Schwarzenegger swaggers into the race

Posted: Aug 12, 2003 12:00 AM

The nation owes Arnold Schwarzenegger gratitude for pushing Kobe Bryant out of the headlines for the first time in weeks.

Still, the concept of recalling a sitting governor for anything less than moral turpitude strikes this conservative as ill-advised.

Liberals, you may have noticed, tend not to cling very hard to principle. They are outcome-oriented. If judicial activism brings them the policy results they desire, they're all for judicial activism (as in the case of the Florida Supreme Court rewriting the election law ex post facto in 2000). But if judicial activism brings about a result they do not desire, they can pivot and denounce the U.S. Supreme Court for meddling in an area that is beyond the proper province of the judiciary.

Similarly, when a Republican senator grabs and kisses ladies who stray into his office (Bob Packwood), he is a disgrace that cannot be tolerated in Washington, D.C. When Bill Clinton -- well, you know the rest.

There are, of course, Republicans who lose sight of principle from time to time as well. The ones who ran on term limits and then overstayed their welcome spring immediately to mind.

I raise the matter of principle because the state of California is currently paralyzed in part because it has abandoned the sound principles upon which the nation was founded. The Constitution does not, of course, specify how Californians are to govern themselves -- except to say in Article IV, Section 4 that every state must be guaranteed a "republican form of government." A republican form of government means that the people choose their leaders. It does not mean that the people decide every question by referendum The latter would be direct democracy, and direct democracy (particularly at the federal level) was exactly what the Founders were wise enough to avoid.

But California's love affair with the initiative and referendum is leading it perilously close to direct democracy. Why protest? After all, most of the results of these popular decisions have been congenial to conservatives. We really liked Proposition 13 and the trend it ignited around the nation. We were pleased by Proposition 209, which outlawed affirmative action, and by Proposition 227, which outlawed bilingual education. Today, we eagerly await results on the "racial privacy initiative" backed by Ward Connerly, which would forbid the State of California to ask the race of its residents on official forms.

In fact, because the electorate tends to be more conservative than the governing class, most initiatives and referenda tend to achieve conservative ends. That's why liberals are so fond of the judiciary. It's much easier to convince one Supreme Court Justice (Sandra Day O'Connor) than 51 percent of the voters.

And yet, is it really such a great idea to let the people rule completely? California (unwisely in my opinion, but they didn't ask my advice) re-elected Gov. Gray Davis. Now they regret it. But he hasn't done anything different from what he did during his first term. Times have changed, that's all. I could understand a recall based on the same principles as impeachment -- crimes, moral turpitude, that sort of thing. But for being a lousy governor?

One of the reasons our society is so successful is our adherence to the rule of law. Following the rules provides stability and order. Yanking people out of governor's mansions only 11 months after they've been elected to a four-year term begins to look like Italy or Bolivia. Yes, yes, it's all perfectly legal. I'm aware of that. But it's a bad law, and it ought to be changed.

As for the California Republicans, who've been on the critical list for the past several election cycles, they've mounted a tiger. Schwarzenegger is unpredictable. Some libertarians believe he is one of them. Let's hope so. But so far, his campaign rhetoric is dismally familiar. He's gonna kick out the "special interests" and run the state for the benefit of the people. How original. Ross Perot said the same thing in a different accent.

And Perot was full of baloney.