WASHINGTON -- California's recall -- a riot of millionaires masquerading as a ``revolt of the people'' -- began with a rich conservative Republican congressman, who could think of no other way he might become governor, financing the gathering of the necessary signatures. Now this exercise in ``direct democracy'' -- precisely what America's Founders devised institutions to prevent -- has ended with voters, full of self pity and indignation, removing an obviously incompetent governor. They have removed him from the office to which they re-elected him after he had made his incompetence obvious by making most of the decisions that brought the voters to a boil.
The odor of what some so-called conservatives were indispensable to producing will eventually arouse them from their swoons over Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then they can inventory the damage they have done by seizing an office that just 11 months ago they proved incapable of winning in a proper election under ideal conditions.
These Schwarzenegger conservatives -- now, there is an oxymoron for these times -- have embraced a man who is, politically, Hollywood's culture leavened by a few paragraphs of Milton Friedman. They have given spurious plausibility to a meretricious accusation that Democrats are using to poison American politics, the charge that Florida 2000 was part of a pattern of Republican power grabs outside the regular election process.
Schwarzenegger's conservative supporters have furled the flag of ``family values'' while mocking their participation in the anti-Clinton sex posse. They were unoffended by Schwarzenegger's flippant assertions that only the ``religiously fanatic'' oppose human cloning -- not just stem cell research but cloning. These faux conservatives' new hero said that only ``right-wing crazies'' supported the proposal on Tuesday's ballot to bar the state from collecting the racial data that fuels the racial spoils system.
Some conservatives insist that they have been not empty-headed but hardheaded: They say a Republican governor will markedly strengthen the Bush campaign in California. Perhaps. But Republican governors did not prevent Bush from losing Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2000.