Three views of California politics-as-unusual: I Don’t Recall

By Jim Smith

They couldn’t win the election against him, so now they want to take him out of office with a recall. Fair play apparently has nothing to do with politics.

Those behind the recall have most of the money and control most of the media. There’s no doubt that the Bush Administration is happy to support the recall, and most likely, is one of the co-conspirators behind the recall plot.

If the recall succeeds, it will be the poor who suffer. There will be big cutbacks in healthcare and education, and working people will have to pay a greater price for government services. But enough about Venezuela.
What about California?

Gray Davis is no Hugo Chavez, but he still doesn’t deserve to be recalled. Nor should he be replaced by the rogue’s gallery of multi-millionaires who want to be your governor.

Even though he’s not leading in the polls as I write this, the media darling is muscleman movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger. My favorite movie of his is, coincidentally, Total Recall. It’s based on a story called “We can remember it for you wholesale,” by the late, reality-bending, science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick.
Dick’s story, and the movie, keeps us guessing whether the hero, played by Schwarzenegger, is a secret agent, or a clerk who is imagining he’s a secret agent.

Recent events might lead one to wonder if our political scene hasn’t somehow slipped into Dick’s reality-shifting machine. First, there were the bizarre events in Florida where the Supreme Court stepped in to stop a vote count that might have thrown the presidential election to Al Gore.

Then, a little more than a year ago, our elected city council person was exiled - over the protests of those of us who had elected her - to the nether reaches of the Valley by her council “colleagues.” They selected a suitable replacement, who had been elected by voters elsewhere, and installed her as our new councilmember. We may get to vote again in 2005, if we’re good.

Not long ago, the Democratic members of the Texas state assembly ran for the border with the Texas Rangers hot on their heels to prevent a quorum vote on changing congressional boundaries, that would have turned the state over to the Republicans for a decade to come. They were followed a short time later by their opposite numbers in the Texas Senate, who hid out in New Mexico.

More evidence that something was dreadfully wrong can be found in the reaction of some of the losing candidates in the Venice neighborhood council election. The shock of losing an election for a puny volunteer position that only has advisory power apparently made some of the candidates think they were living back in the 1950s, where they began seeing communists under every bed. Don’t laugh, you may be the next to fall under suspicion.

Then last month, undeterred by the prospect of assuming a deficit of at last $8 billion, hundreds of Californians took out papers to run for governor. The front-runners should have known the value of a billion, since all of them have millions of dollars of their own, or know where to get it.

Maybe we’ve been sucked up in a daydream about Arnold’s latest movie where he plays a movie star running for governor. Or maybe the reality is that he’s a washed-up body builder who’s dreaming about the good ole days when he was Mr. Universe, and about that career he almost had in the movies and politics. Or could the truth be that he’s sitting in a beer hall in Vienna thinking about the good ole days, and about that time he could have immigrated to America, and what might have happened if he had.

But what if there’s even the smallest chance that all this is not Arnold’s daydream, but is reality. Then, what to do on election day? I’m with Jesse Jackson on this one (see his article on this page). A successful recall could do more damage to California than Gray Davis ever thought of doing.

No matter how we vote on the recall, we can all vote for one of the 135 replacements on the ballot. If Cruz Bustamante is elected, he is likely to be a more decent and more progressive governor than Davis. So it might all work out all right in the long run, or not.

The “or not” is if Ward Connerly’s Prop. 54 passes, barring even the collection of statistics on race and ethnicity, it’s a step way back to the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” Party of the 1850s. If Prop. 54 passes, defenders of discrimination and inequality can truly say, “I know nothing.”

What about the other candidates on the ballot. How do they identify themselves? The biggest group, 64, call themselves businessmen, entrepreneurs or some variation. Not surprisingly, the second biggest group, 15, is entertainment or artists. See box for the complete breakdown of aspirants.

Only one person identifies himself as a labor or union activist. This is C.T. Weber, who is a state employee, president of his local union branch and the Peace and Freedom candidate for governor. As a long-time union organizer myself, I know what it’s like to struggle day after day in support of people who are confronted by injustice from the overwhelming might of their employers. C.T. is one of the good guys, fighting the good fight.

You might consider voting for him if you believe the wealth of our society should be shared by all, in the form of quality health care, decent housing, free public transportation and all the other benefits California could afford right now, if most of the goodies weren’t hoarded by a few billionaires and multi-millionaires. Check him out at <>.

Posted: Mon - September 1, 2003 at 04:44 PM