28 September 2008

Nostalgia in California: Do You Recall?

Back in 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California when he received the most votes in a crowded field of candidates on the day incumbent Grey Davis was recalled. Now a powerful correctional officers' union has launched a recall campaign against Schwarzenegger, who was re-elected in a proper election in the interim. The union now condemns the original recall as a mistake and declares Schwarzenegger the worst governor the state has ever had. Union leaders suspect Schwarzenegger of having a grudge against them. They've worked without a contract since 2006 because the governor won't sign a pay raise. They feel personally dissed because the governor wouldn't exempt them (unlike some other public employees) from an executive order reducing state workers' salaries to the federal minimum wage.

By no means the largest public employee union in California, the CCPOA is the state's second largest political action committee, pumping out money to favored candidates. It appears determined to get the signatures needed to put their recall proposal to a popular vote, and capable of advertising their demands. Conservative Republicans are apparently tempted to sign on, resenting Schwarzenegger's recent budget-balancing measure of increasing the state sales tax, but a local conservative organization has postponed voting on whether to support the recall on the advice of a former governor.

Live by the sword, die by the sword, I say. The recall option has been proposed across the country for more than a century as a way to hold elected leaders more directly accountable to the people, with California being one of the few places that actually adopted the practice. It seems designed to give people time to think, since recall proponents must first conduct a petition campaign, then an actual recall campaign. If Schwarzenegger remains popular with most Californians, he would most likely survive a recall attempt even if the prison guards get the signatures they need to force a vote. It strikes me as a reasonable and responsible process, regardless of the sideshow that resulted from the ease with which people could get on the ballot to replace the recalled governor. Other states might benefit from the idea, but if the current scheme builds momentum, expect more mocking commentary about those crazy Californians. A lot will seem crazy when you're used to what we've got.

1 comment:

crhymethinc said...

I think it would be in the nation's best interest to have a recall of any official elected to the federal level.