Between the time I write this and the time you read this four minutes later, things may have changed in California. It may be even wilder and crazier there now. There may be monkeys falling out of the sky. However, whatever it is that's happening now, please don't blame democracy.
There are two kinds of political events transpiring with respect to the attempted recall of California's chief executive, Gray Davis, the governor who never met a deranged spending plan he had the fiscal discipline to veto, nor a suspect quid pro quo he had the dignity to decline.
One of the happenings is democracy, to wit, the on-again, off-again, on-again vote on whether Californians should or should not continue to be afflicted with Mr. Davis. The other is the attempt to derail or dismiss democracy by entrenched power brokers who dislike the inconveniences of democratic assessment.
There is nothing outré or fandooglish about the sheer ability of California voters to rein in elected officials via direct democracy. Sure, some commentators--most, by last count--seem to think that the voter's reluctance to serve as expendable guinea pig shows that the voter is suffering from advanced dementia. "All Politics Are Loco!!" blares this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, in an article that chortles about the high number of Californians who think they could do better as governor than the insistently incompetent Davis. Isn't the real question whether it's possible to find someone who could be worse? (It's a good article to read, though, for the opinions of the governor's next-door neighbors.)
Or flip open the august pages of The Economist, the British weekly that sometimes manages to steer clear of the clichés of the American press, and learn how the "mad" situation in California got even "madder" as the activist Ninth Court of Appeals sought to delay the recall election. That the conduct of the Notorious Ninth, now suddenly wringing its hands about punch-card chads, is loony, cannot be disputed, and all hail to British summations of AP wire stories for noting this. But the exercise of the recall power by Californians is only a very sane and reasonable attempt at self-preservation. It is, after all, sane to wish to live without undue impediment and harassment. And perfectly unreasonable to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous political conduct when one has the power by opposing to end it.
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