Paul Jacob

If an incumbent politician pulled out a Beretta 9000S and shot each of his challengers in the shins--as authorized by incumbent-passed laws making it legal for incumbents to shoot challengers but not for challengers to shoot incumbents--would anybody claim that the incumbent is merely enacting the transparent "will of the people"?

I just got a note from a long-time reader of my Common Sense e-letter telling me: enough already about the doings in California, get back to the national scene. I guess the last few episodes of both Common Sense and this column have indeed waxed loquacious about Davis, Arnold, and the California recall.

I would argue that the recall has everything to do with the national scene. It helps that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a world-famous celebrity, all of whose movies seem to have been made with the idea of supplying sound bites for his campaign. But the democratic ejection of Davis is also spectacularly emblematic of the sporadic yet real ability of Americans to govern their own government.

There has never before been a recall of a sitting governor in California, and it's happened only once before in the history of the whole country. Just the same, the firing of Davis is a completely reasonable instance of democracy, justified by the completely natural desire people tend to have of wanting to keep some of their money. To be sure, Davis is not a solitary villain. State legislators of all parties are also culpable for all the runaway taxing and spending and fuse-blowing electricity "deregulation." Davis just happened to be the guy with the power to do the most damage, not least by keeping his veto pen locked away in a vault.

Yet even if the recall had never been proposed, or been stymied by the courts, Californians would have enjoyed a failsafe. That's because Davis, like 38 other governors, is term-limited. So although voters would have had to suffer the balance of Davis's second term, there would have been no chance for him to slither his way to a third term. Moreover, thanks to citizen initiative, California's state legislators are term-limited as well; the smaller-time bandits in Sacramento don't have an indefinite lease on political life either.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.