We are carried away? Yes. Why not? Politics should permit that, every now and then. We need to see those occasional shafts of light; otherwise, the grayness of politics takes over, and we tighten our belts to the ineluctabilities of demagogy and compromise and waste and bureaucratic asphyxiation. Or, we don't tighten our belts at all, and just wallow on in the torpor of it all.
Everything about the Simon upset is gratifying.
A second development was an astonishing series of ads taken by California Gov. Gray Davis aimed at Richard Riordan, who loomed as the Republican challenger. The ads brought attention to Riordan's eccentric record, a Republican whose various attachments to various causes and political figures made him politically amorphous. If it was Gov. Davis' intention to hurt Riordan -- on the grounds that he was a graver prospective menace than Simon -- it's clear that he did hurt him, but not clear that he will, in the end, have an easier time of it with Simon as his opponent.
California is a Democratic state, but the question in November is likelier to rest on whether four more years of Gray Davis are to be preferred to a term for a fresh and vigorous challenger, never mind that he is a conservative. What doesn't work in California is a spiritless candidacy associated with anaemic programs. It is all very well for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic chairman, to argue that Simon will have to bear the weight of being pro-life, pro-guns and anti-environment. Even in California, there are those who will ask themselves: If Simon is elected, does that mean the Supreme Court will rescind Roe v. Wade? If he is elected, will people negotiate their differences with six-shooters? If elected, will California beaches simply disappear?
The hallucinations are in contrast to life as it is under Gov. Gray Davis, with fitful power supplies, high taxes, high deficits, and a generation of schoolchildren being taught illiteracy in two languages. The prospect of a young, idealistic conservative who has already practiced beating the odds may prove appealing. It would be fine if the Republican presidential nominating convention in 2004 took place in Sacramento, and were welcomed by Gov. William E. Simon Jr.