Debra J. Saunders

When Gov. Gray Davis signed on Friday night SB60, which allows illegal aliens to obtain California drivers' licenses, he was gambling that he could betray the majority of California voters and thereby beat the Oct. 7 recall.

Yes, Californians, you were sold out.

Davis had vetoed similar legislation because it failed to include a mechanism to keep violent fugitives from obtaining licenses and asked for no assurance that license applicants had jobs.

But in his desperation to pander to Latino voters, Davis announced that he would sign SB60 -- without insisting on the safeguards he previously had required.

On a political level, the SB60 strategy is as risky -- or as baffling -- a gambit as you'll find in politics. Team Davis is pandering to the fringes and outraging the majority in the hope that fringe turnout can kill the recall.

Then again, since 1994 when 59 percent of California voters approved Proposition 187, which pledged to deny illegal aliens state benefits, California Democrats have danced a dangerous dance. The Dems have argued that voters who distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants are racist. They have denigrated those of us who treasure the spirit and skills that immigrants have contributed to America but nonetheless believe the state should not reward those who break U.S. immigration laws.

In so doing, the Democratic Party has made it very easy for the Latino left to argue there is no difference between legal and illegal immigrants. Team Davis believes that some 400,000 fewer Latinos participated in the gubernatorial election in 2002 than in 1998, in part because Davis vetoed a licenses-for-illegals bill months before the November 2002 election. According to a Los Angeles Times poll, the Latino share of the vote fell from 13 percent to 10 percent.

Ergo, Davis has had to pander double-time to atone; he didn't dare demand safeguards in SB60 this time.

The SB60 strategy is risky business on two levels: First, if Davis can boost Latino participation back up to 13 percent, there's always the risk that Latinos will vote to dump Davis in order to help elect California's first modern-day Latino governor, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. (The new Field Poll shows that 54 percent of Latinos want to recall Davis.)

Second, Davis has betrayed the majority of voters who, by a two-to-one margin according to a Los Angeles Times poll, supported his veto of SB60-like bills. That majority includes Latinos. About a quarter of Latinos voted for Proposition 187 in 1994, according to the Times.

Debra J. Saunders

TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Debra Saunders' column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.