Insane State, Huge Bag of Worms

It would be easy to dismiss the Californian recall election with a laugh and a shake of the head, (at least for those of us who don’t live there.) After all, California is … well … Californian. Nothing out there makes sense.

But considering that the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is on the line out there, that laugh would be a mistake. We looked at the same amendment the other day in discussing freedom of religion. It’s back again, this time in the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The grievance in this instance being Gray Davis.

Here’s the amendment, as a reminder:


Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


And here’s the problem. The government (in the form of Gray Davis, and previously the 9th Circuit court) and the press have aligned to attempt to subvert the election via legal maneuvering, dirty tricks, and press coverage biased to the point of being criminal. Because they don’t think they have the majority that could win honestly, they’re doing everything they can to cheat (giving illegal aliens drivers’ licenses, mandating new health care laws, appointing wackaloon judges, lying left and right … at any moment, I expect Davis to grant a mass pardon to California felons and provide automatic voter registration for all of them as Democrats, plus buses to take them to the polls tomorrow.) — and the people they’re cheating are the people of California who, having had enough, have petitioned for a redress of their grievances.

I don’t doubt that Schwarzenegger is a poor choice for governor. I suspect he would be moderately better than Davis, but for my money, McClintock would be the guy who could actually make a difference. No matter who wins this fandango, though, the damage is already done. In the state of California, the citizens’ right to demand government redress and any expectation that the process will be either honest or fair is dead. And a whole lot of foolish people are out there merrily dancing on the corpse.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

7 comments… add one
  • Jim Woosley Oct 7, 2003 @ 7:30

    Let’s see…some comments (maybe not all on the posts here, but…)

    1. In response to those who’ve said "you elected him, you should be stuck with him."

    Corporate boards of directors can fire an errant company president with almost no warning. Isn’t a governership (or, for that matter, US presidency) at least as important insofar as addressing such grievances? Parliamentary systems allow for a vote of no confidence, and a constitutionally short period (6 weeks in Britain, as I recall) for convening general elections to replace the errant Prime Minister. Why shouldn’t US governments have this provision? And note that a vote of no confidence is a parliamentary procedure — isn’t it as important, in a democracy, for the people themselves to be able to cast the equivalent of such a vote: a recall.

    If anything, one could argue that the recall process in California is too complicated, and that simpler procedures should apply. And that they should be extended to every elected office in the US.

    Of course, these days, that would be tantamount to changing the term of office of almost every polity to about a year, that being how long it would take for a trial period, the mounting of a recall effort by the opposition, and the planning and conduct of an election…

    2. I agree with Holly that the constitution should not be amended to allow naturalized citizens to become president (something I first heard of very early in the Arnold for Governor speculation, long before he actually threw his hat in the ring.) Though when called on that point, I have been unable to come up with other than visceral arguments. Is the argument that the President should have lifelong exposure to the culture and political system of the US sufficient? And is it convincing? Honest answers, sil vous plait.

    3. Honestly, at this point, I fail to see how anyone who has a sense of American history and of the founding principles of our Republic can vote for anyone who calls himself or herself a Democrat. Unfortunately, the same argument applies to probably 85% of Republicans, and the situation is getting worse. (I am seriously going to have to get off my [several relevant expletives deleted :P] duff and get my near future history political novels finished.)

    4. Starting with the premise that almost anyone would be better than Gray Davis (from what I’ve heard, I’m not sure that Bustamante qualifies), then Arnold will be an improvement. Heck, Mary Carey would be an improvement. 🙂 (Flynt, however…)

    I agree that McClintock would be the better choice. But the downside of democracy is that elections are ALWAYS popularity contests of a sort.

  • Holly Lisle Oct 7, 2003 @ 5:58

    By the way, for those of you who are out there — Good luck today.

  • Holly Lisle Oct 7, 2003 @ 5:54

    I’ve heard that American citizens born on "foreign soil" (military bases overseas, embasies, etc., provided the parents aren’t criminals or just expatriots) can’t become president.

    That’s false. If you are born an American citizen, your place of birth does not matter. You can grow up to be President.

    I don’t think the Presidency should be open to naturalized citizens. Did not realize this was even under consideration.

    I do support the right of citizens to seek redress from the government — there are more than a few folks protesting the whole recall process and saying that once the guy is in office you should just have to live with him until the next election. But the excellent thing about being American is that we have given ourselves a way to correct mistakes. We don’t HAVE to live with a disastrous leader; we can haul his ass out of there and put someone new in. It isn’t an easy process. As demonstrated by the appalling shenanigans in California, it isn’t a pleasant one, either. But it can — and pretty clearly, in this case, should — be done.

    And if nothing else is clear from the California mess, it’s clear that American citizens need to hang onto that right to demand redress for dear life.

  • A. Shelton Oct 6, 2003 @ 21:43

    A question on Linda’s post . . .

    I’ve heard that American citizens born on "foreign soil" (military bases overseas, embasies, etc., provided the parents aren’t criminals or just expatriots) can’t become president. Is this true?

  • Marilyn Oct 6, 2003 @ 16:42

    I’m in San Francisco, and there’s a lot I could say about this recall, but for now all I want to add is this funny saying I’ve been hearing passed around lately:

    California — we put the "mock" back in democracy.

    Oy.

  • David Oct 6, 2003 @ 14:24

    My concern is that the recount was brought about because one man had the money to fund a petition to recall Govenor Davis. Without his $’s there would be no recall. Thankfully he is no longer in the running as a candidate. If he were, and he won the recall, it would give new meaning to the phrase "buying an election."

  • Linda Oct 6, 2003 @ 11:28

    I have to live with what happens at the polls tomorrow. I’m not happy with any of the choices. I didn’t want Gray Davis in the first place, but I think I want an end run around the election process even less. I don’t think people should be able to kick a person out of office unless they’ve commited criminal acts. Otherwise, you elected him, you get to keep him until you vote him out.

    I don’t want Arnold, either. He seems more interested in applause than in governing. Some of the things he says he wants to do aren’t going to happen, but he knows full well it’s what the people want to hear. So, when he breaks his foolish promises, are we going to have yet another recall? A revolving door with governors being replaced as often as the process will allow?

    Yet, it looks like out of several better choices, he’s going to be it unless we don’t recall Gray Davis. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. About the "better choices"–I don’t actively support any of them , but there are a few who actually know what they’re getting into if they get elected and they’d be better than Arnold, even if I don’t agree with everything they stand for.

    But, I don’t think anyone can govern California properly because there are things that need to be done that would be political suicide to do. One example is to fix the inequities in prop 13. But that’s not happening in my lifetime. It’s a badly written sacred cow. If there were a candidate with the guts to get in office and fight for what California really needs, I’d be behind them. Until then, I end up picking between the least evil candidate and my choice never wins.

    A side note on Arnold–I shudder to think that there are people who have actually proposed this as a step to the White House–noting that there is a proposed constitutional amendment in Congress to allow people who have been naturalized US citizens for 20 years or more to run for president. Luckily, it takes years for an amendment to pass, if ever. I hope that if it does, he’ll have gone back to Hollywood and resumed making Terminator sequels, after doing so badly at politics that no one will resurrect the idea.

    This is a bit of a ramble, but all I can say is , be glad you’re not here having to make this awful decision and live with whatever the consequences are.

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