Say no to recalling Gov. Newsom — for the sake of democracy

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!

For Minnesota’s Wendell Anderson — “Tryggare kan ingen vara”

“Tryggare kan ingen vara,” the classic Swedish psalm called “Children of the Heavenly Father” in English, was sung in both languages earlier this week at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the life of former Democratic Governor Wendell Anderson was celebrated. “Wendy,” as he was called, died on July 17, 83 years old. He was Sweden’s best friend in Minnesota — maybe in all of America.

Hundreds had gathered in the church, founded by Swedish immigrants, to a service dedicated to all things Swedish. Political Minnesota, both former and present leaders, Democrats as well as Republicans, filled the front pews – a former Democratic U.S. Vice President, two former Republican governors, a U.S. Senator, legislators, members of Congress, and many, many political friends.

Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton called “Wendy” one of the state’s “greatest governors,” someone straight out of central casting, tall and handsome, and with a last name ending in “son” – the “quintessential” Minnesota governor. “Well done, very well done, rest in peace,” Dayton concluded. Former long-term majority leader of the Minnesota Senate, Roger Moe, called “Wendy’s” years as governor, with an emphasis on education and the environment, as the “most productive” in Minnesota history. “What a legacy he leaves,” Moe said. “Thank you for all you did for all of us.”

Wendell Anderson, Minnesota’s governor from 1971 to 1977, loved Sweden. He once wrote, “I am a Swede who happens now to live in America.” Born into a working class family in St Paul, Anderson became a star hockey player, first at the University of Minnesota and then as a member of the U.S. national team that won the silver medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics. All his grandparents were Swedish Americans; three of them were born in Sweden. He had been to Sweden 40 times and, he once told me, was even thinking about getting a “stuga” so he could spend his summers there. After law school, only 37 years old, he became the state’s youngest governor ever, winning 13 of 14 Swedish counties and nine of eleven Norwegian, three of four Finnish, and both of the most Danish counties in Minnesota. In 1974, riding high, he was reelected in a landslide, capturing all of Minnesota’s 87 counties. By then, the young governor had landed in the national spotlight as he followed up on his campaign promise through the Omnibus Tax Bill that raised 588 million dollars in new taxes for increased state support for public education. The bill was a fundamental reform of school finance, equalizing school funding between rich and poor districts, and became known as the “Minnesota Miracle” – the high tide of liberalism in Minnesota – despite both the State Senate and House being controlled by the Republicans.

On August 13, 1973, Wendell Anderson landed on the cover of Time Magazine with the headline, “The Good Life in Minnesota,” and the state was described as “the state that works.” Wendell Anderson on TIME's coverBut his decision in late 1976 to resign and assume the seat in the U.S. Senate that Walter Mondale vacated upon his election as U.S. Vice President proved politically fatal. He lost the election to a full Senate term in 1978 to a Republican. A Republican also captured the second Senate seat and his successor as governor, Lieutenant Governor Rudy Perpich, lost his bid for a full term to a third Republican. The decade that had started with the “Minnesota Miracle” ended with the “Minnesota Massacre.” Wendell Anderson’s political career was over. He was never again elected to political office. He practiced law and served as a regent of the University of Minnesota. In 1975, he was selected Swedish American of the Year and he also served as Sweden’s honorary consul in Minnesota.

A Swedish flag, blue and yellow napkins, and coffee and cookies, greeted the attendants in the church basement after the memorial service. The prominent mingled with the less prominent in typical low-key Minnesota fashion before they all went their separate ways. Former Vice President Walter Mondale and his old friend and law firm colleague, former Minnesota Attorney General, Warren Spannaus, lingered, and as the two political war horses walked out of the church by themselves in the afternoon heat, Mondale took off his jacket and swung it over one shoulder. They crossed the busy street with the help of two traffic cops and walked slowly up the block as cars buzzed by. At the corner, a woman, waiting for a bus, greeted the two before they turned into a side street where they had parked, apparently unable to find parking in the church parking lot. They climbed in and Spannaus drove off, with the former Vice President of the United States as passenger in the front seat.

That’s Minnesota, too.