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August 24, 2003 Odds and Ends

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A continuation of a meme - regarding last week's rant....
Last week I did a rant on coups d'etat, and in particular how the Republicans are actually trying to get around open and fair elections and overturn them.  The idea was to connect the dots.  If you cannot win elections you can impeach those in office, or fund a recall, or force a second or third redistricting of voters - yes, Republicans are trying to gain additional congressional seats in Colorado and Texas, trying to find ways of overturning legal redistricting plans.  All it all, ways to overturn elections. 
Apparently this idea of devious Republican right-wingers getting around elections they don't like is gathering steam.  Tim Noah in Slate magazine points out -
According to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times, Bill Clinton has provided California Governor Gray Davis with an interesting way to look at the movement to recall him from office. Here is how the Clinton-coached Davis put it in the August 19 kickoff of his anti-recall campaign:
This recall is bigger than California.  What's happening here is part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win.
It started with the impeachment of President Clinton, when the Republicans could not beat him in 1996.  It continued in Florida, where they stopped the vote count, depriving thousands of Americans of the right to vote.
This year, they're trying to steal additional congressional seats in Colorado and Texas, overturning legal redistricting plans.  Here in California, the Republicans lost the governor's race last November. Now they're trying to use this recall to seize control of California just before the next presidential election.
Al Sharpton, who is a lousy presidential candidate but an excellent phrase-maker, calls the GOP's strategy, "Let's do it again until I win."
Well, yes.  Jesse Jackson in the Chicago Tribune wrote about it the previous week.  And he made reference to the French revolution and the Reign of Terror.  I'm not so such that holds up to close scrutiny.
But Tim Noah examined the argument.  See Does the GOP Subvert Democracy? Gray Davis may be onto something.  Timothy Noah - Posted Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 4:20 PM PT  SLATE.COM
His conclusion is
...in assessing the components of the Clinton-Davis message, we have one yes, one maybe, one yes and no, and one mostly yes. The chair therefore rules Republicans more or less guilty as charged of conducting "an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win."
Well, Noah cites David Tell of the Weekly Standard who points out the removal of Clinton from office wouldn't have subverted any elections because Clinton would have been replaced by Vice President Al Gore. 
Not any better for the Republicans. 
As for the business with the Florida votes that decided the last presidential election, Noah says, "...if we focus on the fact that Gore was trying to count votes while Bush was trying to stop the counting of votes, and that Bush ultimately persuaded the (unelected) Supreme Court to do just that even though the Florida counts were very, very close, it's the Republicans who subverted democracy."  Well, Noah's argument is quite detailed, but that's his conclusion.
One no and one yes then.
As for the redistricting? 
It's undeniable that the departure from the orderly tradition of reapportioning congressional seats once every ten years was brought about by Republicans.  until Republicans starting redrawing political maps in Texas and Colorado, no state legislature had second-guessed a decennial redistricting for purely political reasons since the 1950s. This is completely unprecedented in modern political history.
Clearly, it's disruptive and poisonously partisan to redraw congressional districts every time control of a state legislature shifts from one party to another. But you can't really say it subverts democracy. Quite the opposite: It empowers democracy too much. Allowing a momentary change in the popular will to force unwarranted changes, though bad government, is nonetheless democratic government.  It's democracy on steroids, which can be just as harmful as democracy subverted.
Well, that's a maybe.  It is a bad idea, and no one has done it before, but it can be argued either way.
As for the California recall?
Is it anti-democratic? No, in the limited sense that the gathering of recall petitions is a democratic process. Seen in this light, California's recall mechanism is another example of democracy on steroids. In a more meaningful sense, though, it is anti-democratic because if Davis is removed from office, it's entirely possibleindeed, likelythat he will be replaced by someone who received fewer votes than Davis did in last year's election.
Well, the ballot out here is curious.  The first section is a yes-no up-down on recalling the governor.  If he gets one vote more than fifty percent, well, he stays.  If not, the person with the most votes on the second part of the ballot - where he cannot be listed, by law - the list of one hundred thirty-three others - that person gets the job, as long as that person has the largest number of votes.  And that will probably be far less than fifty percent of the votes cast.
So spending almost two million dollars on an unprecedented recall can pay off.  The Republicans may be able to gain the office with less than a tenth of the votes they would normally need to win it in an election.
Money talks.
Scheduled elections are for wimps.  There's always a work-around.
By the way, the fellow who lost to Davis last year, Bill Simon, has dropped out of the race.  And another obscure candidate withdrew, as it seems he was being sought by the police in another state for a felony of some kind.  Others may drop out soon.  One never knows.
As of today, Sunday the 24th, the polls are running fifty to forty-five in favor of recalling Davis.  And the polls indicating favorites to replace him put the Lieutenant Governnor, Bustamonte, ahead of the actor, Arnold Swartzenegger.  But these figures will change, and more folks will drop out.
Right now it looks as if most folks like the idea of giving control of the state and all its difficulties to a German-speaking fellow from Austria who admits he loves power but refuses to say exactly what he'd do with it.  Curiously he holds dual US-Austrian citizenship.
Paul Krugman points out in the New York Times that the key moment in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Wednesday press conference came when "the bodybuilder who would be governor" brushed aside questions with the declaration, "The public doesn't care about figures."  Krugman says this was "fuzzy math" on steroids - Mr. Schwarzenegger was, in effect, asserting that his celebrity gives him the right to fake his way through the election.  Will he be allowed to get away with it?
Of course he will, Paul.  He's decisive, in that charming German way.
Perhaps Davis will prevail.  Perhaps there will be a run on brown shirts out here.

From last week - Larger issues raised by the Calfornia recall as I see them...

The Republican right cannot easily win elections.  The obvious solution is to work around them.  Yeah, yeah. 
1. Bush had fewer votes for President but the Supreme Court, filled with his father's appointees, settled the matter in his favor, in matters concerning a state where the process was screwy, and controlled by his brother and his Brother's friends like that Harris woman.  There was a work-around.  Losing the election didn't matter.  Bush got the office. 

2. Clinton was reelected twice and the work-around for that election was impeachment, which almost worked.  Well, the man did lie, under oath, about that blow job.  If Clinton had been thrown out, losing the election to him wouldn't have mattered.  He'd be out of office.

3. The business now going on in Texas?   The 1990 census led to redistricting, as happens ever ten years with the census data in every state when the numbers are crunched.  Texas has enough Republicans in the state legislature to redistrict again this year, an extra time without any new census data, and thus eliminate six or seven Democratic districts.  Unusual, but why not?  No one thought of it before, I guess.  The Democrats in the Texas legislature ran off twice, once to Oklahoma and this time to New Mexico.  No vote was possible without a quorum.  But Tom DeLay, the top Republican in the US senate has asked the Justice Department (Ashcroft) to intervene and arrest the Democrats and bring them back.  There is then a work-around to get more votes outside the normal processes.  The Justice Department has not decided, yet, if they can really do that.  I assume the telephone lines will be active in Washington this weekend.

4. The California recall - what to do about an election where a Democrat, Davis, beat a Republican, Simon, with more votes, just last November.  There's a work-around here too.  A Republican operative, Issa, privately funds a recall campaign and pays for the gathering of the signatures.  The election is voided and we almost certainly get a Republican governor, who, given the 135 names on the ballot, can be elected with as little as ten percent of the vote.  Davis has to get over fifty percent to stop the recall and stay in office.  A pretty good work-around voiding the previous election of nine months ago.  Damned clever.
Banana republics have coups d'etat where those who can't win an election just seize power.  This usual involves tanks and guns and crap like that.  Seriously, you have to admire the Republican right for being a bit more subtle than that.   They pretty much deserve to take over the country from the fools who think elections actually matter.  There are always work-arounds. 
More power to them.  Political power and wealth are for those with the guts and ideas to grab them.  We are a nation of entrepreneurs.  Success is for those with audacity... and the right attitude.

I'm getting grumpy, as you see.