The California recall and the precedence it sets

Acknowledging every state has different laws regarding the removal of its elected officials from office, and acknowledging that elected officials have been removed from office in the past, given the current political climate and the “lawsuit happy” mentality of the last few decades, what short- and long-term effects will the California recall have across the United States (politically speaking)? Will Arnold be recalled if we don’t like the way he does things (like it seems many didn’t like the way Davis did things), or if he doesn’t do them fast enough (I’m already hearing “if he doesn’t get it done in 100 days…” rumblings)? Will other states start looking at their recall laws and either change them or take advantage of them? Will someone start a movement to recall Bush for the same reasons Davis was recalled; i.e., saying he’s running the economy into the ground, or the war wasn’t justified, or whatever other reason people can invent to not like a politician?

Personally, I think the implications are staggering. IMHO, I felt the recall effort was partisan sour grapes over Davis winning fair and square 11 months ago, and being able to buy the subversion of the will of the people disgusts me. Davis may have made many mistakes, but recalling him is unjustified - he ought to serve out his full term like any other duly elected official, since he did nothing illegal, which is what I feel a recall should be reserved for. Now that it is in the minds of the people that if an elected official doesn’t vote their way, or wins over the person they wanted to win, or they can ride a tide of popular displeasure at that official, that they can just spend some money to hire signature-gatherers to pull them out of office and maybe get the person they like in, I worry a great deal about the future of California politics and the US in general.


The vast rightwing conspiracy continues its dark work.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

The vast rightwing conspiracy continues its dark work.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Well, I did the second time.

I checked, honest. sorry.

It’s moving east one state at a time. From the August 26 Reno Gazette Journal:

Pretty ridiculous. The “activists and conservatives” are trying to recall a popular republican governor who was overwhelmingly elected to a second term last November (Guinn won 68% of the vote). The recall group is motivated by a significant increase in business taxes in Guinn’s budget for the next two years passed by the state legislature. Because the Nevada constitution requires a 2/3 supermajority to institute a tax increase, a special legislative session was called to try to reach a compromise. When that failed, Guinn and the State’s Attorney took the issue to the State Supreme Court. In a case that was discussed on this board, the court ruled that the procedural supermajority requirement was trumped by the state’s fundamental obligation to provide education. It was a controversial decision, as you can see in the linked thread.

However, the recall movement isn’t necesarily confined to Guinn. Tony Dane, the Recall Guinn Committee chair, seems to have his sights set higher:

To me, this is ridiculous. Nevada’s tax revenues from gaming have fallen off over the last few years, and a few stubborn people in the state legislature aren’t willing to make that shortfall up anywhere. Guinn’s financial policies received the fourth highest score in the country from the Cato Institute (“Individual Liberty, Limited Government, Free Markets, and Peace”) on the 2002 Fiscal Policy Report Card. Nevada doesn’t have any personal income tax, has very limited taxes on businesses, and is incredibly development friendly - Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the US, and Reno isn’t too far behind. The recall effort here is nothing but sour grapes.

Luckily, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. From USA Today:

I hope he’s right. I haven’t heard anything about it recently, but I expect to, seeing what’s happened in California.

California will set no precedents at all for most states east of the Mississippi. No recalls there.

lost4life expects the Spanish Inquisition, this time.

Naw, spit won’t happen roun’ heah.

You heard it here first, ladies and gennlemen.

No one needed to invent a reason to recall Davis. His policies and the legislation he signed were running the California economy into the ground.

Well, that’s nice but you must acknowledge that the recall provision was made a part of California law BY the will of the people. They exercised their RIGHT to rid themselves of a self-serving politician who has the power to reach into their pockets and take even more money while pissing away said money.

Could California survive another 3 years of Davis and his insane policies? How many families could afford the outrageous taxation he would have placed on them to clean up his mistakes? How many businesses would have left the state because of the regulations he signed into law?

You’re trying to paint Davis as some poor victim of a conspiracy. He EARNED his recall. Approximately 3.5 million people voted FOR Davis in the 2002 election with 49% voter turnout. Last week, 4…4 million people voted to recall Davis with approx. 65% voter turnout. It seems to me the will of the people was heard loud and clear.


Since this thread isn’t (really) about the justification of the Grey Davis recall, I’ll avoid trying to argue with the statements that wendya has made concerning the “policies and the legislation he signed” (aside from noting that he only signed that legislation that the California legislature passed. He didn’t invent nor pass the legislation, and the same legislators will also give Arnold bills to sign. If he doesn’t sign them, they will most likely overturn his veto, so I don’t know what that will really accomplish).

Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

Anyways, as much as I agree with the sentiment of the original post concerning the very poor precendent this sets, I believe that circumstances were unique in California, such that this is not a very serious threat to the rest of the country.

First of all, as far as the President is concerned, there is no such thing as a recall; no law exists allowing any kind of recall of President or Congress so that can’t happen to Bush.

In California, we were unlucky enough to have an extremely dire economic crisis and an extremely unpopular Governor at the same time, combined with a millionnaire dedicated enough to put up over a million dollars of his own money to make it happen. I doubt these circumstances will align themselves in any other state.

The economic crisis: California used to have a huge surplus, now it has a huge deficit. As the Grey Davis campaign ads pointed out, California’s situation is only a fraction of the similar problem the Federal Government has, and has weathered the current national economic conditions better than many other states. California is the victim of energy policies that everyone will agree cost millions or billions of dollars, yet no one has placed the “blame” for this on anyone. Sure, everyone has their favorite boogeyman to blame for this, whether it be the greedy energy companies, or the Cheney-backed energy companies, or Grey Davis’s incompetence in dealing with this or whatever, but my point is that since no one can reasonably or effectively pinpoint how this problem got as bad as it did, it is very easy to blame whoever you like. I am not an expert in these matters, but this is my understanding of the situation.

The unpopular Governor: Grey Davis was never “loved” by everyone, or even all Democrats. He is a soft-spoken, uncharismatic (boring) career politician, who worked his way up the ladder. Similar (in my opinion) to the way a president like Polk got nominated after none of the really popular candidates could get a majority, Davis took advantage of a primary system like most around the country where the popular candidates kind of cancel themselves out, and the acceptable second choice makes it to the top. He ran for re-election against a Republican candidate many considered very flawed, and it was surprising to me how little Davis won by. Most Democrats didn’t like him very much. A candidate like Bill Clinton can win because even though all republicans hated him vehemenently, enough Democrats really loved him and enough independent voters liked him to give him election victories. Davis was never liked by anybody!

And lastly, Darryl Issa is a republican self-styled “kingpin-maker” who took it upon himself to fund the effort to recall Davis. He started the process very shortly after Davis won reelection, paying millions to workers to stand outside grocery stores and drug stores to collect signatures asking for the recall election. The law in California is that 12% of the number of voters in the previous Governor election are needed to get a recall on the ballot. That took a lot of money to pay a lot of people to collect signatures. Given the manpower (paid by one person, not a grassroots organization or any such thing), I don’t think it would be hard to get 12% of any population to sign a petition to recall anyone. Enginerd points out, for example, that in Nevada the Governor was “overwhelmingly elected to a second term” by 68% of the vote. That means 32% voted against him! Add to that all the people who didn’t vote at all, but would willingly sign a petition to get anyone out of office, and I think that if someone paid enough people to collect signatures in Nevada even a popular Governor could face a recall by getting just 12% of the electorate to sign a petition in passing. Of course, there would be probably no chance that he would be voted out, but that’s a different question. Probably no one would spend that kind of money if they didn’t think they could succeed, so it is doubtful anyone will attempt this anywhere else.

In the case of California, many thought that should this recall succeed, we would soon push through a recall of the new Governor. The reasons this was proposed (again, IMHO) is because the way the california recall law is set up, there was two recall questions on the ballot. First is yes or no on the recall itself. Second was if the recall succeeds (if more people vote yes on the first question than no) then who should the new Governor be? Of any candidate who qualified to be on the ballot, the one with the most votes would be the new Governor. Since there were over 130 candidates on the ballot, it was easy to envision that the one candidate with the most votes could have maybe only 10 or 20% of the total vote, yet still be the new Governor. Since many thought the voter turnout would be less than the normal election, it was also easy to anticipate that the number of signatures neede to force a new recall would be much less that for this one. And of course most (if not all) Democrats, whether they liked Davis or not, would be anxious for retaliation against a new Republican Governor.

I don’t think any of these things came to pass. The voter turnout (as wendya pointed out) was HIGHER than the last election, so the signatures needed for another recall will be more than were needed this time. And Arnold didn’t win with a small percentage of the votes, the last statistics I saw had Arnold getting about 49% of all the votes! In fact, Arnold received more votes than people voting No on the recall, so he got more votes than Davis did! (This is really an unfair comparison, as many people who voted no on recall also voted for Arnold, but given a choice between the two on their own would obviously have voted for Davis as they voted no on the recall; but this still sounds good anyway) I think everyone will at least give him a chance, and unless he does something really horrific, I would doubt that we will see another recall election in California anytime in the near future.

I don’t see why the recall in California is such a big deal. I mean have you people really forgotten why we founded this country in the first place?

The Government serves at pleasure of the People. Not the other way around.

It always bugs the crud outta me when I hear some one say “America is in debt” or “<Your State Here> is in financial trouble”. Look you political schmucks, just because YOU can’t balance your checkbook doesn’t mean I or my neighbors can’t.

IMHO I think its sad that the government is so entangled in our lives that this recall even matters.

If you don’t believe me, you can check the various states’ laws. States east of the Mississippi usually don’t have any recall provision in their laws. Thus, California sets no precedent for them.

I don’t understand the “Republicans who were upset stole the governorship”.

Republicans are outnumbered in CA by a wide margin. They could conceivably get the recall on the ballot especially with the help of a multimillionaire who “paid for” signatures.

But how would the recall pass? Why wouldn’t the Democrats just vote against it. Further the independents would vote against it too, as they would see it as unfairly (even though they don’t like DAvis) getting rid of a sitting governor.

So there is an inherent bias in the system AGAINST removing the governor. People know it is not fair to blame all economic problems on him. They know it’s not a good “precedent”. But in this case THEY DID IT ANYWAY. And the they includes Democrats. Something like 30% of Democrats voted to get rid of him. Are they part of the vast right wing conspiracy also?

Here’s a Democrat who voted to get rid of Davis. He became the Democratic equivalent of a Nixon; using the system in paranoid ways. Maybe he’s not as corrupt as I think he is, but likely I’m optomistic.

And I voted for Arnold specifically because of all the Davis mud that was being dumped on him. I figured he might win and he couldn’t be any worse.

Well I don’t know about all states east of the Mississippi, but here in Michigan we do have the recall option, although it’s harder to do than in California.

From the Detroit News

Am I the only one that thinks this is an incredibly stupid reason to vote for someone?

Again, this isn’t going to happen. There is no provision for a recall in the US Constitution.

The only real ripple effect is that politicians will push for the repeal of recall laws in their states. In some cases, it will be due to a high-minded belief that the recall is a bad idea. In most, it will because they feel their positions are shaky, and don’t want to be booted out.

The only way Democrats will be able to bring it off in CA is if Arnold doesn’t work out at all. Then they will be able plausibly to argue that the recall didn’t improve the situation at all, and that the voters of California should just stick with the most recently elected bozo.

Ultimately, all politicians are answerable to the voters. The day that stops happening is the day we stop being America.


I appreciate those staying on topic of the political ramifications of the recall.


Sorry I was flip, Esprix, but my ramifications were sincere.

This is just a continuation of the kind of rightwing dirty trix that reached its apex up Monic Lewinsky’s skirt. My parallel with the Spanish Inquisition is that their ideology has become as corrupt as the Church’s became in that period of history, and the momentum of hysteria has largely taken over the far right.