I have voted, just mailed my ballot, in. an absolutely ridiculous election, the California recall whose goal is to recall, unseat, fire Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.
The election on September 14, comes a year before the regular elections when Newsom is expected to seek re-election. Why not wait until then? Well, California’s Republicans, only 24 percent of all registered voters, did not want to wait for an almost certain defeat next year and a repeat of Newsom’s overwhelming victory from 2020, so they forced the recall vote by gathering the required 1,5 million signatures, only 12 percent of the 22 million voters here, to trigger the recall, at a cost to the state’s tax payers of around $275 million.
“It is hard to conceive of a more cynical plan from extreme conservatives trying to control Sacramento, or a scheme more damaging to the premises on which democracy stands,” wrote Nathan Heller in the New Yorker recently. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/09/06/californias-recall-is-a-blow-to-democratic-change
I voted no to the recall, of course, and I chose not to vote for any of the 46 candidates for governor, who hope to replace Newsom should he not receive a majority of the vote. Those 46 are mostly Republicans, with no political experience, never having held elective office. They are a bunch of political amateurs, in other words, hoping to lead America’s most populous state and the world’s fifth largest economy. All it took for them to run was signatures from 65 registered voters and a filing fee of $4,195. That means, basically, that anyone can run. And, it seems, they do.
In the polls with around 27 percent support, they are led by Larry Elder, a Black, libertarian radio talk show host, without political experience, supported by white supremacists. There is Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic decathlete and now transgender TV reality star, and there is Kevin Faulconer, former mayor of San Diego and the only politically experienced in the field. But he voted for Trump in 2020, so he was out, too, in my book. But, should Newsom fail to win a majority of the vote and be recalled, one of these Republicans will be elected governor, even after, say, winning only 25 or 30 percent of the vote – a truly frightening scenario.
Direct democracy, including removing officials from office, is a reform from the Progressive era over one hundred years ago that became part of the California constitution. Since then, 179 recall attempts have been made but only one governor has actually been recalled, in 2003, when Democrat Gray Davis was recalled and Republican actor and body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor. Crazy, right!
This election is beneath California and its 40 million citizens, a “farce”, as Ezra Klein called it recently in the New York Times, but it demands voter participation to defeat the recall. It also demands serious reforms, which did not occur after the 2003 recall, if it is to be taken seriously, such as requiring many more signatures to trigger a recall as well as financial malfeasance or criminality on the part of the official. It should not be possible to circumvent regular elections just because you don’t like a guy. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/08/opinion/california-gavin-newsom-recall.html?searchResultPosition=22
Gavin Newsom has generally done a good job as governor during some very difficult years, and he still has some important things on his plate: Covid is still here; fires up north are still burning; we have a serious drought; real estate is unaffordable and homelessness is truly a gigantic problem. So, I say, let Newsom continue to run California, at least until next year when his four-year term ends, and then you will get your say. That’s what elections and democracy are all about.
So vote, and vote no!