Jonah Goldberg

California must be punished!

No, this isn't fire and brimstone about how the sinful ways of Californians warrant a plague of locusts, frogs and hairless cats (that's a subject for a future column). Rather, it's my sincere belief that American democracy and republicanism will be severely damaged if Californians are allowed to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

When former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was asked to run again during his successor's disastrous term in office, Koch replied, "No! The people threw me out, and now the people must be punished." Whether Koch knew it or not, he grasped one of the most fundamental principles of democracy and republicanism: Everyone should pay the price of mistakes made at the ballot box.

Californians stupidly elected Davis in 2002, but now they refuse to suffer the consequences. They want Davis gone for, among other reasons, they think he lied about how bad the deficit was -it's now $38 billion, more than all other state deficits combined. Davis' approval rating hovers around 21 percent. If things get much worse,

he'll be able to list his supporters by name.

According to California law, it takes only 900,000 signatures to demand a recall. Since the Golden State should really be known as the Petition State, activists will have no problem hitting that target.

What makes things even nuttier is, if there is a recall, it takes signatures from fewer people than you'd need for a small softball league -just 65 -to get your name on the new ballot. This means the race could be divvied up between a mob of boobs and nobodies, and the winner of a new election might need to gain even fewer voters than currently support Davis.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are few politicians in America today more in need of an atomic wedgie than Gray Davis. Not only is he arrogant, he's boring, which makes his arrogance all the more annoying because it feels like he's deliberately wasting your time merely by talking.

If he's not literally crooked, he's certainly ethically challenged. He ran California's finances the way teenage girls manage their credit cards -racking up the charges on a huge shopping spree and then trying to hide the bill. But none of this is impeachable, which should be the only legitimate mechanism for removing a politician from office.

Forget about Gray Davis for a moment (I know it's not hard, even his name is gray). A hallmark of a functioning democracy is the practice of holding timely elections. A hallmark of republican government (and please remember America is a republic), is that the people do not decide what the government should do. They decide upon who should make those decisions.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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