Published on Wednesday, August 13, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
California Recall: The Coup Inside a Circus
by Bernard Weiner and Ernest Partridge
Here, from two California observers familiar with the strangeness that passes for politics in this state, is our preliminary analysis of the recall imbroglio.
Many in the media are focusing on the farcical nature of the proceedings -- and there is much about it that is absurdly comical -- but, at heart, this is deadly serious politics.
(Note: This story is unfolding so rapidly that aspects of what we write today are likely to seem dated by the time you read it.)
The first thing to recognize is that this is not merely a California story. We don't mean that what's happening in the Golden State is being repeated elsewhere -- although given how many states are being bankrupted by the poor national economy (44 are now in serious financial difficulty) and that the feds aren't helping lift the states from their financial pits, that is true to some extent.
No, what we're referring to is that the political impetus for the recall apparently did not arise from California, but rather from Washington, D.C., and, even more specifically, from the White House. (See cited sources, below).
What seems to be occurring is that the rightwing forces controlling the Republican Party want TOTAL victory, and not just for the upcoming 2004 election. They want to control the direction of the United States, both foreign and domestic, for the foreseeable future, for decades to come. (In the past two-and-a-half years, the country has received only the first taste of their extremist agenda: unilateral foreign adventurism, "pre-emptive" attacks on countries that are not imminent threats, the shredding of Constitutional guarantees of due process, the stealth moves to decimate and eliminate popular social programs, huge tax breaks going to the wealthy and corporations, polluters given free rein, etc. etc.)
To fully implement their agenda, these extremists believe that they must thoroughly neutralize all those who might put up a fight -- not simply to defeat them politically, but rather to effectively DESTROY them -- so that little organized opposition to Bush&Co. policies can get in the way of total control of the political/social/economic apparati in this country.
GETTING THE DEMOCRATS
One key institution that must be so weakened that it cannot offer effective resistance is the Democratic Party. Even though the Democrats are barely distinguishable from the Republicans on many issues, the power-hungry forces of Bush&Co. want to make sure that the Democrats are so scattered, debilitated and demoralized that their opposition will mean nothing when the Bush forces begin, after their projected 2004 victory, to roll over the political landscape. Accordingly, the Rove demolition team has taken aim at the primary sources of financial support to the Democratic Party: e.g., the teachers and public-service unions, and the trial lawyers.
(This desire for total control reminds one of how the Watergate scandal started: All the polls indicated that Nixon was going to win a huge victory over his Democratic opponent, Sen. McGovern. But this wasn't enough for Nixon. He felt that he had to insure his win by tapping the telephone of the DNC chairman.)
And so, in large state after large state, the Democratic party and its institutions are being attacked.
* In Texas, on orders from Washington -- read: Karl Rove (see below for how Bush's brain may well have accomplished this) and hatchetman Tom Delay -- there is an illegal attempt to redistrict the Congressional delegation, so that the Democrats will lose their majority.
* In Florida, and in the rest of the states moving to a computer-registration and voting system, the same forces that ensured a Bush victory in 2000 in the Sunshine State, are hard at work to minimize the Democratic vote once again. Remember that for the 2000 election in Florida, about 94,000 Democratic voters, under the cover that they all were convicted felons, were removed electronically from the computerized polling lists and not permitted to vote, even though 91,000 of those names were there by mistake. Of course, this outrageous act alone sufficed to yield Florida, and eventually the White House, to Bush.
* In California, a governor elected in a fair vote just nine months ago is now subject to recall and replacement, even though he has done nothing criminal or outrageous that would warrant such an extreme move.
In short, what is going on here is an attempt to get these large, electoral vote-rich states into the Bush column for 2004 and to the GOP beyond.
* And we haven't even gone into detail about the computer-voting scandal, which may well have led to a number of other large states, such as Georgia, going into the Republican column in the 2002 election, thus giving control of the U.S. Senate to the Republicans.
(See our Electoral Integrity file for stories about how the three companies that make computer-voting machines -- one partially owned by a Republican senator, all three supporters of Republicans, at least one tied to a right-wing foundation -- refuse to permit examination of their software, which has been shown to be highly manipulable to vote-tampering, without leaving any evidence of having been altered. In Georgia, for example, Democratic war-hero incumbent Senator Max Cleland was ahead in the polls right up to the election, and surprisingly lost by a significant percentage; similar oddities occurred in five other states where computer-voting screens were employed. And no one has fully explained why exit-polling, the most accurate predictor of election results, was suddenly cancelled in the 2002 election, just as the polls were closing.
What is happening is a persistent attempt to overturn the outcomes of previous elections by using dirty tricks and changing the rules in midstream.
In Texas, as Molly Ivins writes, the Republicans want to alter the partisan makeup of the Texas Congressional delegation -- from Democatic majority over to Republican -- even though this would be in violation of the redistricting laws. In California, even though the governor was elected fair and square in November, the GOP is using an arcane 1911 recall law, to oust him and install one of their own in his place. (The California population is angered by the failing state economy and by the way the energy companies, led by Enron, manipulated prices -- and have been encouraged to take out their frustrations on the one public figure everyone can see each day, the governor.)
So, in all the hoopla about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the 200+ other candidates running, Rove and friends back in Washington, D.C. must be chortling with glee. The focus of national media attention has shifted from Bush's crimes, lies and failures to Hollyweird on the Left Coast.
Even if Davis manages to hang on to his job -- the strong union movement in the state is mobilizing, Schwarzenegger has many vulnerabilities, etc. -- the recall might be partially successful for the GOP: The Democrats would have had to spend millions of dollars that would otherwise have been been reserved for the 2004 general election. And if Davis is taken down, California -- which normally votes overwhelmingly Democratic in presidential elections -- is put back into play, forcing the Democrats to divert precious resources from elsewhere in the country to fight Bush in the Golden State. (Of course, this assumes that Bush will be the GOP nominee in 2004 and not in the impeachment well of the Senate.)
DEFEATING THE RECALL
The bottom line: What Democrats and Independents need to concentrate on is the defeat of the California recall.
If Davis can somehow cut through the media mayhem to the issue of fairness, he could have a chance. That is: Davis was elected, in a fair election, nine months ago, defeating a Bush Republican soundly, with the issues now being used against him pubicly debated at the time; since the governor hasn't done anything in the interim to warrant recall, it isn't fair, or even sporting, to try to overturn the will of the voters. In our democracy, we have a way of getting rid of politicians we no longer choose to support: We vote them out in the next election.
Davis is no great shakes as a governor, and certainly is not a charismatic personality. But he's competent, and has found himself in a terrible position largely because of the economy -- some of that was the dot-com bust, but a significant part is a result of Bush's disastrous economic and tax-cut/war policies -- and by the way Enron and the other energy companies criminally manipulated the prices to rake in huge profits. (Speaking of Enron, has Bush's mentor and financial supporter, Kenny Lay, been indicted yet? Just asking.)
It's helpful to remember that a good share of the State Legislature contributed to the state's current woes: They voted for the deregulation of the energy system in the state, and they failed to react in time to the dot-com bubble bursting. Furthermore, in the current budget crisis, the GOP legislators steadfastly refused any tax increases to offset the fiscal shortfall. (In California, a 2/3 vote is required to raise taxes). Since attempting to recall all of those legislators is out of the question, Davis has become, thanks to the GOP-initiated recall process, the target.
If enough voters are able to discern that the issue is overturning a free-and-fair election, and not whether they like or don't like Davis, the Rove/GOP plan will falter in the face of united Democratic/moderate-Republican opposition. The Texas Democrats are refusing to cooperate with the Rove/Delay scheme in that state, having made sure a quorum can't be called. The computer-voting scandal finally is making its way into the mainstream media, and suits are being filed.
IS YOUR STATE NEXT?
In short, the opposition is starting to stand up and be counted. We must do everything possible here in California, and across the country, to roll huge boulders into the path of the Bush&Co. juggernaut that is seeking total control. We've seen the disasters, foreign and domestic, that have taken place during the past two-and-a-half years since Bush's selection to office. That will look like a friendly tea-party if Bush&Co. are given free rein after 2004.
For we must never forget or discount these simple and apparent facts: The HardRight is profoundly anti-democratic. According to demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, liberals and Democrats are not merely The Loyal Opposition to be defeated in fair and honest political debates and elections. Instead, they say, liberals and Democrats are "traitors" deserving elimination. When the will of the people, in fair elections, results in victory for the Democrats, those decisions must be undone, either by impeachment (Clinton) or recall (Davis). Language is to be used without scruple as a political weapon, along lines envisioned by George Orwell: "freedom is slavery," "war is peace." Dogma trumps science, evidence, practical experience, and even civic morality. The ends justify the means, even if the means includes gross lying to the public. Compromise displays weakness. There is no middle ground. "You are either with us or against us."
These are the politics of fascism, and we are moving relentlessly in that dreadful direction. Unless, at last, true American patriots with sufficient voices draw the line and say: "This far, and no further." And then proceed to reclaim our Constitution, our rights, and our republic.
Will the California recall election be that line? There are less than 60 days until the vote (unless a courageous federal judge enjoins the recall). We Californians have work to do. To those beyond our borders, we urge you not to stand idly by. This is your fight too. You could be next. Be vigilant.
The White House's Active Role in the California Recall: A Partial List of the Evidence from BuzzFlash.
In chronological order:
KARL ROVE: POSSIBILITY OF A GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER "WOULD BE REALLY, REALLY NICE." "With Mr. Rove's blessing," Bush political advisers met with Schwarzenegger in 2001 about the prospect of Schwarzenegger running for CA governor in 2002. The New York Times reported on the meeting: "That would be nice," Mr. Rove said of the prospect of a Governor Schwarzenegger. "That would be really nice. That would be really, really nice." [New York Times, 4/15/01]
BUSH GURU KARL ROVE MET WITH SCHWARZENEGGER IN APRIL. Schwarzenegger visited the White House for a meeting with top Bush adviser Karl Rove on April 12th, 2003. Both Schwarzenegger and Rove claimed that politics was not discussed during the meeting. [Washington Post, 4/13/03]
LAURA BUSH'S PRESS SECRETARY HELPED GOP CANDIDATE STRATEGIZE FOR RECALL CAMPAIGN. Noelia Rodriguez, Laura Bush's press secretary and former LA deputy mayor, was in Los Angeles for a week in July helping former mayor Richard Riordan assemble a campaign team and strategy for a possible run on the recall ballot. [ Los Angeles Times, 7/31/03; New York Times, 8/1/03]
TOP BUSH CA. ADVISER PLAYING MAJOR ROLE IN RECALL. Gerry Parsky, Bush's top adviser in California, has been advising GOP candidates on the recall strategy. The Sacramento Bee reported, "Bush isn't staying entirely out of the election. His liaison in California, businessman Gerald Parsky, summoned representatives of potential Republican candidates to his office Tuesday to discuss how the GOP could help recall Davis." [Sacramento Bee, 7/30/03]
HIGH-LEVEL BUSH RE-ELECTION STRATEGIST INVOLVED IN RECALL EFFORT. Mindy Tucker, who served as a Bush spokesperson in the 2000 election and is currently a high-level Bush campaign strategist, is involved in the recall election strategy. A memo by a California GOP campaigner noted, "Mindy Tucker, former Bush campaign spokesperson and current Bush campaign operative in California, has the White House's blessing." The same memo noted that Tucker would be involved in coordinating recall campaign events, and that "the resulting issue-oriented and image-enhancing coverage will benefit the image of the Republican Party, the recall candidates, and will benefit President Bush as we remind the public of who is to blame for the mess in this state." [San Francisco Chronicle, 8/6/03]
TUCKER HAS DENIED WHITE HOUSE INVOLVEMENT, BUT ALLUDES TO BUSH STRATEGY. Tucker has claimed that her involvement is not on the part of the White House, but has also said, "the president has given everybody in California his blessing to take a position on this." Tucker has also said, "We've identified some areas where the recall will help us build the party -- not only for the recall, but also for '04, which everyone believes is important." [San Francisco Chronicle , 8/6/03] #
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D., and Bernard Weiner, Ph. D, have taught widely in various universities and written for a variety of publications and online websites; they co-edit the progressive political site The Crisis Papers .