home > archive > 2003 > this article
The virtue of recall elections
By Bruce Walker
Leftists and Democrats have discovered over the last few years ideas completely novel to them, like the benefit of an open and honest electoral system. Gerrymandering, long the principal tool of Democrats to win elections, has suddenly become such a serious threat to democracy that when Republicans in Texas, rather than Democrats in Texas, are drawing electoral districts, the Texas Democrats must escape to adjacent states to avoid this calamity.
To be sure, Democrats have not caught all the fine nuances of good government. New Jersey Democrats used the novel argument of a "constitutional right to win" as the basis for replacing the lawful nominee of the Democrat Party, chosen by Democrat voters in their primary election, with a geriatric former senator not reeking of corruption.
Democrats, playing upon the theme of having dead voters vote, had a dead candidates run in the 2000 Missouri senatorial election. And, of course, Senate Democrats have discovered the "constitutional right to stop anyone from doing anything" with constant filibustering.
Leftists particularly loath referenda, which introduce that odd notion of the people who are sovereign in a democratic republic actually voting on their laws. Now, it seems, these new found friends of good government are appalled by the prospect of recalling Gray Davis. He had, after all, won an election.
Is recall something conservatives and Republicans should support? Absolutely! In fact, even the sinister promise made by Democrats to consider recalling Schwarzenegger as soon as he is elected governor is another clear indication of the virtue of recall for those of us who are on the right side of politics and issues.
Suppose Democrats start that process three months into Arnold's administration - what should he do? How about this: be the first person to sign a petition for his own recall! After Arnold wins the governorship in October, there will be a cloud on his political clout if he receives less than half of the popular vote, as he probably will.
On the other hand, if he energizes the base and demands a recall vote as a confirmation of his popularity with the people, and if he ran a cheerful and aggressive campaign saying "Give me a mandate!" then it is that the recall would be decisively defeated, in sharp contrast to the Davis recall. What would Democrats say then?
Moreover, Arnold could say: "The people of California are entitled to have a vote on my legitimacy. I want that. But beyond that, the people of California are entitled to have a vote on the recall of all the state elected officials who got our state into this mess." Then his supporters could go around the state with recall petitions for every member of the California Legislature and all the other secondary statewide elected officials.
Given the anger Californians feel now, Democrats could lose control of both houses of the California Legislature as well as all the other statewide elected offices they hold. It is almost certain that Democrats would lose some ground by this sort of massive recall.
Leftists just do not understand what recall is about. It is not about unpopular politicians or political figures out of synch with their constituencies. Recall is about politicians who run solemnly promising one course of action and almost immediately laughing off their own promises.
This is uniquely a Democrat problem (Giuliani and Riordan were liberal Republicans, but they ran and governed that way) and it is uniquely a Leftist problem (Clinton ran as a "centrist" like Edwards, who then ran to the left as quickly as possible).
Arnold, as the governor with a mandate, could even go farther. Leftists loath having the people decide laws, taxes, budgets and things like that. If Arnold is stymied by the California Legislature, in addition to seeking the recall of those members, he could present his reforms as initiative petitions for popular vote.
In other words, he could propose bypassing elected pols entirely. And by putting his recall, the general California recall, and these measures on the same election, he and his allies who seek positive change could win a landslide at every level.
Recall is also a good precedent for another reason. The most remote and arrogant politicians are not governors, but senators. Once a senator sneaks to election or to reelection, he often pants after the chic parties of Washington and ignores the interests of his constituents for about five years. Recall can change that.
What if some Leftist Democrats from conservative Republican states push the filibuster envelope too far? Many state constitutions allow for the recall of federal elected officials as well. What if two or three of these Democrats were recalled and lost the recall election? There would be an instant attitude adjustment on the minority side of the Senate.
So, when Leftists and Democrats start looking very serious and talking about the dangers of recall, smile. Recall, initiative and referendum are dangerous and serious threats, quite true: but only to duplicitous Democrats. These instruments of popular political revolt are our best friends.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent
contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2013, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.