Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Glenn Reynolds has an excellent article on the California recall.
"RECALL ARNOLD!It boggles my mind that any political party is so lacking in introspection that after being seriously rejected by the voters they conclude that either a.) the voters are stupid or b.) there was some kind of dirty tricks conspiracy. This in turn leads to arrogance and/or paranoia. The Republicans acted that way over Clinton and the Democrats acted that way over Bush. The difference seems to be in the learning curve. The Republicans pulled it together and are now stomping all over the Democrats while the Democrats for the most part are just getting increasingly shrill and loony. I can't believe they intend to try to recall Arnold. That'll win the voter's hearts.
No, you haven’t accidentally gone to Alterman’s blog by mistake. And no, I don’t actually think that Arnold should be recalled. But there are people who do: lefty blogger Chris Mooney says “just tell me where to sign.” And lefty site The DailyKos wants to launch Recall Arnold saying, “It’ll now be our turn.” (Then there’s the Doonesbury cartoon from a couple of weeks back, which included a “recall Arnold” petition in its last frame.)
Other lefties disagree: Kevin Drum writes: “Trying to mount a recall against Arnold would be bad for California, bad for the Democratic party, and only distracts attention from the bigger task at hand: electing a Democrat to the White House in 2004.” But then he notes that his readers don’t seem to feel the same way: “Well, so far the comments are running pretty strongly in favor of all-out war.” And Aziz Poonawalla writes that Democrats should be focusing on Bush, not Arnold.
My own feeling, for what it’s worth, is that launching a recall campaign against Arnold would look childish. But what do I know ? I didn’t think the Davis recall would succeed when it first appeared, either.
Regardless, though, I do think that people who criticize the whole idea of recalls as anti-democratic are missing something. (And, to be fair, that’s the real point of Chris Mooney’s comments — he wants to create so much chaos that California voters will amend away the recall provision.)
Recalls aren’t anti-democratic. They are, if anything, anti-republican — by which I mean that they’re inconsistent with the “republican principle” of representative government over direct democracy. (It’s ironic, isn’t it, that at the moment the main champions of this republican principle are Democrats?) And representative government, for reasons that Madison, et al., spelled out in The Federalist, is a good thing.
But it’s not the only good thing. A danger faced by all governments — including representative governments — is the danger that they will be taken over and paralyzed by what economist Mancur Olson, in a famous book titled The Rise and Decline of Nations, called a “web of special interests.” Because it pays for special interest groups and politicians to collude, lining their pockets at the taxpayers’ expense, Olson argued that nations — and perhaps especially representative ones — would tend toward paralysis over time, as special interest groups locked up government revenues and fought off changes.
That sounds a lot like what has happened in California, where the power of public employee unions and other special interests has gotten the state into a political and budgetary crisis from which it’s now trying to escape, but where the very same political structure, pre-recall, made it impossible to fix things because any serious change would threaten too many powerful interests. Olson wrote that it would take a major shock to break the web of special interests — he noted that Germany and Japan recovered so well after World War II in part because pre-existing special interest relationships were disrupted — and wondered at America’s comparative freedom from special interest webs given its long history of the same kind of government.
I explored these issues at much more length, and with more sophistication, in a law review article entitled Is Democracy Like Sex? which you can read here. But the bottom line is that, short of a war, the recall process is a pretty good method of breaking up the web of special interests. All the cozy lobbyist-and-campaign-contribution relationships that existed under the Gray Davis regime will be rather drastically changed in the Schwarzenegger administration. And that’s probably a good thing for California’s long-term prospects, regardless of whether you think Arnold will be a good governor or not.
The recall process has hit the California political community like a thunderbolt. It’s the voters’ way of signaling that they’re mad as hell, and don’t want to take it anymore. And it’s a way for them to shake up a political apparatus that (as California voters certainly seemed to think) has been serving its own needs, not theirs. And it’s better than a war!
So I’d say leave the recall provision on the books, and even go farther by addressing the gerrymandered legislative districts that make “democracy” largely meaningless where the California legislature is concerned. Turnover there is good, too.
What about recalling Arnold? Well, every system has its flaws, and one of California’s is that the recall process could, in theory, be started before he’s had a chance to do anything much. But I rather doubt that the voters of California will remove another governor anytime soon. Though people unhappy with the recall are now venting their frustrations by calling the voters stupid, voters really aren’t stupid. They recalled Davis because they were deeply unhappy, and I don’t think they’ll recall Arnold unless they’re equally unhappy. And, if they do, well, the California Constitution is famously easy to amend."
. . .
. . .
Oh Lord. Of all the movies set in the future, will Demolition Man turn out to be the most prescient?
"As Arnold Schwarzenegger launches his political career, it's worth recalling a scene from the film "Demolition Man," which takes place in the year 2026. As Sandra Bullock attempts to bring Sylvester Stallone up to speed on what has happened in the world in the last 30 years, she refers to the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library.
Stallone: "Hold it! The Schwarzenegger Library?"
Bullock: "Yes, the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library. Wasn't he an actor?"
Stallone: "Stop! He was President?"
Bullock: "Yes. Even though he was not born in this country, his popularity at the time caused the 61st Amendment…"
Here's something worth a thought. Though this isn't a new phenomenon, (there have been at least 3 similar bills within the past few years,) it's suddenly much more relevant.
. . .
More on the UN.
. . .
. . .