Did Gray Davis betray the Democratic Party?

My argument is pretty straightforward.

The recall provision is in the California Constitution in black and white. Recall petitions were in circulation for a long time, and received some significant–publically known and acknowledged–funding. Davis can’t say the thing snuck up on him from nowhere.

David can read; so can his political advisors. Everyone knew he was unpopular–no, not “unpopular,” ABYSMALLY FRIGGIN UNPOPULAR LIKE NO-ONE ELSE IN STATE HISTORY. Response: “uh…[dial tone]”

At that point, then, we have some obvious “facts on the ground”. If Gray Davis is to remain in office, he will have to spend a helluva lot of time campaigning, have to spend a lot of money, have to systematically trash his opponents, and have to call in such few chips as he might have among his fellow Dem politicians. None of which makes him more endearing. This in a state known for participatory democracy, government by initiative, popular “voter rebellion”, distaste for professional pols, and a love for celebrity and mediagenic figures.

Which is to say: it BEGINS as a very bloody, difficult struggle in which Davis is VERY MUCH the underdog. That would be more than enough to make, say, Richard Reardon the presumptive victor. And he said he was interested.

And then Arnold pulls his dramatic masterstroke and enters the race after making fools of everyone who was sure he wouldn’t.

So: one of the world’s most familiar, popular figures, a virtual symbol of hard-striving advancement and the traditional masculine virtues… versus this guy that just about everyone can’t stand, defending himself amid deep popular discontent and economic worry and horrific and disgusting budgetary combat; with his reedy, nasal voice, rhythmless body language, strangely glowing hair that seems to float off on its own, stiff and skinny body, reputation for ugly cut-and-slash campaigning, lack of anything like big ideas or clear direction–besides which he’s the veritable dictionary illustration of “pencil-necked geek.” And did I mention the car tax?

So it’s sorta Walt Disney with muscles versus Richard Nixon without the charm.

Does it sound like Gray Davis had what one might term a “reasonable chance?”

But maybe Arnold will self-destruct. Maybe the Cal GOP will terminate him for being pro-choice and pro-gay. Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be so many Republicans on the ballot that the vote will be split, or confusing, or something. (Not that this would directly affect the recall question itself.) Maybe if ALL of the Demo party unites behind Gray, maybe if no visible Democrat appears on the ballot, maybe if it becomes just Dems vs. Gops, not Davis versus Davis…maybe, maybe.

OK, maybe. Not exactly likely, not even very plausible, really, but if you’re a real dreamer you might (barely) make a (weak and speculative) case for it.

Except the Lt. Gov, a Democrat, gets into it.

So what are the odds then?

It’s a little like Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his ragtag army, already defeated once, badly, in days; versus the United States and Britain. No, I didn’t say Bahrain and Nepal. Whatever the “morals” of the situation, the chances of the former going toe to toe and actually defeating the latter are such that you want to say–and I did say–“Saddam, buddy, in the best interests of your army, your people, your country and all that’s holy, the best course right now is to just give in and give up. Doncha think?” He didn’t; his regime got terminated.

If Davis absolutely had to spend money and fight for his friggin job–and I don’t take his “right” to do that as a foregone conclusion under the circumstances–surely there was some point prior to vast expenditures by the State of California by which he could have said, “I read the polls. I’m far too unpopular to really recover. It’s doubtful on the face of it that I can win this thing. I want to ‘stop the expensive recall’ and prevent the creation of what I regard as precedent misuse of this constitutional provision. I hereby resign as Governor. Your new Governor is Cruz Bustamante. Gratitude, God, first Latino in modern times, proud, blablabla, bye.”

Bustamante, a liberal Democrat.

Shouldn’t loyal Democrats–and a few others besides–be absolutely furious at Davis for putting his ego ahead of (a) the good of the party, (b) the survival of the “liberal view”, © the wellbeing of the State of California?

Shouldn’t he be treated with well-deserved contempt–not for losing… but for running?

The idea of Davis resigning was certainly discussed frequently during the process. It’s not as simple as it might seem. IIRC, once the recall signatures were certified, the recall would go on even if Davis resigned. And at that time, it wasn’t clear who would be on the ballot (everyone was betting Arnold would decide against it).

Still, one might argue that the circumstances were significantly shaky for Davis well before the recall was certified that he should have taken one for the team. The Dems, I believe, thought they had a pretty good job of defeating the recall, and they might have done so if Arnold had not been a candidate. None of the others running got much traction.

Oops-- replace “pretty good job” in that last paragraph with “pretty good chance”.

I guess one relevant question here is:

If Davis had resigned before the recall, but the recall went ahead with Arnold leading the pack, would Arnold then replace Governor Cruz Bustamante? I don’t see how he would, but I don’t know that one…

If Davis had resigned before the recall, could he then have been on the recall ballot?

I have heard many opinions about the previous two questions, but there were no definitive answers.

No one was sure if Bustamante became acting governor because of a Davis resignation if he could go back to being lieutenant governor.

I’m very certain that if Davis had resigned before the recall, Bustamonte would have been in charge, and would have been he one ousted if Schwarzenegger had won the recall.

I think what they’re suggesting, rjung, is that Davis should have resigned just before the recall was certified, because then Shelley would not have had to certify it and Bustamante would have taken over.

It’s not like he didn’t know he was busted or anything. That was pretty much common knowledge for months leading up to the certification. All he would have had to do to cut it off was quit. Instead, he cost the Democrats the most populous state because of his pride.

Without knowing (1) if there were enough signatures certified for the recall, (2) who the Republican frontrunner candidate was, and (3) how many people would oppose the recall, I think it’s plausible that Davis believed the whole matter would blow over. After all, if Schwarzenegger didn’t run and McClintock was the front-runner, Davis could have defeated the recall effort as it was. Heck, even with Schwarzenegger on the ballot, the number of folks voting for the recall barely eked out the number of folks voting against.

I’m no fan of Grey Davis, but I still think he got the shaft over this, and given the information available at the time, I can easily believe that he thought he could ride out the storm.

OK, let’s reframe things a little in the interests of actually getting somewhere.

(1) Legally speaking, was this recall a recall of “the governor” (ie, whoever happened to be in that office as of a certain date), or specifically a recall of Gray Davis from the office of Governor?

(2) What was the situation on the exact, legal “go/no-go” date re: going forward with printing ballots, etc? Had Arnold announced? Had Bustamante? Who had withdrawn? (etc.)

(3) What do you Dopers think would have been the outcome if Davis had resigned prior to the vote–ie, if, on election day, Bustamante had been serving as Acting Governor for a few weeks? Seems like it would have improved Bustamante’s showing some (though I doubt he would have prevailed).

It appears that if Davis had resigned, then Bustamonte would have gone in as ACTING Gov. Then when Arnold won, Bustamonte would no longer be acting, and I think would have gone back to Lt. Gov.

So Davis resigning would not have done any good. Besides, the Dems (I am one of them) were not very happy with Bustamonte. He seemed to represent only the Indian Casinos & the Hispanics in the election.

The ballot specifically said that “Gray Davis” was to be recalled.

This was, legally, a recall of Davis, not of “whoever happens to be governor when the recall election is heald”. I remember seeing an interview with the CA Sec of State last summer and while he claimed the recall would go thru even if Davis resigned (after the cert of the recall signatures) I wasn’t convinced that it was so cut and dry. I’d bet it would’ve been thrown to the courts to determine. There were a lot more clear cut issues that the courts had to deal with in the recall process.

Okay, so whatever else might have developed, the people of California were going to vote on the question of Gray-Davis-as-governor.

Now then, is there a definitive answer, somewhere, to the question of whether the leader of the recall pack becomes governor in the case of the recall of a specific individual who is not, in fact, the governor at the time of the recall?

And–relevant to this thread–mightn’t it have been good for the Demo Party to have Bustamante in office for even a few weeks (in fact, maybe a couple months) rather than fighting on to the bitter end in a foredoomed campaign? As of now, the Dems have no leader looking forward to 2006. Bustamante and Davis are, respectively, disgraced and mega-disgraced. Two party constituencies (Latinos and Native Americans) have been subject to major public humiliation. As have innumerable Dem political figures who put their reputations on the line and not only couldn’t deliver, but couldn’t even come credibly close.

All because Gray Davis just HAD to contest “one more time.” For nothing.

The man deserves to be a pariah.

Had Davis resigned, say, a week before the recall it might have been perceived as a validation of the recall itself and caused the vote to go in favor or it. The only way out for the Dems was to have had Davis resign before the recall signatures were certified.

Why would have it been better to have Cruz in power for a few weeks? Davis was able to sign all kinds of legislation. It’s also not clear that the Dems (party leaders) wanted Cruz in. Perhaps they prefer to wait until someone like Boxer is ready to run. That’d be my guess.

Yeah, but the ballots weren’t printed before the Recall went forward. If Gumby had dropped out 'fore things got interesting (or uninteresting, depending on your point of view), they might very well have had Cruz “Most Irrelevent Man In The Universe” Bustamante’s name on the recall ballot instead.

JOHN MACE, I’m not sure having Bustamante “in” would have done anyone much good. But I AM sure that having ol’ Gray soldier on DIDN’T.

My opinion is that this whole thing was fed by deep disgust for one man, and not much more. Cut off the source, and the Dems had a chance (however weak) to keep the office. Remember, people didn’t start detesting Bustamante until he started campaigning.

And, of course, he could have been presented with the same bills to sign as GD was.

I’m not saying, incidentally, that CB should have been Gov in the abstract, or that the Dem Party deserved to retain control of the governorship. I’m concerned here with the “honor” of Mr. Davis.