Debra J. Saunders

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante may be eating lunch alone for the rest of his life. It's ironic. He'll be the lonely guy of Sacramento because he personified an ideology prevalent among Sacramento Democrats -- pro-big government and pro-illegal immigration -- that voters have had enough of. The fact that Schwarzenegger garnered more votes than the No on Recall effort should give Sacramento Democrats pause.

Add to that picture the 1 million votes cast in favor of GOP state Sen. Tom McClintock, and state Democratic Party officials should be very afraid.

Many voters were enraged that state spending had swelled to the point that the budget shortfall reached $38 billion. Tuesday's vote shows a demand that state government stop expanding.

Then, Gov. Gray Davis' decision to sign Senate Bill 60, which allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, sealed his doom. Bustamante was a big booster of the measure, too. He didn't help himself when, at the first candidates' debate, he failed to name a single state benefit that he would deny illegal immigrants. (When Bustamante spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, I asked him the question again. He answered: voting and passports. That was it.)

The Dems have tried to paint opposition to illegal immigration as racist, but according to a Los Angeles Times poll, 38 percent of Latino voters strongly opposed SB 60. The ploy didn't work.

Not to worry, Team Davis obviously concluded. If the racist card doesn't work, there's always sexism.

Davis and friends pounced after the Los Angeles Times printed a story in which six women -- four who refused to be named -- accused Schwarzenegger of groping them between 1975 and 2000, often in front of witnesses. After seven weeks' investigation, the paper had managed to talk to only one eyewitness -- for the most recent accusation -- and she refuted the allegation. Ah-nold watchers knew about his crude talk about women, but these uncorroborated stories added a new element to the campaign, Puke Journalism.

The most partisan Democrats -- who happily supported President Clinton when he was accused of sexual assault -- are poised to hound Ah-nold on the issue. Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, for instance, announced he would introduce a bill enhancing the penalties for sexual battery at the workplace. He calls it "Arnold's Law," because, he told me, "The victim suffers twice if it happens at the workplace."

As a San Franciscan, Leno can afford to take cheap shots, but moderate Democrats might not want to join him. Some might even welcome a governor who seems eager to work with the Legislature, as Schwarzenegger said he was in his gracious acceptance remarks Tuesday night.

Davis gave a high-class concession speech as well. Davis showed grace as he let go of his most precious prize. I can't imagine His Grayness out of office. I can't imagine Davis relaxing.

Will he move to Europe and grow a beard, a la Al Gore? I don't think so, but he could always get work as a political fund-raiser.

The worst part is that this was so avoidable. If Davis had put more effort into governing than campaigning, if he hadn't backed down so easily when the Legislature rejected his budget, if he had tried to sell his increase in the car tax to the voters (instead of hiding from it), if he had rejected SB 60 because it failed to include national security safeguards, voters well might have seen him as a leader. No doubt, Democratic handlers will see the recall as the result of tactical political failure. In a sense, they're right. His Grayness relied too much on tactics, when he should have been taking care of business.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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