August 12, 2003

Democracy Should Be Fun

George Will:

Truly conservative Californians -- you few know who you are -- will vote against the recall to protest its plebiscitary cynicism.
Oh, lighten up, Will.

Look. I changed my mind about the goofball celebrity thing. If I lived in California right now I would have no choice but to vote for either Arnold or Gary Coleman. Why? Because it's California. Because it would be fun. And because complaining about it is boring.

Come on, California. Throw the bums out. Throw out the whole bum class while you're at it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 12, 2003 11:48 PM

My respect for Will just went up a notch (though there are a lot of notches on my scale and he's starting from pretty far down).

The recall is a "bug". It needs to be patched.

Posted by: lewy14 at August 13, 2003 01:44 AM

Is California politics, like the politics of British Columbia, necessarily nutcase politics? One result in BC has been has been the demise in scandal of almost every government thus far. I don't suppose California is quite that crazy.

Posted by: Gideon Strauss at August 13, 2003 03:35 AM

The best argument against being against the recall because it was ginned up for partisan reasons (undoubtedly true) is that Davis has been in the business of ginning up the Republican primary for two elections now, in order to have a weaker opponent. So it is deeply fitting to hoist him with his own petard, more or less.

All of California politics comes under the heading of Jack Nicholson in Batman: "This town needs an enema!"

Posted by: Mike G at August 13, 2003 06:05 AM

Personally, I can't agree more with George Will on this.

Let me preface this: I think Gov. Davis has done a horrible job. His "puke politics" has been a part of the larger decay in civility. He's proven himself to be vicious and small. And the crises in California are, I think, far greater than the recession can explain. He's been a bad candidate and a bad governor. The only class he appears to have pleased is the kibitzing class, who get to laud and decry and laugh and scream as the drama is played out. In other words, he's good for ratings.

With all that said, there's a reason that we have terms of office. This deals with the rules of the game. As with redistricting, judicial nominations, quorum games, and filibusters, these are policies that can be just as easily used to promote one party or the other. They're useful because they help enforce the will of the majority, while giving minorities a lever against oppression.

But invoking these powers against 'normal' policy defeats is silly, but also dangerous. It disrupts the normal operations of government. It ratchets up the at-any-cost mentality. And since this plays out in front of the electorate, this gradually seeps into the way we as ordinary Americans behave towards our political rivals.

Bottom line: I'd be elated if Davis were beaten in a normal election. But this extraordinary process to throw out a merely ordinary nincompoop is silly and wrong.

Posted by: Rob at August 13, 2003 07:15 AM

Rob, these laws are on the books. It's not cheating. It's not undemocratic or anything like that. If they shouldn't be on the books, then get them off. The fact is that this has been tried before. And it has failed every time. The fact that it got this far this time says that the people don't want Davis out. Look at the polls. 60% voting to recall davis now. That's a majority. If democracy isn't about the people, then what is it?

Posted by: Court at August 13, 2003 08:27 AM

Rob, thanks to gerrymandering after the 2000 census, of the 153 legislative (state & federal) seats up for grabs in California in 2002, fewer than 6 (SIX) were remotely competitive. The right to vote in those elections was virtually meaningless and that will be true for another 10 years. We can't afford to wait.

This extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of a select few leaves Californians no choice, and calls for extraordinary measures. Pretending everything is "business as usual" won't work any more and the only recourse Californians have is the power of recall.

Posted by: Internet Ronin at August 13, 2003 08:47 AM

"Truly conservatives will vote..." Am I the only one that thinks this kind of groupthinking is bad for democracy? One should vote for or against recall because of its merits, not because "it's what all true conservatives do". (And I don't think this is a purely conservative phenomenon.)

Posted by: x at August 13, 2003 10:24 AM

George Will: Biggest stuffed shirt I ever met.

Posted by: Van der Leun at August 13, 2003 11:12 AM

Don't support Arnold or Gary Coleman, support Georgy Russell. Come on, all the cool kids are doing it!

Posted by: Hei Lun Chan at August 13, 2003 01:18 PM

A®rnold is popular. Obviously not because of his position on the issues. He's been very secretive about his positions - no doubt trying to get them straight before publicly announcing them. He's got the name, the reputation, and the popularity from his acting career.

But if I were a Californian (which I never will be), I wouldn't be voting for reasons outside of fixing the problems in California. I would seriously consider my choices, and consider their positions. I really doubt that positions on Gay Marriage or Abortion are going to affect one's voting preferences too much - at least this time they won't. I think Californians are interested in getting out of debt and keeping more of their own money. I know this is what California's lost businesses want.

Posted by: Gaijin at August 13, 2003 07:29 PM

George Will shows he's a man of principle.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at August 18, 2003 12:37 PM


"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere

Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

News Feeds


Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button


Tip Jar


Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn