Self-Hating Voters

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Gray Davis calls the California recall election "an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November and decided I should be governor." But according to the official results, Davis got about 3.5 million votes last fall, 47 percent of the 7.3 million votes cast in the governor's race. So Davis is exaggerating the support he had in November by a factor of more than two. And judging from recent polls, many one-time Davis supporters do not consider the recall an insult.

Far from being an affront to democracy, the recall is, if anything, democracy run amuck. But Davis probably would not score many electoral points with that argument.

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  1. Actually, Brad, I think that misreads the import of Hiram Johnson’s campaign. The recall was introduced because the voters were concerned that the government might be captured by special interests (in their case, the Southern Pacific Railroad) and wanted a safety valve that would allow the voters – who are, after all, the source of the state’s sovereignty – to retake control of the government.

    Which makes the ‘insult to the voters’ argument even more lame.

  2. Given Davis apparent difficulties with numbers (3.5 million, 8 million, who cares?), is it any wonder that the state’s finances are in a total shambles?

  3. Wait a minute! You mean to say that a Democrat actually LIED?

    Oh the horrors! Impeach him! Impeach him!

    Oh… wait a minute… they’re already holding a recall election… nevermind.

  4. I’m not trying to bash this recall here, but why the hell would they require a number of signatures equal to only twelve percent of the voters from the last election?

    They only have 160 days to collect the signatures, but only 12% sounds very low. When you consider that in this election only eight million people voted, that means they needed to collect only one million signatures. From California’s election website, it looks like there have about 25 million eligible voters. This means that to force a recall, they had to collect signatures from only four percent of elligible voters.

    Damn…

  5. I think what Davis meant to say is that the recall is an insult FROM the voters. In which case he is accurate no matter which number of voters you use.

    And the insult is well deserved.

  6. Mr. Sullum–

    I think that the correct spelling is “amok”

  7. Davis’ lawsuit is an insult to the voters who elected him, and who have now changed their minds and want to throw his sorry ass out. So far as I can tell, there is no plan to keep Davis supporters away from the polls if they want to vote for him again; and neither Issa nor anyone else is going to be going in a voting booth to twist anybody’s arm about supporting the recall.

    That fucking whore is afraid of democracy, pure and simple.

  8. Sorry, Kevin. This vote isn’t democracy any more than Saddam’s was.

  9. Lefty,

    Because Issa is going to take ration cards away from anybody who votes against the recall and Arnold is expecting to win 100% of the vote? Explain, please. I’m with Mr. Sullum, this is democracy gone wild.

  10. cali recall = baathist genocidal kleptocracy

  11. “This vote isn’t democracy any more than Saddam’s was.”

    This is a joke, right?

  12. Indeed, this is an object lesson in democracy. While I fully support removing Davis, and I am also amused by the whole chain of events that comprise this recall and election, I also have to say it really reinforces the need for a Republic instead of a Democracy.

    Lefty’s inane claims about the recall only add to my enjoyment, BTW.

  13. This is Democracy, banana republic style, where elections mean nothing. Any of the losers of this election with enough money to organize a referendum will do so, making the present exercise moot as it has effectively done to the last.

    In Saddam’s world you can vote for anybody as long as it’s him. In California you can vote for anybody but it means nothing.

    Neither one is democracy.

  14. I don’t like Davis but I think his statement is defendable and the H+R piece isn’t fair. The recall _is_ an insult to the people in California who actually bothered to vote in the last election.

    The recall statute was constructed at a time when a much higher percentage of eligible voters actually voted (and a much lower percentage of the populatation was eligible). 12% might not be an unreasonable number for a cutoff if most people were voting. In retrospect, it would have been better to require that people signing the recall petition actually voted in the last election.

    So let’s rephrase the quote slightly: “Anyone who signed the recall petition and was eligible to vote in the last election but didn’t is an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November and decided I should be governor.” They didn’t all vote for him, but they did decide, as a group, that he should be governor for the current term.

  15. Don,

    So how far down the chain, if at all, do you approve of actual democracy? If you take it far enough, you get the Progressive Era rationale for city manager governments with at-large directors, citywide school boards, etc. The idea was that we were all safer if the “professionals” could run the state in a depoliticized way, on the basis of their “expertise,” without the Great Unwashed interfering in the affairs of their betters.

    And despite the Federalist’s rhetoric about “deliberate sense of the community,” the real reason the federalists wanted to shift decision-making power upward was to safeguard the process from popular interference. The speculators in war bonds and land felt a lot safer when the people were limited to choosing between different factions of the elite.

  16. “Any of the losers of this election with enough money to organize a referendum will do so, making the present exercise moot as it has effectively done to the last.”

    Not likely, given the failure of such referendums in the past. It’s working here because Davis is one unpopular SOB, and a complete failure to California. And, getting rid of Davis is a good thing for California. Now if we can only replace our legistlators . . .

  17. “Anyone who signed the recall petition and was eligible to vote in the last election but didn’t is an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November and decided I should be governor.”

    I voted in the last election — not for Davis — and I never signed the recall petition. And I sure don’t feel the least bit insulted.

  18. Kevin,

    On the other side, I’ve noticed that democracy tends towards mob rule. That’s why I prefer a constitutional republic with strict limits on the government’s power. Of course, even that breaks down, as politicians the likes of FDR have managed to trample over the BoRs (most specifically, the Tenth Amendment).

  19. The ability to recall was written into the California constitution because the writers realized that at some point, a complete and utter failure might inhabit the governor’s post, and it might benefit the citizens to be able to kick said failure out of office. The people of California have used this ability for precisely the reason it exists. To say that this is “an insult to voters” or an affront to democracy or any other such thing is just silly.

  20. I’ve got some choice insults for those 3.5 million people who voted for Davis last year.

  21. The “Republicans undermining democracy” line wouldn’t be getting any traction in California if Republicans hadn’t stolen an election in Florida (righties, do you really want to defend Katherine Harris? Flying down Hill staffers to stage a mini-riot to shut down a legal vote count?), stripped the opposition party of any rights at all in Congress, tried to ram through off-year redistricting in Texas, used accusations of disloyalty against any and every Democrat in the 2002 elections, and generally behaved like a Third World dictatorship with no respect for democracy for the past three years.

    Your basic argument – how is a referendum undemocratic? – is all but irrefutable. But the charge is hanging on for a reason. What comes around, goes around.

  22. By far the most important point here is that a straight plurality vote is a completely idiotic way to gauge the relative preferences of the voting public as a whole. Yet another major design flaw that very few seem to acknowledge or even understand.

  23. “stolen an election in Florida” !!!???

    Gore never did win Florida. Every count in Florida put Bush ahead. Afterwords, analysis of the vote found that only one method of counting (and a recount of the whole state) could have given Gore Florida (and Gore wouldn’t have gone for a whole state recount in any case; it was assumed to favor Repubs). Not to mention, it was a Dem who designed the questionable ballot (or the most questionable one), and it was they who were trying to keep out the military vote.

    Gore would have done himself well to show the class Nixon showed back in 60, and accept results he though were in error–especially since in Gore’s case no serious aligations of fraud surfaced.

  24. “Your basic argument – how is a referendum undemocratic? – is all but irrefutable. But the charge is hanging on for a reason.”

    Uh, it is hanging around because it is the only thing Dems who want to retain Davis have to hang on to. Frankly, it doesn’t have any traction in the rank and file of the Democratic Party, as far as I can see. Hell, Davis could loose the Democratic vote to a Republican . . .

  25. Hm…so many elections and recalls that the government will be practically unable to do anything at all.

    …kind of has a nice ring to it, really. When you can’t stop something or fix it, just slow it down. 😉

  26. Skef,

    Part of (most of) the reason the recall is so popular is the awful alternative offered last election. Many people voted for Davis only as a way of voting against Bill Simon (or vice versa). I held my nose and voted for Simon, but I’d probably support a recall of him, too, had he won.

    In the future I won’t vote race with a situation like that, in order to make whoever wins that much easier to recall.

    The recall process is worthwhile even if its only use is to subvert the party-primary process when it results in an election where all choices are unacceptable.

    p.s. Approval voting (yes or no to each candidate, most votes wins) solves the spoiler problem without restricting voter choice like the primary system does.

  27. I’m not saying its working well, just speculating about the tactic.

    A number of factors lined up to screw Gore in the balloting, sleazy Republican behavior being only one of them. But the GOP’s behavior around the whole episode didn’t exactly cover their party in glory.

  28. “A number of factors lined up to screw Gore in the balloting, sleazy Republican behavior being only one of them. But the GOP’s behavior around the whole episode didn’t exactly cover their party in glory.”

    From my viewpoint, the Dems were every bit as sleazy.

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