Recall: The Coup Inside a Circus
By Bernard Weiner and Ernest Partridge, The
from two California observers familiar with the strangeness
that passes for politics in this state, is our preliminary
analysis of the recall imbroglio.
Many in the media are focusing on the farcical nature of
the proceedings - and there is much about it that is absurdly
comical - but, at heart, this is deadly serious politics.
(Note: This story is unfolding so rapidly that aspects of
what we write today are likely to seem dated by the time you
The first thing to recognize is that this is not merely
a California story. We don't mean that what's happening in
the Golden State is being repeated elsewhere - although given
how many states are being bankrupted by the poor national
economy (44 are now in serious financial difficulty) and that
the feds aren't helping lift the states from their financial
pits, that is true to some extent.
No, what we're referring to is that the political impetus
for the recall apparently did not arise from California, but
rather from Washington, D.C., and, even more specifically,
from the White House. (See cited sources,
What seems to be occurring is that the rightwing forces
controlling the Republican Party want total victory,
and not just for the upcoming 2004 election. They want to
control the direction of the United States, both foreign and
domestic, for the foreseeable future, for decades to come.
(In the past two-and-a-half years, the country has received
only the first taste of their extremist agenda: unilateral
foreign adventurism, "pre-emptive" attacks on countries that
are not imminent threats, the shredding of Constitutional
guarantees of due process, the stealth moves to decimate and
eliminate popular social programs, huge tax breaks going to
the wealthy and corporations, polluters given free rein, etc.
To fully implement their agenda, these extremists believe
that they must thoroughly neutralize all those who might put
up a fight - not simply to defeat them politically, but rather
to effectively destroy them - so that little organized
opposition to Bush&Co. policies can get in the way of total
control of the political/social/economic apparati in this
Getting the Democrats
One key institution that must be so weakened that it cannot
offer effective resistance is the Democratic Party. Even though
the Democrats are barely distinguishable from the Republicans
on many issues, the power-hungry forces of Bush&Co. want to
make sure that the Democrats are so scattered, debilitated
and demoralized that their opposition will mean nothing when
the Bush forces begin, after their projected 2004 victory,
to roll over the political landscape. Accordingly, the Rove
demolition team has taken aim at the primary sources of financial
support to the Democratic Party: e.g., the teachers and public-service
unions, and the trial lawyers.
(This desire for total control reminds one of how the Watergate
scandal started: All the polls indicated that Nixon was going
to win a huge victory over his Democratic opponent, Sen. McGovern.
But this wasn't enough for Nixon. He felt that he had to insure
his win by tapping the telephone of the DNC chairman.)
And so, in large state after large state, the Democratic
party and its institutions are being attacked.
In Texas, on orders from Washington - read:
Karl Rove (see below for how Bush's brain may well have accomplished
this) and hatchetman Tom Delay - there is an illegal attempt
to redistrict the Congressional delegation, so that the Democrats
will lose their majority.
In Florida, and in the rest of the states
moving to a computer-registration and voting system, the same
forces that ensured a Bush victory in 2000 in the Sunshine
State, are hard at work to minimize the Democratic vote once
again. Remember that for the 2000 election in Florida,
about 94,000 Democratic voters, under the cover that they
all were convicted felons, were removed electronically from
the computerized polling lists and not permitted to vote,
even though 91,000 of those names were there
by mistake. Of course, this outrageous act alone sufficed
to yield Florida, and eventually the White House, to Bush.
In California, a governor elected in a fair
vote just nine months ago is now subject to recall and replacement,
even though he has done nothing criminal or outrageous that
would warrant such an extreme move.
In short, what is going on here is an attempt to get these
large, electoral vote-rich states into the Bush column for
2004 and to the GOP beyond.
And we haven't even gone into detail about the computer-voting
scandal, which may well have led to a number of other large
states, such as Georgia, going into the Republican column
in the 2002 election, thus giving control of the U.S. Senate
to the Republicans. (See our Electoral
Integrity file for stories about how the three companies
that make computer-voting machines - one partially owned by
a Republican senator, all three supporters of Republicans,
at least one tied to a right-wing foundation - refuse to permit
examination of their software, which has been shown to be
highly manipulable to vote-tampering, without leaving any
evidence of having been altered.) In Georgia, for example,
Democratic war-hero incumbent Senator Max Cleland was ahead
in the polls right up to the election, and surprisingly lost
by a significant percentage; similar oddities occurred in
five other states where computer-voting screens were employed.
And no one has fully explained why exit-polling, the most
accurate predictor of election results, was suddenly cancelled
in the 2002 election, just as the polls were closing.
What is happening is a persistent attempt to overturn the
outcomes of previous elections by using dirty tricks and changing
the rules in midstream.
In Texas, as Molly Ivins writes,
the Republicans want to alter the partisan makeup of the Texas
Congressional delegation - from Democatic majority over to
Republican - even though this would be in violation of the
redistricting laws. In California, even though the governor
was elected fair and square in November, the GOP is using
an arcane 1911 recall law, to oust him and install one of
their own in his place. (The California population is angered
by the failing state economy and by the way the energy companies,
led by Enron, manipulated prices - and have been encouraged
to take out their frustrations on the one public figure everyone
can see each day, the governor.)
So, in all the hoopla about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the
200+ other candidates running, Rove and friends back in Washington,
D.C. must be chortling with glee. The focus of national media
attention has shifted from Bush's crimes, lies and failures
to Hollyweird on the Left Coast.
Even if Davis manages to hang on to his job - the strong
union movement in the state is mobilizing, Schwarzenegger
has many vulnerabilities, etc. - the recall might be partially
successful for the GOP: The Democrats would have had to spend
millions of dollars that would otherwise have been been reserved
for the 2004 general election. And if Davis is taken down,
California - which normally votes overwhelmingly Democratic
in presidential elections - is put back into play, forcing
the Democrats to divert precious resources from elsewhere
in the country to fight Bush in the Golden State. (Of course,
this assumes that Bush will be the GOP nominee in 2004 and
not in the impeachment well of the Senate.)
Deafeating the Recall
The bottom line: What Democrats and Independents need to
concentrate on is the defeat of the California recall.
If Davis can somehow cut through the media mayhem to the
issue of fairness, he could have a chance. That is: Davis
was elected, in a fair election, nine months ago, defeating
a Bush Republican soundly, with the issues now being used
against him pubicly debated at the time; since the governor
hasn't done anything in the interim to warrant recall, it
isn't fair, or even sporting, to try to overturn the will
of the voters. In our democracy, we have a way of getting
rid of politicians we no longer choose to support: We vote
them out in the next election.
Davis is no great shakes as a governor, and certainly is
not a charismatic personality. But he's competent, and has
found himself in a terrible position largely because of the
economy - some of that was the dot-com bust, but a significant
part is a result of Bush's disastrous economic and tax-cut/war
policies - and by the way Enron and the other energy companies
criminally manipulated the prices to rake in huge profits.
(Speaking of Enron, has Bush's mentor and financial supporter,
Kenny Lay, been indicted yet? Just asking.)
It's helpful to remember that a good share of the State
Legislature contributed to the state's current woes: They
voted for the deregulation of the energy system in the state,
and they failed to react in time to the dot-com bubble bursting.
Furthermore, in the current budget crisis, the GOP legislators
steadfastly refused any tax increases to offset the fiscal
shortfall. (In California, a 2/3 vote is required to raise
taxes). Since attempting to recall all of those legislators
is out of the question, Davis has become, thanks to the GOP-initiated
recall process, the target.
If enough voters are able to discern that the issue is overturning
a free-and-fair election, and not whether they like or don't
like Davis, the Rove/GOP plan will falter in the face of united
Democratic/moderate-Republican opposition. The Texas Democrats
are refusing to cooperate with the Rove/Delay scheme in that
state, having made sure a quorum can't be called. The computer-voting
scandal finally is making its way into the mainstream media,
and suits are being filed.
Is Your State Next?
In short, the opposition is starting to stand up and be
counted. We must do everything possible here in California,
and across the country, to roll huge boulders into the path
of the Bush&Co. juggernaut that is seeking total control.
We've seen the disasters, foreign and domestic, that have
taken place during the past two-and-a-half years since Bush's
selection to office. That will look like a friendly tea-party
if Bush&Co. are given free rein after 2004.
For we must never forget or discount these simple and apparent
facts: The HardRight is profoundly anti-democratic. According
to demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, liberals
and Democrats are not merely The Loyal Opposition to be defeated
in fair and honest political debates and elections. Instead,
they say, liberals and Democrats are "traitors" deserving
elimination. When the will of the people, in fair elections,
results in victory for the Democrats, those decisions must
be undone, either by impeachment (Clinton) or recall (Davis).
Language is to be used without scruple as a political weapon,
along lines envisioned by George Orwell: "freedom is slavery,"
"war is peace." Dogma trumps science, evidence, practical
experience, and even civic morality. The ends justify the
means, even if the means includes gross lying to the public.
Compromise displays weakness. There is no middle ground. "You
are either with us or against us."
These are the politics of fascism, and we are moving relentlessly
in that dreadful direction. Unless, at last, true American
patriots with sufficient voices draw the line and say: "This
far, and no further." And then proceed to reclaim our Constitution,
our rights, and our republic.
Will the California recall election be that line? There
are less than 60 days until the vote (unless a courageous
federal judge enjoins the recall). We Californians have work
to do. To those beyond our borders, we urge you not to stand
idly by. This is your fight too. You could be next. Be vigilant.
White House's Active Role in the California Recall: A Partial
List of the Evidence [from BuzzFlash]:
In chronological order:
KARL ROVE: POSSIBILITY OF A GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER "WOULD
BE REALLY, REALLY NICE." "With Mr. Rove's blessing," Bush
political advisers met with Schwarzenegger in 2001 about the
prospect of Schwarzenegger running for CA governor in 2002.
The New York Times reported on the meeting: "That would be
nice," Mr. Rove said of the prospect of a Governor Schwarzenegger.
"That would be really nice. That would be really, really nice."
[New York Times, 4/15/01]
BUSH GURU KARL ROVE MET WITH SCHWARZENEGGER IN APRIL. Schwarzenegger
visited the White House for a meeting with top Bush adviser
Karl Rove on April 12th, 2003. Both Schwarzenegger and Rove
claimed that politics was not discussed during the meeting.
[Washington Post, 4/13/03]
LAURA BUSH'S PRESS SECRETARY HELPED GOP CANDIDATE STRATEGIZE
FOR RECALL CAMPAIGN. Noelia Rodriguez, Laura Bush's press
secretary and former LA deputy mayor, was in Los Angeles for
a week in July helping former mayor Richard Riordan assemble
a campaign team and strategy for a possible run on the recall
ballot. [Los Angeles Times, 7/31/03; New York Times,
TOP BUSH CA. ADVISER PLAYING MAJOR ROLE IN RECALL. Gerry Parsky,
Bush's top adviser in California, has been advising GOP candidates
on the recall strategy. The Sacramento Bee reported, "Bush
isn't staying entirely out of the election. His liaison in
California, businessman Gerald Parsky, summoned representatives
of potential Republican candidates to his office Tuesday to
discuss how the GOP could help recall Davis." [Sacramento
HIGH-LEVEL BUSH RE-ELECTION STRATEGIST INVOLVED IN RECALL
EFFORT. Mindy Tucker, who served as a Bush spokesperson in
the 2000 election and is currently a high-level Bush campaign
strategist, is involved in the recall election strategy. A
memo by a California GOP campaigner noted, "Mindy Tucker,
former Bush campaign spokesperson and current Bush campaign
operative in California, has the White House's blessing."
The same memo noted that Tucker would be involved in coordinating
recall campaign events, and that "the resulting issue-oriented
and image-enhancing coverage will benefit the image of the
Republican Party, the recall candidates, and will benefit
President Bush as we remind the public of who is to blame
for the mess in this state." [San Francisco Chronicle,
TUCKER HAS DENIED WHITE HOUSE INVOLVEMENT, BUT ALLUDES TO
BUSH STRATEGY. Tucker has claimed that her involvement is
not on the part of the White House, but has also said, "the
president has given everybody in California his blessing to
take a position on this." Tucker has also said, "We've identified
some areas where the recall will help us build the party -
not only for the recall, but also for '04, which everyone
believes is important." [San Francisco Chronicle, 8/6/03]
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D., and Bernard Weiner, Ph. D, have
taught widely in various universities and written for a variety
of publications and online websites; they co-edit the progressive
political site The