her insistence that "federal tax cuts" enacted a few months ago have anything at all to do with state budget deficits years in the making?)

    In fact, what bothers Ms. Rosen about this recall is simple and obvious. A Republican may win it. Beyond that, it's all made up hype.

    Woody Wilson - 8/31/2003

    Thanks, Mr. Hulbert, for your Minnesota perspective. In addition, to "cold fish" and "aloof" as descriptions of Gray Davis, you might add "ineffective" and "beholden to campaign donors". I will nevertheless vote NO on the recall. All the failings currently ascribed to Davis, including the large legitimate subset thereof, were clearly evident during the 2002 election campaign. If the recall organizers were championing Richard Riordan (a seasoned and creative public servant, who was arguably cheated out of a fair shot at the governorship in 2002) instead of a silly actor with no governmental experience and no coherent platform, things would look different. In this instance, however, the recall power is being abused and employed as a ruse.

    John Doe - 8/31/2003

    You wrote:

    "How will Bustemente himself vote--against the recall,or for himself? "

    He can do both. As I understand it the ballot is in 2 parts. First you vote "yes" or "no" as to whether Gray Davis should be recalled. Then you vote on who you wish to succeed him IF he is recalled. You can vote "no" on the recall part of the ballot and still pick a candidate on the candidate part.

    David Hulbert - 8/29/2003

    A recall of a governor is a lot easier in your state than elsewhere though.A ridiculously low number of signers to initiate and then finalize a recall petition for someone who somehow got elected.

    You're no doubt right-that recalls of officials aren't going to become commonplace-but in Minnesota where I live,there's an attempt by the state DFL(Democratic)party to recall new Governor Tim Pawlenty-a Republican who got elected for the first time last fall.Not many in the state take it seriously,and the reason given by proponents is that the governor won't release his income tax records-which they claim may shed light on whether he took illegal corprate campaign contributions.

    Unlike California--a recall petition would have to be reviewed by the state Supreme Court for approval-an then the process is fairly exhaustive-as it should be.It should be difficult to unseat somebody who won an election,and the reasons therefore should warrant the seriousness of such an endeavour.

    Yes-I've heard that Davis is aloof and a "cold fish"-hardly reasons for a recall.

    David Hulbert - 8/29/2003

    It's not a 'Hobson's Choice'-but if a recall anywhere happens again with a candidate under the same circumstances-it could be called a 'Bustemente's Choice'

    Light Governor Cruz Bustemente says he's opposed to the recall-but he's available to step in and save the day just in case Davis gets recalled.How will Bustemente himself vote--against the recall,or for himself?

    Bustemente is leading handily in the polls over Schwarzenegger-but he doesn't get much national press or exposure.Most people outside California don't know who he is.

    David Hulbert - 8/29/2003

    The awareness that a substantial amount of money and so few signatures can initiate a recall of someone duly elected sheds light on a flawed state system even more egregious than the more ordinary campaign finance laws which still allows mountains of 'soft money'from PACs.The doubling of individual contribution amounts to presidential candidates made it even worse.

    For all of Davis'current lack of confidence in polls-and his apparent flaws--it's hard to argue with his repeated claim that Republicans are attempting to buy elections they can't win by the conventional method.It is a threat to the democratic process.

    Jesse Lamovsky - 8/28/2003

    Oh, I am partisan indeed, at least against so-called "progressives" like Ruth Rosen. But I stand by my original comments.

    Alan Bock - 8/27/2003

    First, it should be noted that no part of California is typical of the whole, which is one reason why with all its governance problems I still love the place. (Self-advertisement: Check my book, "Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana" for a more thorough discussion of California regionalism and political peculiarities in addition to the stuff in the title.)

    The recall has been used sparingly but sometimes quite effectively at the local level and in legislative offices up to the state senatorial level, but it's correct that this is the first time it's been used successfully (many have been threatened) on a statewide constitutional officer. I think that's mainly because it's quite difficult -- 900,000-plus valid signatures is a lot, even with financing and paid petitioners, but even (or especially) if you got those strictly through money it would still be tough to get a majority; a strictly money-driven petition campaign might well inspire a backlash. So it requires a really deep level of dissatisfaction with a particular individual among a large and incredibly diverse populace to have much of a chance of success. Shucks, if some of the recent polls are correct this one might not succeed, which would surprise almost everybody and be great fun.

    An initiative is easier not only because the pros have figured out how to get almost anything qualified for the ballot if you have a million bucks or so (although a closer look would show that Californians have actually been more discriminating than you might think, and have rejected initiatives with huge campaign money advantages) but because it's a matter of policy rather than personal animus. Want to change a policy? Got a reform idea? Fine, we'll think about it. Want to kick out a guy we just elected? The animus has to be pretty deep.

    Woody Wilson - 8/27/2003

    Another California native responds:

    Alan Bock makes some interesting observations, though it should be pointed our that Orange County is about as typical of California as Austin is of Texas or Madison of the Midwest. People here in San Francisco are more inclined to regard the recall as a circus. What neither Bock, not anyone else I've seen on HNN, discusses is why, if the recall is such a normal routine instrument of populist democracy, it has never been used before in the 90+ years since it was adopted. I've haven't counted, but I would estimate that the initiative, adopted about the same time, has been used hundreds if not thousands of times. If it's not broken, don't fix it, is a reasonable default position but some people here are wondering whether the recall and the replacement vote should be on the same ballot, i.e. next time around.

    Alan Bock - 8/27/2003

    I'm just fascinated at the near-panic swirling around the recall campaign here in California. To be sure, it's settled down a tad since it's become obvious that no amount of agonized whining or tortured court challenges would derail the recall -- and since the race has settled into a reasonably comprehensible form, with Republican and Democratic frontrunners and various interests scrambling amusingly trying to figure out how it will shake out and who will really have the power once it's over. But all that talk about how a strong dose of Progressive-inspired direct democracy would undermine and subvert the ordely democratic processes of the country. Please! You would have thought that regularly scheduled elections were typically conducted like graduate-level seminars in public policy, while this brash intrusion by the people into the affairs their duly elected professionals was a circus.
    Just as a side note, the "circus" aspect is to a great extent a self-fulfilling prophecy by the east-coast-based national media. If you interview enough marginal candidates and ignore the serious disaffection behind the recall, you can certainly make it look like a temper tantrum and a circus. But in the last regular election, how many serious candidates got face time on national television? If your guess is zero, you're close.

    A couple of notes from a California native:
    1. Darrel Issa, who put serious money into the campaign and no doubt seriously wanted to be governor before Ahnold jumped in, is a relatively conservative Republican but hardly a notably "right wing" rabid type. Judging by the nasty letters we got and didn't publish, his chief liability, had Ahnold not messed it up for him, would have been anti-Arab bigotry. His money, by the way, almost certainly cinched the success of the signature-gathering campaign in time for an election in October rather than at the next regularly-scheduled election in March, which will be a presidential primary presumably of interest to Democrats in which most observers figured Gray Davis would have had a better chance of surviving the recall. But the best guess I got from talking to recall organizers was that they would have gotten the signatures without Issa's money, it just would have taken longer.
    2. Disaffection with Gray Davis is wider and deeper than most people outside the state can conceive. He really did sit by more or less idly during he electricity crisis, then hired inexperienced negotiators who jumped into long-term contracts at the height of the electricity price spikes. He really did keep increasing spending as the dot.com bubble was bursting and everybody knew it was imprudent, as Kathleen Connell, the Democratic Controller, said repeatedly at the time. It really is an insult to cold fish to compare his personality to them. I don't know if he has any particular core beliefs. He has been a process politician from the beginning of his career, but he has always held himself aloof from the personal aspects of politics -- a glad-hander he's not. Almost from the moment he was elected I got more complaints about him from the Democratic legislative staffers in Sacramento whom I have to call fairly regularly than from the Republicans up there. Simon blew the campaign against him badly last year, but when people began to get the feeling that they could dump Davis anyway, they got excited.
    3. The campaign is turning out, now that the preliminaries are done, to feature reasonably serious discussion of California's budget and governance crises -- not as candid as some of us might like, but in fact more serious than the typical primary or general election featuring the two majors and a couple of gnats. I have considerably less confidence in elected officials of any stripe to do the right thing than most people, and I'll be surprised if whoever emerges actually takes any of the tough steps that have been talked about. But people are talking about tough decisions, more so than in a typical scheduled election.
    4. We'll see, of course, but I rather doubt if this presages a wanton use of recall here and elsewhere. Absent serious and widespread discontent it's still tough to get a recall qualified. Even if I'm wrong, however, why is it a terribly bad thing to have elected officials looking over their shoulders and wondering if they might be recalled? If it were up to me we would recall every other governor and impeach a president every 20 years just to keep in practice and keep them nervous. But it isn't up to me, and it's still not an easy thing to do.
    5. It is fallacious to argue that politicians should be recalled only for clear corruption or identifiable, indictable crimes. The recall is for when the people, for whatever reason, are seriously unhappy with an elected official, and it's a quintessentially political process. Shucks, even the "high crimes and misdemeanors" in the impeachment clause at the federal level is not a narrow definition of criminality but a term of art that can be roughly translated as "we're sick enough of you to do something serious, sucker." All the tut-tutting that he's done nothing overtly criminal to justify a recall is beside the point.
    Alan Bock, Editorial Writer, Orange County Register, Santa Ana, CA

    Dan - 8/27/2003

    "She seems to be believe that the recall should only be used as a weapon by progressives against conservatives."

    I read the entire article again, and couldn't fine any possible way to come up with THAT interpretation. Perhaps it is YOU who is partisan...

    Dan - 8/27/2003

    * The author evidently does not like the COnstitution of the US.

    * Funny, I don't remember anyone, let alone Reiner, Spielberg, and Streisand, attempting to recall Mr. Wilson...

    * A non-sequitur, but I'm sure it was clear to the author.

    * There were at least 6 different "irregularities" in the Florida election that resulted in a final "certified" difference of a few hundred votes for the Governor's brother. Every one of the "irregularities" just happened to add votes to the Governor's brother. (Democrats being removed illegally from voter rolls and not being informed until they were turned away from voting booths, Jewish Democrats "voting" overwhelmingly for a christian right candidate [who even himself admitted such was not possible], illegal military absentee ballots being counted, voters being denied ballots when they discovered initial ballots were marked incorrectly by machines [these votes, written in by the voters, were declared illegal and/or counted for Bush], a Party hack attempting to certify an incomplete vote count, and a Supreme Court illegally voting along party lines to abrogate the legal recounts).

    Let's not get into the partisan impeachment without a crime...

    * The author can name a large number of states without a budget crisis, I'm sure. We're waiting.

    * Hmmm. I hadn't heard the Electoral College Conspiracy Theory. Perhaps the author can elaborate...

    The rest is pure fabrication, like most Libertariorepublican replicant whining.

    But, hey, I don't live in California any more.

    Anyone naive enough to believe a Republican deserves what they get. Those were, after all, Clinton's and Kennedy's greatest crimes.

    Derek Catsam - 8/25/2003

    Except this recall is likely to subvert that exact voting booth, Bill. If the recall goes against Davis by, say, 55-45%, he cannot be on the ballot to succeed himself. So then we have the actual vote among the 135, and no serious pundit of any persuasion has argued that anyone will get a plurality even close to a majority. So let's say Gary Coleman gets the nostaligia votes ("Different Strokes ruled, Dude!") and carries the vertically challenged vote and a plurality of the black vote and gets 17% and wins. What this means is that a Governor elected at the ballot box will lose out to someone who, even in the recall process, had something like 30% less of the vote.
    Now obviously this issue is going to be colored by partisanship, just as interpretations of 2000 were (interesting how an inherently unideological process -- ie to count or not to count or partially to count the vote -- broke down along straight partisan lines). I am a liberal Democrat, Bill is not. And yet what is to stop Democrats on October 8th from starting their own recall? This seems a dangerous precedent.

    However, let's keep in mind -- the GOP leaders in California have now declared it fair and reasonable to remove someone fromm office for (primarily though not exclusively) running a catastrophic budget deficit, even if he actually cut a budget deficit of $38 billion down to $9 billion. Let's see how consistent GOP operatives are, at least in CValifornia, when democrats use a similar argument about the national executive . . .

    Bill Heuisler - 8/25/2003

    Mr. Wright,
    The answer is: forbid paid signatures, but there's a problem.
    In 1980 my organization, Citizens For Tax Relief, collected a half-million signatures to place a Proposition-13 for Arizona on the ballot. We were all volunteers; not one signature was paid for. Opponents spent two million dollars to convince voters the tax-cuts were not going to help them. An obvious lie, but money talks and a 60/40 lead in September reversed itself by November.

    Money corrupts the system everywhere, it corrupted Davis. Rosen admits Gray played loose with money, but not enough for recall. Didn't he demand a large donation from a teacher's Union before consenting to meet with them? Wasn't that SOP for him? That's against the law and sufficient for any standard of recall.

    Libertarian or whatever, we're stuck with the system. At least the last move is in the voting booth. Small consolation.
    Bill Heuisler

    Josh Greenland - 8/25/2003

    Everything you say about California is true, unfortunately, but there are good reasons to be concerned about what goes on here aside from the media circus around Arnold Schwartzenegger:

    We have between 1/8th and 1/9th of the country's population, and our economy even now would by itself be in the world's top ten.

    If those things don't matter to you, it should matter that this state starts many things that the rest of the country picks up later, for better or worse.

    Jesse Lamovsky - 8/25/2003

    I hear what you're saying. Had the author framed her argument with concrete reasons why the recall shouldn't go forward, I would have attempted to answer in the same vein. But she doesn't. She admits that the recall is legal in the letter of the law in California, but not in the "spirit" of the law. She seems to be believe that the recall should only be used as a weapon by progressives against conservatives. That, to me, is an advocacy of one-party tyranny in the state of California.

    Rosen's complaint that the recall was initiated by a wealthy businessman and not some unspecified populist movement doesn't hold water either. Had Rep. Issa used public money to initiate the recall, that would be one thing, but he didn't- he used his own fortune. I don't see any problem there. And anyway, is it realistic to believe such an initiative could ever NOT come from wealthy and politically connected people? I don't think so. Any recall effort that comes from the progressive side will likely be backed by a goodly amount of private wealth as well. But if, say, Arianna Huffington (or Mr. Reiner, or Ms. Streisand) initiated a recall, what are the chances that Ruth Rosen would object? I'd wager, not very likely. Besides, it's not like Darrell Issa was sending out squads of goons to force citizens to sign the recall petition. A million Californians freely chose to sign. If they didn't want to sign, they didn't have to. If they like the job the Dems are doing, they can vote in Mr. Bustamente on October 7. Obviously there is a groundswell of discontent with Gray Davis in California, and if Rep. Issa was astute enough to act on it, more power to him. Either way, the ultimate choice still resides with the lever-pulling masses.

    Again, I have no love for George Bush or his neo-con handlers. But I haven't seen a scintilla of evidence to prove that the 2000 Election was stolen in any way, and here is Ruth Rosen presenting her opinion like it's some kind of historical fact. That doesn't cut it.

    Actually, there was ample reason to impeach Bill Clinton, and every other President in the last half-century who has unconstitutionally committed American troops to foreign conflicts. I do regret that the impeachment was carried forward on such specious grounds, and I opposed it at the time. At any rate, the Founders intended the articles of impeachment to be a real threat to any Chief Executive who overstepped his powers, and they would probably be surprised- and disappointed- that only two Presidents have been impeached.

    Your post was lucid and reasoned, Mr. Wright, and as such, it deserved a lucid and reasoned reply. Ruth Rosen's original piece was neither. It was a partisan screed, and I chose to answer it in the same manner, only without her hypocrisy of historical scholarship.

    Zorba the Surfer - 8/24/2003

    Why do Easterners call California THE coast ?
    Because they have only a "shore" and feel inferior ?

    To reprise Herody:

    "I haven't been convinced of the reason why the rest of the country really ought to care about the energy grid in New York. It seems like a frightfully rude state, one that is full of a lot of economic and political power, but one that also is full of roaches and car alarms and taxi drivers whose butchery of English is even worse than that perpetrated by natives, and places like the upper East Side, where no one can afford to live who doesn't already have a face-cream-smothered old aunt with a manicured poodle in a rent control coop....

    Replace New York with your favorite hated-locale and recycle, and
    then recycle the recycling, ad nauseum, and where does this all lead ? Nowhere, of course. So why start, Herod ?

    Roger T Wright - 8/24/2003

    Jesse, you are ranting and not thinking about being consistent with your prior comments on other pages (anti-Bush, anti-neo-cons, etc.). You can do, and have already done, better than to take nitpicking potshots, HNN-style. Focus on the substance of Rosen's argument: that the recall device, intended to inhibit the corrupting influence of money on government, is being used by small pockets of considerable wealth to buy influence. I can think of several good libertarian dissents (as well as a couple of solid libertarian concurrences) with this argument, but you have not articulated them.

    Rosen's specific examples are not key to her argument, but even there you skip over the best one - that the recall is like the impeachment of Clinton, surely an abuse of the "separation of powers" (which you say you believe in) as set forth in the clear language of the federal constitution's framers.

    Jesse Lamovsky - 8/24/2003

    An interpretation of some of the language in Ruth Rosen's piece is necessary. Here goes:

    "For all his faults, Davis is responsible for signing landmark legislation. He signed the nation's most progressive legislation on women's reproductive rights, gave farmworkers more power in labor negotiations with growers and signed the country's first bill to ban toxic flammable chemicals that threaten public health."

    - Recall Gray Davis? Why, he made it even easier for women to butcher their unborn children and made conditions even worse for business in his already over-regulated state! The man's doing a fine job!

    "Although Hiram Johnson would have condemned Davis, he would have insisted on a populist recall -- not one purchased by independently wealthy Republicans conservatives intent on hijacking an election they previously had failed to win."

    - If Rob Reiner, Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand had raised money to recall, say, Pete Wilson; that would have been good and proper. After all, liberals are the only true populists, no matter how filthy rich they are.

    "Now that we know how easily a recall can be purchased, it's time to amend the California Constitution so that a recall, like impeachment, is reserved for crimes, rather than for political opportunism."

    - Especially if the crime is not being sufficiently "progressive" enough on issues like a woman's "reproductive freedom".

    "It (the California recall) represents an opportunistic power grab by Republicans, not a populist response to an abuse of power. Like the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the presidential election of 2000 -- the recall is destructive to representative democracy, the cornerstone of our political system."

    -Only Republicans abuse power, and only liberals and progressives can legitimately clame the right to a recall based on a "populist response" to such abuse. Oh, and by the way, for the umpteenth time, George Bush stole the 2000 election. As soon as we have a shred of evidence to support this claim, we'll tell you all about it. We even know where it is- it's on the planet Altair-4, on the shelf right next to Saddam's WMDs.

    "Federal tax cuts, moreover, which have mainly benefited the very rich, have resulted in budget deficits in all states."

    - All those entitlements the state of California hands out to illegal immigrants don't have anything to do with the budget problems. As usual, it's the fault of those greedy rich people, who- horrors!- actually think they're entitled to keep the money they earn.

    "A right-wing attempt to reverse an election is not what he
    (Hiram Johnson) meant by returning sovereignty to the people of California."

    - We Democrats like the rules of governance when they benefit our side. When they don't, they should be changed or ignored. Just like the Electoral College, which, as we all know, conspired with Jeb Bush to "steal" the 2000 Election.

    Herodotus - 8/24/2003

    I haven't been convinced of the reason why the rest of the country really ought to care about the politics of California. It seems like a frightfully large state, one that is full of a lot of economic and political power, but one that also has cities like Los Angeles that seem like awful places to live, full of self-involved celebrities and weapon-toting drug gangsters who are proud to live in places like "south central" and "watts," and San Francisco, where the cost of living makes it all but impossible for a young person starting out in life to live or do anything. Is this all really just being driven by people who want to scream and shout about Republicans "stealing" elections and the media circus of candidates who have put their hats into the ring?

    D. Johnson - 8/24/2003

    The first recall in U.S. history was the removal of a Los Angeles City Councilman in 1904. Just as in the present instance, the recall effort was promoted and financed by a wealthy, politically ambitious individual, who sought to use this populist measure to serve his own ends. Alas - this has always been the dark underbelly of the Direct Democracy idea: the ease with which it can be subverted by individuals or organizations with money.

    Dennis Wilson - 8/24/2003

    Big Money has co-opted the recall and the initiative in California. Now, when I am confronted by a clip-board wielder in front of the local supermarket, I politely ask "How much are you being paid per signature ?". Unless there is an unequivocal and convincing reply that the signature-gatherer is a genuine volunteer, I will not sign, regardless of the issue (which more often than not is unworthy of support anyway).

    If more people were to follow this approach, co-opted recalls could be stopped before they got started. California does not need yet another in the interminable string of convoluted constitutional amendments. Just enough citizens to pledge never to sell their signature, ever, for anything. As it is, the fat cats’ recall of Gray Davis barely got enough names to qualify for the ballot.