The California Recall: What You Don’t Learn in History 310

This summer, I spent 9 weeks working at a summer camp in upstate New Hampshire. As one could imagine, I soon reached the following realization: that the sheltering of the “Camp Lawrence Bubble” far exceeds that of Andover. Thus, upon returning to the beautiful civilization that is Andover, I had the chance to catch up on everything I had missed over the past two and a half months. One piece of news caught my eye, so I read up on it. In California, an option that was designed and intended to help uphold the true democratic principle–that the majority will rule–has been taken advantage of. Instead of impeaching Governor Gray Davis for his wrongdoing or apathy, the recall race has turned into a frenzy of power-hungry pranksters, from actor Gary Coleman to used car salesman Mike McCarthy, student Nathan Walton to porn-star Mary “Mary Carey” Cook, and from retired meatpacker Joe Britton to, of course, Mr. Universe himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here’s how it works. On October 7, California’s 15 million registered voters will see a ballot that has two sections. The first section will say “Should we recall Gov. Gray Davis?” Those who check “yes” will then have to vote in the second section for one of 135 candidates. He who wins (if Davis is recalled) will serve out the remaining three and a half years of the governorship. Things have truly gotten out of hand. The so-called “California Recall” has turned into a complete misuse of democratic freedom. Gov. Gray Davis, only a little bit more than half a year removed from his reelection, has been blasted for the deficit in California’s budget and for his simple inaction. In fact, the worst thing that Davis has done is allow a substantial increase in gas prices to the point where truck drivers lose money operating their big rigs. While the decline in California’s heavy industry is a problem, Gov. Davis has, at least, attempted to use the gas taxes to help lower the deficit. Yet, ironically, the recall is likely to cause an added $70 million in state government election costs, further adding to the deficit and delaying time in which Gov. Davis could be addressing his state’s problems. Thus, anyone in support of this absolute debauchery of democratic elections is only making matters worse. Even more disturbing are the implications that the recall has for the United States as a whole. For example, some say that Gray Davis is being recalled simply so that a Republican governor can take office and thus help secure the state of California for President George W. Bush ’64 when he comes up for reelection. Even as a Bush supporter on many fronts, I find this tactic by some Republicans an egregious misuse of the California governorship. By the same token, could George W. Bush, who won the presidency without the popular vote, be recalled? It seemed outlandish when rumors of a Gray Davis recall were flying, but it happened. But, hey, that’s what happens when rich people get upset with the way things are going in politics (remember the Clinton impeachment?). Finally, the most disturbing piece of the pie is how the victor will be decided. According to California state bylaws, the governor facing the recall must receive 50 percent or more of the votes in order to remain in office. Thus, with 135 candidates running against him, that candidate who wins could do so with only 25 percent of the vote. Essentially, if Gov. Gray Davis received 49 percent, automatically he would not be governor. So, in that case, the next highest candidate, even if he or she only had 23 percent of the votes, would become the governor. It is appalling that, in a state of 35 million people, someone with 3 million votes (out of 15 million registered voters) could take office in Sacramento. But, hey: there’s democracy for you. California is out of control. The recall has crazed its voters and poisoned its politicians. Gov. Davis and Lt. Gov. Bustamante called a midnight session of the state legislature and actually passed a law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Even better, to vote in California, all you need is a valid state ID; this means, oddly enough, that illegal immigrants can now vote! Apparently, Gov. Davis thinks that illegal immigrants will vote Democrat. No matter the outcome of the California Recall, the truth remains that regardless of which candidate wins, or even if Gray Davis remains in office, the true consequence will be the $70 million wasted in the reelection and the three months of campaigning that could’ve been spent fixing the state’s budget problems. So what? The candidate you wanted to win ended up losing the 2002 California Governor’s election: tough! Wait four years and try again: don’t cast a shade of disgust over one of the most beautiful states of our republic in a greed-inspired coup. Best case scenario: Gray Davis remains in office, silences the mini-uprising that is the recall so we may never speak of it again, and those who oppose him run against him after his term is up. In that case, our politicians can worry about getting their business done without being bothered by the possibility of being ousted out of office prematurely. Worst case scenario: the recall business will cause a despairingly childlike series of retaliations and retributions where candidates who win recalls are themselves recalled. Either way, the only certainty is that, no matter how many History 310 courses you take, American politics are still, indeed, unpredictable.